Omar ‘O.C.’ Credle needs little introduction, having built an incredible catalog of music since the early 90s, both as a solo artist and as part of the mighty Diggin’ In The Crates crew. Gingerslim recently sat down with him for an in-depth talk about new music, longevity, the history of the classic Time’s Up, and growing up with Pharoahe Monch.
Its been a couple of months since you released your latest album, A New Dawn. Are you pleased with how it’s been received so far?
Yeah, man. I mean I don’t have no high expectations anymore, for me it’s just about the music. Whatever’s gonna be, gonna be, you know? It’s not an excitement in that sense for me, it’s just about the music. I mean it’s always been about the music for me really; if people hear it they hear it and if they don’t they don’t. And if they don’t, then they’ll get round to it eventually.
There’s a lot of positivity on A New Dawn, from the lyricism to the title itself; did you set out to make an album like that, or is that just how it progressed as you started working on it?
That’s how it progressed really. I mean, I’m not the same 20 or 30-year old I once was, but with that being said I just write about everyday life and I feel that that’s something people can relate to. And we’re dealing with an industry that’s sort of divide and conquer with youth and maturity, so my thing is just to make sure that what I’m talking about can relate to everybody. That’s it.
And with the title specifically, what was the thinking behind that? Does it feel like a new dawn for you right now?
I believe it’s a new dawn for all us. Shit, we got Trump in office [laughs]. Just everything that’s happening in the world, man. I mean it’s always been the same things, but now it’s all at an extreme, you know? I just said to someone the other day, it used to be when you saw a woman scantily clad it was rare – unless you were looking at Playboy or some shit – but nowadays it’s just normality. Me being a grown man now, it doesn’t excite me no more cos everybody’s doing it.
I think that’s the same for everyone now though, regardless of age, because it’s so prevalent.
It’s so prevalent, it’s crazy. And that’s not what I signed up for, you know? But that’s life.
Now, you’ve been in the game for over 20 years and I know there are a lot of artists from back then who are pretty disillusioned with the current state of hip-hop; is that how you feel, or do you think it’s going to survive regardless?
It’s going to survive regardless, man. I definitely wag my finger at the younger artist cos I was their age once and that’s where some of the disconnect comes in. I know when I started out and artists older than me tried to tell me something, I wasn’t trying to hear it. You know, it’s sort of that renegade attitude – you’re young, you’re not thinking about your mortality. All you’re thinking about is having fun, partying and doing whatever you’re doing, without thinking about any consequences. So for all of my peers, if they’re going to continue doing this, then just make the music and stop complaining.
That’s a great attitude though, because I know so many artists and fans who spend forever complaining about what they don’t like, rather than actually promoting what they do like.
Exactly, let the music talk. In my opinion, truth be told, a lot of people shouldn’t be making music still cos they’re just not good at it no more. They get stale, they get stuck and they get disgruntled, but that’s not me.
You’re also one of the rappers from your generation who people tend to associate with your earlier work, rather than your more recent releases; does that get frustrating for you?
Not at all. I know a lot of people came up on my music and we’re the same age, we’re in our 40’s and people have families now. But I get a lot of “yo when’s the new album coming out?” from people my age and it’s like, it is out. Even if we give it away for free, y’all still don’t know it’s out. You’ve got the internet, you’ve got Google, Spotify, all these things, so what’s your problem? I mean if you’re really not looking, that means you’re really not checking for me, so why even ask me.
And what do you think is the key to maintaining that longevity? What sort of advice would you give to anyone trying to survive as long as you have?
You gotta talk about life, man, it’s all around us. That’s the whole premise of a new dawn, like each day you wake up and you got the chance to do things, accomplish things, work on yourself. Everyday life is the blueprint to music, that’s not even my opinion, that’s a fact. Every day you wake up, you have the chance to tell a story, you’re making history. I just think a lot of people get stuck, you know. Like I’m not stuck in the 90s. I know I came out in the 90s, but I’m still here 20 years later. People tend to want you to make the same sounds over and over and over, but I can’t do that. I couldn’t catch lightning in a bottle even if I tried [laughs]. But I don’t wanna do it anyway.
