Beats and Peaces
Request... When I was 20 years old I packed up everything I owned into my Toyota hatchback and drove down I-5 to Venice Beach, California. I found a place to live a block from the ocean, and also a block from Benway Music on Pacific Avenue. I found a job working at a bookstore literally on the beach. I'd spend my days working and hanging out on the boardwalk, and during the evenings I'd haunt Benway's. Some nights I'd drive out to Westwood and hang out at Rhino Records or Penny Lane Records (where my girlfriend worked). Or I'd head over to Aaron's Records or the Penny Lane in Santa Monica. Before long I started hearing the same trippy, nocturnal, murky songs playing at these shops, and I began hearing the same names being dropped again and again - OD, Hive, Dilated Peoples, the Shapeshifters, the Visionaries, and (the only name I was familiar with at that time) Freestyle Fellowship (Who I thought had broken up). All these artists were on this new album that had just come out - Steve and Courtney at Penny Lane would not stop playing it - called Beneath the Surface, and it wouldn't take long before its sound seeped into my subconscious and became my daily soundtrack. I shelled out the cash for the vinyl at Benway's, walked home, and set the needle on the intro track from Alien Nation. The rest is history, at least to me. Any of you who read this blog know what a geek I am over that record to this day. I can safely say that I've played no other record as much as that one. It's perfect.
I consider OD to be the architect of the sound of LA, more so than the Baka Boyz, or Dre, or Fat Jack, or Battlecat. Sure those visionary producers deserve their praises, but when I hear hip hop today I don't hear their influence like I hear OD's. From his four-track beats using his trademark eerie stoned flute loops, to his frenetic, jazzy, drum-heavy beats, to his glitch-infused digital world music, his touch is still audible in the city of angels - I hear his mark everywhere from Deeskee and Nobody, to Daedelus, and Thavius, and a score of others.
I know I'm dating myself here. I was an adolescent and grew into adulthood in the '90's, and I've seen people time and time again fall into the trap where they never quite climb out of their "glory days". It's quite possible that I just tune into what I already like and feel comfortable with, to the exclusion of the rest. But with OD I know that he is special, as a producer, as an organizer, and as the man who elevated a group of amazing, young talent from hometown hero status to a worldwide phenomena. In addition, he gave them a unified sound, a cohesion that for better or worse joined them together (at least in my mind) from more than a loosely-knit collection of like-minded artists into a band, or even a family.
BTS was the sounding board for me to pursue the music of those LA artists. And thankfully, most of them are still active and making great, great music to this day. OD has remained prolific and respected as ever. I may have a hard time doing it but he obviously embraces change. His style continually evolves and stays fresh. This release, which came out in 2003 is in no way indicative of his present style but it does offer a snapshot of a period of growth. Likewise, it isn't as revolutionary as BTS, but then again it isn't supposed to be. This is just a collection of his music, period. Some familiar faces are present (Freestyle Fellowship, OMD, Jizzm, Neila, etc), but mostly OD does it instrumentally. It's beautiful music, from a man who has made my life a whole lot more fascinating and enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. And I know I'm not alone out there.
So Cali life ultimately wasn't for me, and within the year I moved back up to the northwest where the pace is slower and the people are swarthier. But thanks exclusively to OD, I'm still a fanatic over LA underground, and feel blessed to have been there at that time, if only to watch and listen, to observe everything very closely. Here's your chance to do so as well: