The Diggin' in the Crates crew has really been going strong this year, with exceptional albums and EP:s from Diamond D, OC, AG, Buckwild (w. Meyhem Lauren), Lord Finesse (instrumental double album), and even a D.I.T.C. remix project of classics. Several of this are among my favorites of the year and one of them is without a doubt OC's mini album with Ray West, called "Ray's Café". It's somewhat of a concept album in the sense that it metaphorically takes place within a fictional jazz club called "Ray's Café" where OC is the headliner for the evening, playing the smoky night club with his mix of jazz and hip-hop. It's quite different from OC's earlier projects, considering how laid back Ray West's production is, yet the chemistry between the seasoned veteran emcee and the relatively new beat maestro is extraordinary.
Since I heard his debut with "Word... Life" OC has been very close to the top of my list of my favorite emcees and aside from some sidesteps he has managed to stay there with incredible projects like "Jewelz" (1997), "Starchild" (2005), "Oasis" w. AG (2009) and more recently "Trophies" with Apollo Brown (2012). "Ray's Café" is another real gem from the D.I.T.C. emcee, and Ray West's sophisticated jazz sampling production brings out the best in OC in the creation of the grown man rap displayed here. This is music for grown men made by grown men - over accoustic bass lines, accoustic piano lines and keyboard melodies, and ocassional guitars and heavy drum programming, OC invites listeners into his everyday life. With that unmistakable cadence, and top flow OC speaks on having barbecues and parties with his close friend, seeing a hot chick on the subway and dividing with himself about tyring to get that number, how thanful he is he made it this far, and so on. If you've followed OC's career like I've had, you'll definitely feel like you know him and the way his mind works at this point and "Ray's Café" is another crown achievement that is a must for any fan of O, Ray West and the D.I.T.C. crew. Speaking of Ray West, I think this is his finest production yet, considering that every song is exceptionally ill and extremely coherrent.
Originally released on CD, cassette and digital, the record was released on CD a few month later now including five additional songs from the same sessions, making it feature a total of 14 songs and a running time of about 35 minutes. While most of the bonus tracks doesn't necessarily live up to the high standards set by the original tracks, there are some absolutely fantastic joints here that add to the concept in a great way. "Just Cause" is actually one of my favorite songs on the entire CD, with a addictive one-bar guitar loop and a double time flow by OC that's stops between each verse to make room for a beautful sampled female hook. Why this wasn't on the original release is beyond me. "After House" is a smooth, laid back joint where OC reflects on the "After Hours" after a long night, and is built around a deep guitar sample; I'd say this is worthy of the original version as well. "Learn Lessons" is produced by NYC-based electronic musicna Phil Moffa rather than West and it sticks out like a sore thumb as it has more of a club sound to it - throwing this on in a jazz club would definitely turn the crowd off. OC rhymes good as well but the track itself is plain weak, luckily it clocks in in least than two minutes. The final cut on the so calld "After Hours" version is the smoothest, most laid back cut on the entire record. "My Hearts in the Street" is a beautiful closing to a great album that plays great from front-to-back with the exception of the aforementioned "Learn Lessons". Just like OC did on "Trophies", working exclusively Apollo Brown (an album that also made my top LP:s of 2014), it's evident that O works best when recording an entire album worth of music with one producer exclusively. Omar Credle truly hasn't lost a step and Ray West is getting better with every new release he drops. Last but not least, if you don¨t mind purchasing a CD I strongly recommend copping the deluxe edition which I personally count as OC¨s new album, rather than the EP it¨s advertized as. TURN IT UP!