Otayo Dubb - Cold Piece of Work
Otayo Dubb began his career in the Bay Area group Co-Deez, but went solo a few years ago. On his latest album, Cold Piece of Work, we get a mature artist confident and comfortable in his own skin, able to be completely honest with his audience. It also doesn’t hurt that the album has single after single that bang so hard you’ll want to drive around with the windows down all fall, no matter how cold it gets.
On Cold Piece, Dubb works with a slew of West Coast producers such as Fatgums, Digital Martyrs, 6Fingers, MTK, and Keelay, and they all know how to turn soul samples into hip hop songs with midtempo grooves and heavy bass. There’s enough variation in style to hold interest, and everything flows together nicely. Nothing sounds out of place, with the exception of the bonus track, “Give Me Tonight,” which co-opts the chorus from George Benson’s “Give Me The Night” and tries too hard to sound like an R&B club track.
That said, all the great grooves in the world wouldn’t mean much if the emcee didn’t rise to the occasion. Thankfully, Otayo Dubb lays down some of the most thoughtful, introspective lyrics I’ve heard all year. On the opening track, “Jerry McGuire,” a sparse track that has Dubb rhyming over a simple piano line, we get a great introduction to the artist and the man. He discusses feeling torn in different directions by expectations. People want you to be hard and gangsta, or they want you to be positive and conscious, but whatever direction you choose, the labels can prevent you from reaching people on a personal level. This sets the stage well for the rest of the album, as Dubb discusses issues like violence, poverty, the music industry, and romantic relationships on a very personal level that cuts right through the music to reach his audience. A song like “Only Ones” starts off with the potential to come across like City High’s “What Would You Do?,” which was just an unfortunate song where the artists got to pile on trouble to a protagonist from their high horse without offering any solutions or even exploring the deeper issues as to why these problems might exist. Dubb is much more constructive. In the first verse, he presents a young girl with absentee parents who becomes a young single mother with no child support. The second verse presents a young male emcee who abandons his clean past to live a gangsta cliché. On the third verse, Dubb tries to figure out why young people would make these poor decisions. One point that he sees is a lack of positive role models, especially in the Bay Area. He states, “O.G.’s ain’t grown, they ain’t acting they age, so it’s hard for these youngsters to be a man, when the people they look up to act like Peter Pan.” On “Where Do You Go” he discusses the effect of dumbing down music for mass consumption has on the youth, relating how discovering artists like KRS-ONE and Brand Nubian influenced him to think deeper about issues and to strive for more in his personal life.
I am joyful to be able to discuss this album track by track and really dissect the lyrics. My frustrations with previous releases this year from Beatrock really came down to potentially great albums with a few questionable lyrics. With Cold Piece of Work, we finally get Beatrock at its best - soulful West Coast hip hop with smart lyrics. My only real complaint is that I didn’t have all summer to rock this.