O.C.’s “Jewelz” At 20: It May Be The True Diamond In His Discography
Following the assassinations of the Rap industry’s biggest stars The Notorious B.I.G. in 1997 and Tupac Shakur one year prior, the genre was a powder keg that exploded. The remaining stars of Hip-Hop were trying to figure out how to clean up the mess. Some hardcore outfits like Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep stayed in their lane popping guns and gats on wax, while other artists like JAY-Z, Puff Daddy, Will Smith, and LL Cool J put on shiny designer suits in Hype Williams’ bright-colored era of Hip-Hop. Other artists, perceived purists, descended deeper into the underground resorting to a D.I.Y. ethos without choice.
In the midst of this denouement in the genre’s narrative arc, Omar Credle (aka O.C.) was looking for a clean slate to distinguish himself as one of the genre’s best wordsmiths. He released his second album Jewelz on August 19, 1997, to critical acclaim. After years of earning his stripes from recording standout verses on Organized Konfusion’s “Fudge Pudge” and “Let’s Organize,” his breakout inimitable underground classic “Time’s Up,” and on “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers,” O.C. created a polished diamond with Jewelz after years of basking himself in the rough and rugged terrain of NYC’s ultra-lyrical scene.
The album boasts two 12-inch singles with dope B-sides: “Far From Yours” featuring R&B singer Yvette Michelle b/w “It’s My World,” and “Can’t Go Wrong” b/w “Dangerous” featuring his D.I.T.C cohort, Big L. “Far From Yours” became O.C.’s first appearance on Billboard Hot 100 and Jewelz made the Top 200 as well. With a production powerhouse lineup including DJ Premier, Da Beatminerz, Buckwild, and Lord Finesse, Jewelz inherently debunked any notions from fans about O.C. suffering from a sophomore jinx. He came to Payday Records in hopes of just that. Without compromising his artistry, this D.I.T.C. LP increased his profile immensely from his days on Wild Pitch. While 1994’s Word…Life is unquestionably a great debut, Jewelz showed range, style, and important commentary in Rap at just the right time. This LP was “Mush” (O.C.’s nickname on wax) amplified.
The New York City native owned industry real estate as a seasoned lyricist, earning his stripes over 1970s Soul, Funk, R&B and Lounge music samples. Highlights include his towering confidence as one of the best MCs out (“Far From Yours,” “The Chosen One,” and “You And Yours”), abstract storytelling (“The Crow”), love ballads (“Can’t Go Wrong” and “Stronjay”), his Battle Rap prowess (“War Games” featuring Organized Konfusion) Wild Style homage “Win The G” with newly-crowned Bumpy Knuckles), and juxtapositions about the hustling lifestyle (“Hypocrite”).
On the 20th anniversary of his best album, Jewelz still stands the test of time for heads. In hindsight, the album proves that 1997 has some shining bright spots during a dark period for Hip-Hop.