If you hear someone talking about “Next Level” and the first thing that comes to mind is a video game or the last time you heard someone say, “You lack the minerals and vitamins,” was at the doctor’s office, then you need to get familiar with A.G (aka Andre the Giant) and O.C. As members of the legendary Diggin’ In The Crates crew, the New York MCs have been pushing the art of hip-hop forward since the early ’90s.
Last month, the hip-hop icons joined forced to release their first collaborative project, Oasis, which turned out to be one of the lost gems of ’09. XXLMag.com caught up with O.C. & A.G. to discuss why they’ll never do a Big L tribute record, their thoughts on why rap crews fail and what artists their looking forward to in 2010.
XXLMag.com: Oasis kind of flew under the radar. What’s one of your favorite tracks that people should check for?
O.C.: I wish I was on “God’s Gift,” that’s one of A’s solo joints [on the album]. I’ll probably do the song over by myself. (Laughs) Nah, but that’s probably one of my favorite records, just because of the whole melody, feeling, and emotion of it. Like, A said in other interviews, a lot of dudes are scared to reveal their emotions. Don’t mean you need to be on no soft shit, but it was a real heartfelt record. That’s what I love about joints like that.
XXLMag.com: There’s a track on the album called “Young With Style,” where you school cats on the roots of hip-hop. How many times do you guys meet somebody who doesn’t know their history?
O.C.: It happens a lot, man.
XXLMag.com: Do you guys brush it off or get upset?
A.G.: That’s always your initial instinct because you think people traveled the path you’ve traveled. But we understand that we were chosen by the universe to be these people. I wish you can know what I know and see what I’ve seen. We really try to stay away from the hating. We’re all in this together; this whole shit is a fraternity. At the same time, you gotta add some type of tradition within what you’re doing. This generation, there’s a lot of talent but I don’t think they have the know how or have witnessed enough shit firsthand to know. If your instincts become your measuring tool, you won’t know what’s good for the culture.
XXLMag.com: What do you mean?
A.G.: Hip-hop is all we have as a minority in this country. This is something that you don’t have to sound or look a certain way; anybody can be successful if you put your heart into it. We’re about to remove that to where only a certain people will be accepted and if you want to talk about anything anti-establishment then there’s no room for you. That’s where it’s headed. I just want to play our part instead of complaining. Do something about it by making a dope album.
O.C.: Yup and there’s that old saying, “You appreciate it more when it’s gone, but when it’s gone you can’t do nothing about it.”
A.G.: Real talk. That’s how me and O felt about our career, to be honest. We know certain parts of our career; we didn’t treat this the way it was supposed to be treated. Then, seeing all these new kids come up, people getting recognition for mediocre music. We missed it. We was like, “Damn, we should’ve just stayed on the shit that we was on.” So that’s where we at now. It’s in our hands and I can guarantee you that I’ll never abuse it again. When I say abuse it, it ain’t even like I went far away from the plan but when you start seeing what’s successful and you start emulating that. That was never me.
XXLMag.com: Last year a lot of rappers bit off Jadakiss and did a “Letter to Big” song. Since it’s almost the 10-year anniversary of fellow DITC member Big L’s passing, would y’all put together a similar record?
O.C.: I wouldn’t do it, honestly. A lot of people are doing the letters to Big and I’m not knocking what they do. But, are you doing it because you genuinely love this dude or because somebody told you it would garner you a lot of attention? I’m not feelin’ that.
A.G.: And also, we did a tribute song to Big L on the D.I.T.C. album. Me, Finesse and O are the ones who perform that and I’m going to be honest with you, every time we perform that it kinda fucks me up. I don’t want to keep doing songs like that because it’s really authentic to me. I guess we’re too stuck in our ways. My best friend Party Arty passed away last year and we still haven’t done anything like that because it’s a little too real. Not knocking dudes who do because they may be genuine. But in this day and age, everything is so watered down that it may be taken as a gimmick instead of genuine feeling.
XXLMag.com: D.I.T.C. is a tight-knit crew. In light of situations like Dipset disputes and Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel beefing; do you think the family aspect in hip-hop died?
O.C.: A says it all the time, man—we’re still together. The crews that sold a gazillion records and had a lot of success, a lot of times it twists people up. There’s nothing wrong with success but you’ve got to stay grounded. You’ve got to argue and talk. If you don’t have an understanding amongst each other, you ain’t gonna have a family.
XXLMag.com: Word, it seems like you guys definitely respect each other’s space.
O.C.: Right, I don’t get mad if A do an album and I’m not on it. It’s not like that. If they do a Showbiz and A.G. record tomorrow, and I’m not on the record, I’m not mad at that. It was Show and A.G. before it was O.C. If it calls for me to be on the song, then I’m on it. If not, then I’m still there for them. These are my brothers—to the death.
XXLMag.com: Since we’re about to enter a new year, what new rappers on the scene are you feeling right now?
O.C.: Anybody that’s saying something. People ask me in interviews like, “I’m not feeling Drake, what do you think about him?” I’m not going to answer that because you think I’m not going to feel him because you don’t feel him. I’m not thinking the way nobody else think. I like some of things they do and some of things they do I don’t like. Same for us, everybody’s not going to like everything we put out. That’s just part of the game. I’m a T.I. fan. I’m a Jeezy fan. I don’t look at him like some young dude but he’s young to the game. I like his stuff and nobody’s going to change my mind about that shit. I like Lil Wayne, too, man, he does his homework.
XXLMag.com: Yeah, knowing the culture is definitely important. Who are you feeling, A?
A.G.: I think Lil Wayne is dope and Drake got some real heavy bars. I think all that shit is dope. But the clones of these type of artists, those are the ones that I’m not feeling. If you make music your own way, I like you, but if there’s two of you? I’m not going to like the second one. —David “Rek” Lee