By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Oxnard can't be that much different from Orange County: big punk scene in the '80s, big box stores and tract homes, big highway pumping cars in and cars out every hour of the day, even a lot of goofy civic pride slogans ("More Than Just a Pretty Name!"). It's here, basically, almost down to the most basic census demographics—central county here, not south county here, though—except that Oxnard is the seat of one of the West Coast's most lauded independent hip-hop communities, and here, despite the best efforts of certain people who work really hard, is a lot of underground elbow room and not a lot of recognition. Short theory: no strong local label to scout/promote/support homegrown hip-hop—though people are trying!—plus not a lot of incentive to push down roots in OC when you can just head north and west and get a lot more action from LA with the same amount of effort. And also no Jackson family—Oxnard got a little bit of a gift with that one, two sons of a '70s soul singer who fit into hip-hop like the Agnews added their own silhouettes to OC punk. If only Frank had rapped: What could have been?
Oh No (Mike Jackson around the holiday dinner) is the younger brother to Madlib (Otis Jr.), and you may have heard of Madlib if you read the New Yorker or TheNew York Times or possibly just if you don't mind a little weed now and then and happen to hang out in the skate shops on Long Beach's Fourth Street: he's a hip-hop savant with a deep affection for jazz (taught himself to play drums for his own combo) who raps through a distortion box as the mysterious Lord Quasimoto (kind of a Ralph-Bakshi-meets-Project-Blowed character) and produces beats sourced off records dredged up from shipwrecks, pulled out of shuttered West African bodega jukeboxes or rescued from little-publicized New Orleans estate sales. He's a quiet guy who's pretty famous. And Oh No is the kid who got in on the same sampler, messed with the same keyboards, got to know all his big brother's friends, and who now legendarily produces something like 60 beats a month for himself or projects to be determined, raps with a boxer's determined athletic cadence (he's a fan of Organized Konfusion because of their dynamic delivery, he said once), and still finds time to sneak in some dedicated video game time. He's less famous for now—but like Madlib, he's maybe one collaboration away from New York Times-dom.
His last big production was "Don't Stop" for fellow Ox-er Roc C, built on a creepy-crawl hook slashed to pieces with machine-gun sound effects and whiplash phase effects, sort of a departure from his usual man-machine style. 2004's Disrupt (with Oh No as MC and principal producer, plus the usual gang of Oxnardians) bumps along with super-tight kick-drum samples, neoned-out synth/keyboard sweeps, digital effects for some pixel confetti—alongside the dustier Madlib tracks, these Oh No beats sound like the end of Close Encounters: people of the 1970s, do not be frightened of our high technology. But then "Perceptions" pulls from the same late-Motown acetates that probably hold to-be-discovered auditions by Otis Jackson Sr.—sounds like a Carl and the Commanders intro too—and "WTF" lifts a butterfly drum break from . . . some Actuel free-jazz LP? And then a beat that just pounds along on the quarter notes.
So the Jackson family is versatile—the whole extended Oxnard family is versatile, with longtime 93033 artists like Wildchild, MED, Roc C and Kankick trading feature spots back and forth, even waving in OC MC Aloe Blacc, who now shares a label (Stones Throw) with Oh No instead of just sharing a track ("Getaway"). And it seems like a healthy place to make a hip-hop song: pretty similar to here except for a few extra guys making beats in their garage, maybe starting a few years earlier than guys on the other side of the 605. That's not that intimidating if anybody wants to try and catch up: 60 beats a month to get up to where Oh No gets his work done. Two a day or 20 on the weekends, and a lot of records would come from here too.
ABSTRACT WORKSHOP AND SOUND IN COLOR PRESENT THE DIRTY SCIENCE TOUR WITH OH NO, MED, ROC C, EXILE WITH ALOE BLACC AND BLU, TA RAACH, FACULTY AND MORE TBA AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.DETROITBAR.COM. SAT., 9 P.M. $10. 21+.