Album of the Year?

O.C. & A.G. — “Put It In The Box”

O.C. & A.G. — “Reality Is”

O.C. & A.C. — “God’s Gift”

This past Tuesday, to little fanfare and with minimal promotion, two hip-hop veterans dropped what may be the best album of 2009. Spanning seventeen skit- and guest-free tracks (produced by Show, Lord Finesse, and French affiliate E-Blaze) O.C. & A.G.’s Oasis is an excercise in songcraft and lyricism, boasting not only innumerable quotables but also a depth and maturity commensurate with the duo’s status as torchbearers of true-school, New York rap. The product of two years’ hard labor, Oasis benefits from the natural chemistry of O and A, who’ve shared both the stage and booth repeatedly throughout their long careers. Unforced, unrushed, and completely organic, it’s the kind of album that gets better with each listen; I found myself, after playing it through once, wanting to start all over at the beginning. While a few may not grab you on first listen, the beats are solid across the board, providing ample backing for some of the best performances of both emcees’ careers.

Given the competitive nature of rap, heads will argue about whether O.C. outraps A.G. or vice versa; I’d say that while that’s really a moot point, my vote goes to A.G. Omar more than holds his own, both alongside the Giant and on his two solo tracks, but Andre sounds so focused he had my jaw dropping repeatedly. Whether kicking bragaddocio with O or dropping serious knowledge on solos like “Reality Is” and “God’s Gift,” A.G. proves that great emcees can indeed age gracefully; after spinning Oasis these past few days I’ve got him in my top five, and I can’t think of many rappers who could match either his delivery or his lyrics. Case in point: this freestyle, so godamn hot O.C. declines to spit after hearing it.

As critics release their best-of lists for 2009, I can only hope that Oasis rates a few mentions. If not, expect O and A to keep grinding, like the rest of the Crates crew, putting out quality music for the few of us still checking for that real hip-hop.

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