Dr. No's Ethiopium
Ethiopian sample-based hip-hop instrumentation from Oxnard, CA? Yes m’am, straight from the 805, Oh No aka Dr. No drops yet another classic album off Stones Throw that is sure to entertain jazz heads, hip-hop heads, culture vultures, and all those in search of a creative and pure sound—Dr. No’s Ethiopium. Following 2007’s Oxperiment, Oh No once again comes through with a lavish and cohesive album in the vein of label mate (and brother) Madlib’s Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4: Live in India. Oh No’s impeccable beat composition shines through on every track with a self-contained energy based off sampling traditional ’60s and ’70s Ethiopian sounds. It’s a perfect combination of tribal rhythms, synchronized to an elevated hip-hop form, which all exquisitely morphs into a standout landscape of rich and exotic goodness. Dr. No’s Ethiopium is a whirlwind tour past the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Djibouti–yet feels local and familiar. It is a consistent headnodding excursion that introduces strange sounds, which many of us may have never heard otherwise.
Like the aroma of a great roast of Ethiopian coffee, Ethiopium is a wholesome dose of caffeinated and original hip-hop beats. Oh No constructs funky and complex layers of instrumentation from the traditional instruments of the Ethiopian Highlands such as the masenqo and kebero hand drums. For example, the comically named yet dope track, “Pussy,” uses an intelligent repetition of a single sample to create a soulful and abstract (however short) gem that segues perfectly into the definitive “Adventure.” Although self-contained beats in their own respect, the abrupt breaks and almost unplanned transitions give the album a rough dimension with an unpredictable quality that I feel must be like traversing the tropical savannas and grasslands of Ethiopia (or just the exhilaration of crate digging). Tracks like “Adventure,” transport the listener to a foreign and wondrous land that reveal the framework of the album as a definitive, however experimental, hip-hop text. The “Soul of Ethiopia” is a particularly standout track; its contemplative, methodical, and ominous mood is lethal with its subtle drums persistently and unrelentlessly marching on.
Evidently, Ethiopian musicians are a bunch of gangsters. Finishing up the album with “Great Oracle” and “Whoo Doo,” Dr. No closes triumphantly with some of the loudest noises on the album. These tracks are fantastic by their lonesome, but could definitely benefit from an emcee flowing on them. The mighty Mos Def already discovered this while creating The Ecstatic with his use of Madlib’s “Movie Finale” (“Auditorium”) and Oh No’s “Heavy” (“Supermagic”) from the Oxperiment. This Oh No installment is unquestionably dope. With its healthy content of banger after banger, it will make everyone with an ear for quality incredibly satisfied (and for sample-junkies, it’s a must-have). Dr. No is a game-changing producer (like his brother Otis Jackson, Jr.) challenging to any ethnomusicologist—Ethiopium is an instant classic that reveals its true essence after every listen, and as such, will only reward those who prove worthy.
Oh No – The Pain (off of Dr. No’s Ethiopium)