Let’s take a trip on a bizarre ride to the Oxcyde. Ox is the latest rap export coming to us from Melbourne, Australia – a city and a country that both thrive on the ruggedly independent hip-hop spirit that was beaten out of many parts of the U.S. years ago. Eventually their scene may too fall prey to the woes of those who try to put on hip-hop shows here without a top ten chart hit, but for now their D.I.Y. cred is as good as any Bay Area rapper from California. The liner notes on the one sheet insert for this compact disc are short and to the point: “Produced, written, recorded and mixed by Chad ‘Oxcyde’ Waldron.” I think it’s fair to say that Waldron has put it all on the line here – if he succeeds he deserves all the praise and if he fails there’s no one else he can blame. Enough bollocks, let’s get on with the opening track – “8 Years”:
“Ay! I’m gonna pop this on the top
The only question I got, is when am I gonna stop
Droppin tracks often, heads are noddin
Just mention my name until your memory starts joggin
Benefit to sit inside my intellect
And when you had enough just pull the cord to disconnect
In effect, bare my speech for my set
And in a sec your neck’ll be working a sweat”
Not bad Ox. His accent is middle of the road as Australian rappers go for us Yanks – not as ear bending as Fluent Form or Requiem but not nearly as easy to follow as Illy or Muphin. It’s a bit perplexing how some emcees from the same cities in AU can be so completely different in vowel patterns and pronunciations, but one of my mates from Nottingham (England that is) insists this is just as true in London where an accent can be completely different from one area of town to the next. So be it then. As Ox spits about science-fiction and time travel, his bass heavy and piano driven beats compare favorably to any of the songs produced by Alchemist or Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind. I’m not saying he exceeds them in talent, but I am saying fans of their work would enjoy what Ox did here.
“An Author’s Mouth” holds true to form as Ox doesn’t slip musically, only adding a little R&B flavor to the mix and some haunting violins to the backdrop. “With each step, I’m still grindin/but when I drop a beat, I start flyin.” True indeed. “Guess Who” is the first track on this release one could unapologetically categorize as “upbeat,” and Ox is so lifted by the soundtrack he shoots for the stars: “Sky’s the limit/and the only reason I’m here is gravity, cause I’m in it.” When Ox declares that “It’s Simple” on the short 2:53 track, it’s really anything but. His vocal tone’s harder to follow on this cut than the others, but the headnodding drums and keys more than compensate as he “sends out a message to all the people to expose the facts.” One song title sums up Ox best though – “Hypnotized.” Some would accuse him of aping Kanye West on production on this track but if you’re going to copy a sound it might as well be one that’s a proven winner, so long as you do it well too. Ox does.
To say I was pleasantly surprised by the time I reached the end of “Wristwatch Television” would be misleading – at this point I’ve come to expect good things from the Australian scene more often than not. It’s more surprising when I get an album from that far away that’s boring or disappointing. It’s far more accurate to say that anyone who gives Ox a chance after reading this review will be the ones who are pleasantly surprised by his beats and rhymes. It’s interesting that he’s insistent on saying what he’s done here is “8 Years” in the making, because that unintentionally implies we’d have to wait almost a decade more to get six more songs of this caliber. Hopefully what he’s really trying to say is that he spent eight years perfecting his technique, and now that he’s got it down pat we’ll hear from Ox again much sooner. He’s an Aussie to keep your eye on Yanks.