That actually leads into my next question cos I’ve always been impressed with how varied your albums have been. Like the work you did with Ray West for example, was a lot more laid-back than say the DITC stuff and then again with Trophies, that was a whole other sound. Is that important to you to mix it up like that, is that how you stay motivated?
Well, you already answered the question cos that’s very important. People don’t get it though. I’m sure you’re a hip-hop enthusiast yourself and of course, me being a fan of the music myself, we don’t want to hear the artists that I like keep making the same record over and over. I wanna see progression; I wanna see you push your limit, I wanna see if you was really meant to do this. Some people really stand the test of time and some people you can tell only did it cos it was trendy. And I really love the music and its people who support my music that really love it too, so why would I cheat them out of that.
That’s a good attitude to have, man. Now obviously you’ve worked with some amazing producers over the years, but I was wondering if there is anyone you would still like to get into the studio with? Do artists at your level still have those sort of dream collaborations?
I mean if you know my catalog, then you know not I’m not a huge collaborator; for me, it just has to make sense. I know a lot of people in the game of course, but I think to give you an example – Rakim and G Rap wasn’t supposed to make a record together, if that makes sense?
Yeah, I get you.
Kane and G Rap made more sense than those two. It has to make sense for me to do a collaboration with somebody and that’s the only reason I haven’t done it. And secondly, I really don’t go out too much unless it’s about some business [laughs].
I was going to ask, do you do a lot of live shows these days?
I do a lot of live shows, but here’s the thing – and once again it goes back to my 90’s alum – they don’t promote us, feel like since we came out 15-20 years ago, this is what we’re worth so this is what they’re going to pay us. And my thing is, I know my worth. I’d rather put out the music and not do the shows. I’d love to be doing shows every month, but I’d rather just put out the music and build the catalog if you’re not going to pay me what I’m worth cos eventually it’s going to break you know? That mold of oh since you came out in ’94 that means you should be paid $500, or flying 18 hours for $1000; it doesn’t make sense to me. And as I said I know my worth, so that’s what I try to get across to a lot of my alum. You know just make the music and if it’s dope, then people are going to accept it and you’re going to get booked. But a lot of people are just taking shorts and they’re kinda fucking the game up. You know these promoters wanna be your friends and things like that, but I don’t wanna be friends. This is business, straight up. So yeah, I pick my battles. Let’s put it like that.
Well, that’s a good way to be, man, cos you’re still here.
Just going to back to Trophies, which is definitely one of my favorite projects of yours over the years. How was it working with Apollo Brown and also Mello Music as a whole? They all seem really on point over there.
It was dope. When Apollo reached out to me we had a long conversation and then maybe the next day he sent me like 30 beats. I sifted through them and then we just got to work. I think it took me like two months to write and then finally he flew me out to The D, picked me up from the airport. He was like “yo I booked the studio for a week”, but I was like we ain’t going to need a week and I think I knocked the album out in less than eight hours on the first night.
Oh shit. Is that how you always work?
It depends on the producer I’m working with, but in his case, I didn’t wanna be doing it via email, you know? I was really into what he sent me and he wanted to do it hands on too. But yeah I mean we came up at a time when we couldn’t bullshit when we went to the studio. It was like 100 an hour, you had to buy your own reel to reel tapes and all of that, so I never go into the studio and waste time. That’s always been my thing; I never go in the studio unless I’m ready to work. I don’t go in there to write, I don’t go in there with a bunch of dudes and drink; that’s just not my thing.
You mentioned you have worked with people via email and so when you do put together a track or whatever in that way, does it turn out differently? If you’re there in person is it more likely to evolve in new directions, whereas over email the process is more linear?
