Oxygen (a.k.a Ox The Architect) is a very busy man nowadays. Having just released the dope and extremely collectable seven-inch single “Brilliance” on Correct Technique Records as one-half of SPOX PhD alongside DJ Spinna, the Long Island Hip-Hop vet is also currently in the lab working with the likes of Phill Most Chill, Large Professor, Wyld Bunch, Daily Diggers and the UK’s own Danny Spice.
Yet for those who may be unfamiliar with the East Coast native’s material as a member of both Sputnik Brown and Soundsci (get your Google on!), Oxygen’s current underground notoriety is definitely no overnight phenomenon. With a Hip-Hop heritage that goes back to the 80s rocking L.I. parties with his crew Hype Sound Productions and penning rhymes for local group The In’fo M.C.’s, Oxygen may have worked and recorded under a variety of names over the years, but his love and passion for music has remained consistent.
Taking time out from working on the forthcoming SPOX PhD album “Sound Pieces Of Xperience”, Oxygen dug in the crates for Old To The New to reminisce on a selection of Strong Island classics that fill this talented emcee and dedicated beat-digger with hometown pride.
Cold wild Long Island is where he rests.
MC EZ & Troup – “Get Retarded” (Fresh Records / 1988)
“I never even knew this was a Long Island product until about five years after it dropped. Mr Magic and Marley Marl were the first I remember to break this record on the air in ’88. The moment you heard the hi-hats in the intro and then the ‘zoom-zoom-zoom-zoom-za-z00m-za-zoom’s’ came in you automatically went into maniac mode!!! Some years later after this 12” dropped I discovered while talking about music with a co-worker of mine at a job I had with Time Warner distribution centre that he was actually Troup (a.k.a. Teddy Lee). I wound up becoming great friends with him and still am. “Get Retarded” is definitely a classic tune that will forever be a staple in L.I. Hip-Hop history.”
Biz Markie – “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz” (Prism / 1986)
“My earliest memory of Biz was back in ’85 when he rocked a jam at Wyandanch High School alongside Groove B. Chill and the “Kid Wizard” Rakim Allah. It was at that show he introduced a live version of this song before the single even dropped. Instead of TJ Swan on the chorus and the beat that made it to the final version, this performance featured a much more raw beat that sounded to me like Synsonic drums. The chorus was actually this vocoder voice finessed similar to the way the Fearless Four used it on “F-4000″. Classic! It’s hard to believe that was over twenty-five years ago now that I reflect back on it.”
Supreme Force – “Handling Things” (NIA Records / 1986)
“Flashback to the North Babylon High School talent show in 1985. There was always a crazy buzz on the Island about these area kids who were setting mics on fire with the ferociousness of Cold Crush, Treacherous Three or Fantastic 5. To make it even sweeter, they were right from my hometown and I had the pleasure of attending High School with these cats. When they ripped the stage at that talent show, it was like watching a classic soul group from the ’60s. They came on decked out in these fresh suits and they even handed out flowers to the ladies in the front row. Very classy. One love to these brothers, especially my dude Supreme E-Z-E for purchasing some of my graf pieces so I could have lunch money back then. Thanks E!”
The UN – “Mind Blowin'” (456 Entertainment / 2004)
“It was my man Musa who first put me up on The UN. At the time, we were in the lab working on some early Sputnik Brown material. When the session was over, he burned me a copy of “UN Or U Out” onto a CD and was like, ‘Yo! Peep this on your way home!’ I did… and I lost my freakin’ mind! The entire album, in my opinion, is flawless. But what I will always remember is how brolic this track came in with them drums and the feeling that came over me. The whole crew blessed that track lovely. It wasn’t until several days later that I even got to listen to the rest of the album because I got stuck with that particular track on repeat most of the way home that night.”
