Oh No: Dr. No's Oxperiment

On this instrumental opus, Oh No breezes his way through tracks of Middle Eastern chants and rich sitars.

Oh No

Dr. No's Oxperiment

Label: Stones Throw Records
US Release Date: 2007-07-31
UK Release Date: 2007-07-30

Oh No, who is part of a lineage of successful musicians, may have genetically inherited his composition skills. His father is Otis Jackson, a deep baritone known for crooning over funk-inspired schmaltz tracks. His uncle is Jon Faddis, the world-renowned trumpeter who has become legendary in the jazz world. His most similar musical relative is his brother Otis Jackson Jr. (otherwise known as Madlib), the famed Stones Throw beat conductor who churns out so many albums that a listener cannot wholly absorb one of his records before the next is released. And while Oh No possesses this genetic tie to so many talented musicians, he shares the same name as the King of Pop (Michael Jackson), sealing the fact that it may not be coincidental that he ended up a beat coddler and emcee.

But Oh No has valiantly outgrown the shadow of his relatives. He released his debut The Disrupt in 2004, and though there may have been some apprehensive Stones Throw fanatics weary of a release from Madlib’s brother, Oh No impressed with his thumping opus complete with loads of buzzing samples and quick-witted rhymes. After holding his own on that album, he followed with the concept record Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms, a shiny effort on which he culled beats out of Galt MacDermot samples. Instead of rapping, he hung up the microphone and enlisted some assistance from a gamut of talented contemporaries.

Like his brother, Oh No dabbles in heaps of different genres, switching up his style and experimenting on new sounds with each release. Dr. No’s Oxperiment, his third solo record, is a complete deviation from his electronic-based debut and glittery sophomore effort. This album is crafted out of crate-dug Lebanese, Turkish and Indian samples, and instead of getting as much mileage as he can out of a gorgeous snippet of music, Oh No keeps each of the 28 tracks brief, with no single song lasting more than two minutes. The album is a journey into the exotic and filled to capacity with sharp ideas. While each individual clip pulls the listener from one area of musical experimentation to another, the effort beautifully coalesces into a full-bodied and rich work of intellectual composition.

Although the album should be listened to in its entirety and regarded as a blended body of work, one must recognize that there are distinctive parts that make up the whole. Each track embodies a different cultural sound and location, including everything from Indian chants to atonal piano bangs and set to thick grooves and vibrant bass lines. The record begins with a Middle Eastern woman who chants on “Heavy,” which quickly dissolves into a rhythm built on a psychedelic guitar, limber hi-hats and a chunky kick. The beat is versatile, breaking down and then launching back into its original groove, flowing along with an uneven limp that perseveres in spite of its clumsiness.

The record also features some other tracks that bump in the same Middle Eastern vein. “Emergency” is a tight piece that sounds comfortable with its crisp sitar sample and electronic burps. Before the track plays itself out, it melds into “Ohhhhhhh,” which is more tranquil with its simple kick-snare interplay but maintains the same sort of exoticism as its predecessor with its panned choral croons. “Action” has a similar potency, with a reed instrument slithering across heavy bongos and a vocal sample set to a lighthearted string section.

Oh No pins down the Turkish and Lebanese sound on many of the record’s tracks, but he reaches out to more psychedelic and erratic instruments on the majority of Dr. No’s Oxperiment. “Cassette” begins with a clip of a man who is advertising the benefits of cassette tapes, but the song soon snaps into a soul-dipped instrumental complete with horns and a jazz guitar that trade off control of the melody. “No Guest List” is a straightforward gem that pops with its hard-hitting snares, light acoustic guitar strums and a wispy flute, while “Mad Piano” is probably the most bizarre clip on the record, featuring blinding electronic drones laced with snips of flute trills and spacey bangs on a keyboard.

Despite being a rich a well-rounded record, it lacks any sort of ending or closure, making the whole piece seem, like it is in itself, a smaller piece of a larger work. The last song, “Slow Down,” is mid-tempo and flows at a distance, as if it is playing underwater. The track is a little over a minute, but cuts off without any sort of farewell or even a musical fadeout. It ends as abruptly as it began, leaving the listener unfulfilled after the rest of the record conveyed such magnanimous cohesion and musical integrity.

But by this point, Oh No has already proved that he is in the upper crust of producers in the world of underground hip-hop. He is easily able to maneuver his way through crates of foreign rhythms and put them in a completely new context. While Madlib may throw a record together that has a single musical theme and little variation, Oh No shows that he can expand beyond a simple concept and reinterpret a bevy of genres to stand as something entirely new. With a track record that shows that Oh No is getting much more dexterous as time goes on, his future albums will surely become even more focused, and if they are as versatile and cerebral as Dr. No’s Oxperiment, he may just prove to be the best Jackson in the bunch.





Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.


The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.


Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.


Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.


Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.


Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.


Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.


Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.


The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.


Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.