Saddled with the unfortunate name of a certain
pop-thriller-turned-accused-child-molester, the artist formerly known as Michael
comes from a long line of musical luminaries, from jazz
trumpeter uncle Jon Faddis and soul singer father Otis
to brother Otis Jackson, Jr. (otherwise known
as beat-master Madlib). He’s previously produced tracks for emcees
such as Medaphoar, Aloe Blacc and Murs, as
well as releasing two solo albums, but it’s Dr. No’s Oxperiment on which Oh No reveals
himself to be a distinctive and original talent on par with trailblazers like DJ
and RJD2.

The third release in Stones Throw’s ongoing series of instrumental albums
(follow J Dilla‘s Donuts
and Madlib‘s Beat
), Dr. No’s
is a crate-digger’s record inspired by and sampled from
rare Greek, Italian, Lebanese and Turkish psychedelic rock. In the years since Hip
Hop has evolved from an underground countercultural phenomenon into a
multi-billion dollar-a-year global industry, it’s hardly revolutionary to match
colorful samples of exotic musical forms with Hip Hop beats. Hell, Timbaland‘s
been doing it for years. Yet the idea of creating a conceptual album featuring
28 songs (each of which clocks in at under two minutes) in which world music
soundbytes don’t merely provide the catchy hooks, but the entire melodic
foundation, still comes across as radically inventive.

The vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding vocal that bookends the album’s leadoff
track, Heavy, may sound
more than a little familiar, but the tripped-out, multi-tracked guitars that
follow sound like something straight out of a late 60s acid trip, overwhelming
the funky beat and rock-solid bass line at almost every turn. The quirky rhythm
supporting the Arabic strings and chants of “Gladius” is
slightly more prominent, lending the song an off-kilter appeal that’s only
heightened by squiggly synth sounds that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Dr.
track. The bubbling liquids that open “Ox Broil” make
it sound like Oh No‘s been hitting the bong while chilling in
the hot tub, but the laid-back track that follows is really the first one on the
album that tones down the world music flavor and puts the producer’s Hip Hop
roots in full focus.

Honestly, breaking down the individual components that make up each track
here is kinda beside the point: At its heart, Dr. No’s Oxperiment is a true concept album for Hip Hop heads
to get lifted to, with each track flowing seamlessly into the next to create a
mind-bending alternate reality unlike anything Hip Hop has ever heard before.
Where his brother seems determined to mine the outer limits of Hip Hop and jazz
via modal minor-key musings, Oh No brilliantly blends
disparate (and seemingly incongruous) ingredients together to create a global
musical goulash that’s ultimately accessible, engaging, infectious and utterly
original. You won’t find it in da club, and these beats probably won’t be
rockin’ your Jeep anytime soon. But for late-night headphone listening, when
you’re ready to take a heady, twisted trip around the world, this is just what
the doctor ordered.