Kings Of Pressure – “You Know How To Reach Us” (Let’s Go Records / 1987)
“This is one of those prominent Long Island college radio classics from the 80s which I believe is on every cassette I recorded back then. On 88.7 WRHU (Hofstra University) Jeff “Air” Foss had a show that featured a dynamic deejay named Johnny Juice holding down the tables for him. Juice, in addition to being part of Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad among other things, was a member of this group Kings Of Pressure. Late nights he would completely destroy the wheels at WRHU and this was one of the many tunes he broke on air for us. I always thought this was so cleverly produced with the beeper noise beeping under the track along with the beat. Illmatic!”
EPMD – “You’re A Customer” (Fresh Records / 1987)
“Enter another reference to DJ Johnny Juice here and I will keep this short and sweet; Juice used to murder this record on the air! To the point where I would actually feel bad for the records. My soul would be in mourning days after the radio show was over. Word up! It was that severe. The snares chopped through the speakers like machetes on this record. If you weren’t around at the time when EPMD first dropped this song on us then you completely missed out.”
De La Soul – “Stakes Is High” (Tommy Boy / 1996)
“These kids from Amityville were already a household name by the time this track was released. This was the one, to me, that represented the greatest show of maturity in De La’s sound and lyrical content. I was living down in Charlotte, NC when this one came out and my man Cut Wizard Albee would bless me with a regular batch of taped radio shows on cassettes to keep me up to speed. When my ears connected with this tune it was clear to me that these L.I. prodigies had officially arrived. De La have mastered the art of re-invention. Dilla cold crushed the production on this one too! One of my favourites from him.”
Crimedanch Cartel ft. LL Cool J – “Money Is The Key” (White Label / 1996)
“Boy, oh, boy! This joint right here is serious business. Although I just recently learnt that this was pressed on wax at some point, I actually heard this during one of my visits to NY from NC up in the now defunct Paradise Records that was on the side of Jimmy’s Supermarket in the ‘hood. I want to say it was Isreal from the group who popped in with the demo cassette. Deep down, it always bothered me that Crimedanch Cartel never got a chance to release a proper album and tour the planet for everyone to absorb their sound during that time period. With a feature and backing from Rakim already under their belt, capped off with this track featuring one of the most consistent emcees of our time LL Cool J, they were certified ‘next’ in my opinion. “Money Is The Key” would have been their ticket to ride.”
Eric B. & Rakim – “No Competition” (UNI Records / 1988)
“If I had to pick my favourite Rakim joint, I would have to say this is definitely it. First of all, do you hear the bombs he’s dropping on this record?! From start to finish, this is just lyrically flawless. Secondly, the Manzel “Space Funk” record they flipped, particularly this version on Downstairs Records with the intro in reverse, is one of my all-time favourite breaks. I remember the hot summer nights of the late-80s when Rakim used to whip through the neighbourhood in his burgundy Jeep Cherokee with the tyre-cover on the back that simply suggested you “Follow The Leader”. Damn, that was a special moment in time that gave us a glimmer of hope in the midst of the crack era and the series of unnecessary homicides that plagued our segregated community on the Island. Time marches on.”
Public Enemy – “Timebomb” (Def Jam / 1987)
“To cap off my list, I had to pay respect to the most powerful Hip-Hop group of our time! The classic P.E. album “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” was the one that sent shock waves through the entire body. I think it was Dr. Dre’s Operating Room on 90.3 WBAU where I first heard “Timebomb”. In fact, they played the entire album from start to finish over the air before it was released to the public. I was still in high school and had a Cutlass with a Blaupunkt radio, Concord amp, some Pyle Driver 6 x 9s in the window, the 15″ speaker box in the trunk, and this song used to knock dumb heavy. At least it did until someone bagged up my system. Easy come, easy go. My nephews had me sorted out with a replacement by the time the sun rose in the east. Then it was back to business as usual. No place on Earth could ever come close to New York in the 80s and the unique energy that Public Enemy brought to the table will never be emulated. Period!”