It’s fairly similar but, for example, I did an EP with this cat from Australia called Debonair P and obviously, if his budget had allowed for him to fly me out to Australia I would’ve definitely done it. But in that scenario it made sense to do it like that but I still took my time and just not went in the studio until I’m ready. And then again to make sure, we go back and forth cos I don’t want anybody thinking I did it in two days, so I’m not putting my all into it. I’ve only done one like that but I still gave it 200% so they would feel like we been in the studio together.
Now going back to the early days, I know you were the second rapper to be signed to Serchlite after Nas. At the time did you feel like that was a major turning point for you and your career?
Yeah. I mean, I did the song with Prince and Monch in ’91, so it took like three years after that, man. Three years. It was a little discouraging trying to get a deal after doing the single and the video of Organized Konfusion’s album; I was at a tipping point, so to speak. You know, if it happens it happens, if it don’t it don’t. Then Serch got offered the position as vice-president at Wild Pitch and also EMI came on board as the distributor, so it was like better now than never. I didn’t care who I was signed to at that point.
I read in one of your previous interviews, that you considered yourself as a sort of antidote to the direction that rap was taking back then. When you recorded Time’s Up was that a sort of response to the way that a lot of artists were going at that time?
Probably subconsciously, but I hated that record.
Word. Serch was the driving force behind that record being the lead single because at first I felt that it was incomplete. It was just two verse and then I added the Slick Rick thing, let Roc Raida scratch it in, but I just felt like it wasn’t a complete record. But sometimes you can’t just listen to yourself, everybody around me was like trust this is it, you know? I took their judgment as that it must be okay, but at the same time when you put that first record out, it can define your career. So that was the only thing I was kinda afraid of, that people wouldn’t respond to it, but then I got the total opposite.
Is that how you still feel no? Cos I mean for me and a lot of my friends, that’s one of the greatest records of the era.
No, I feel good about it, like yo it’s a blessing. If that’s what people know me for and they don’t know anything else out of my catalog, I’m fine with that. That’s a record that’s lasted 20 years, it’s stood the test of time, so how can I be mad at that?
Now, you grew up opposite Pharoahe, is that right?
Yeah I grew up across the street from Monch. I moved to Jamaica, Queens and he lived right across the street.
So that’s how you first came to connect with Organized, but how did you first link up with DITC?
I met Lord Finesse on the very first Source Tour, with Pharoahe and Prince. Finesse was on that tour, Biz Markie, Shante, MC Serch – that’s how I met him – Almighty RSO, who had Benzino who was one of the owners of The Source. Then on a few of those dates Finesse brought Buckwild along with him, so that’s how I met Buck and that’s how my history started with Diggin’.
Coming back to the present to finish off; now the album is done, what’s next for you? Anything else in the pipeline?
I just started on the last installment. It’s a three-part series with Same Moon Same Sun and A New Dawn, so me and Show are just starting on the last installment which is called Blood Moon and so I’m getting to work on that. It’ll probably be out later in the year.
Oh so quite soon then.
Yeah, I’m not stopping, man. My hand is hot right now and I ain’t letting it go cold.
That’s good to hear, man. And that’s with Showbiz you said?
Yeah, Show is the executive producer on the first two and I just let him pick everything. People think it’s me but it’s really Show picking all the music and then I just take a bunch of tracks home, write to them and then that’s our formula.
Well, it’s working.
That’s about it from me, but thank you for talking with me.
I appreciate you making the call, I appreciate you doing this.
No, we appreciate it and it’s been good to connect with you. We’ll speak soon.
No doubt, Tim. Peace.
Gingerslim has been a hip-hop fan since 1994 and has written for various blogs and websites since around 2006. During that time he has contributed to style43, Think Zebra, Headsknow and Front Magazine. His main interests in rap are UK hip-hop and the underground movement in America, with a focus on Rhymesayers Entertainment and the once mighty Def Jux label. He lives in Bristol and has a beard. All other details are sketchy at best. Follow him here.