Filed under: Album Reviews
There are only a small selection of artists in the hip hop game that have managed to build a truly reputable and long-standing career. The genre is characterised by the regular comings and goings of performers who despite strong debuts, almost always struggle to stay relevant and credible as time goes by. In the majority of cases one of three things happen: you either opt for the big bucks and go pop; fall off and subsequently fade away; or, in the most extreme of cases, disappear without a trace. Ed O.G. is one of only a handful of artists that have managed the mean feat of staying in the game for more than five minutes whilst retaining their credibility, and although his output over fifteen years may not be sensational from front to back, there is no doubting the value of his contribution to hip hop.
Today’s focus falls on his sophomore effort ‘Roxbury 02119’, a slightly uneven release that I feel should still be considered a vital addition to your collection. The positive social messages of ‘Be A Father To Your Child’ have taken on a more hardcore edge here, but Ed O.G. manages the transition well without coming across as too try-hard. The insleeve lets you know in no uncertain terms that his intention here was to secure a more street level audience, with himself and crew raising a finger (and in one case a knife) to a camera raised above them. This is clearly reflected in the sound of the record, that follows through this grittier image.
Diamond D contributes on the boards and despite ‘Busted’, which I have never really liked, his other work here is excellent. ‘Streets Of The Ghetto’ features a tight drum track and horns at the chorus that provide the necessarily moody backdrop for Ed O.G.’s musings on street life. ‘Love Comes And Goes’, the standout track on the album, hits you with a great guitar sample and vocal chorus loop that complements Ed O.G.’s reflections on a friend’s passing to create a summery and pensive vibe. Finally, ‘Dat Ain’t Right’ sees Ed O.G. offering his view of the wrongs committed by those around him in an attempt to advise them against their played out behaviour with D Squared coming correct once again on the production side of things. Ed himself gets on the production tip as well demonstrating his multi-faceted musical ability: ‘Skinny Dip’ is also a highlight of the album.
The only bad track here is ‘Try Me’ which is totally out of sync with the rest of the ‘Roxbury 02119’ and is truly awful. I am always struck when listening to albums of this era that there seem to be one or two tracks that were aimed towards a more commercial market, my assumption being that there was pressure from the label who demanded something that would potentially appeal to the masses. This seems like a total fallacy to me, as these songs never brought in a wider audience and simply serve to eat away at the overall cohesion of the album. They grate against all the true heads, and if someone were to buy ‘Roxbury 02119’ off the back of ‘Try Me’ they would in all likelihood be incredibly disappointed by the remainder of the material featured on the release. I would be interested to know if I am right here about label pressures: let me know if you possess a little insider’s knowledge.
Although this is not classic in the way that ‘Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto’ is, it is still a worthy release that forms part of the discography of one of rap’s most enduring artists. Pay your respects to Boston and cop it: Ed O.G. deserves his place in hip hop history.