OX – The Day Before Tomorrow
As Madison continues to define its singular take on hip-hop, the ideals of positivity, spirituality and political consciousness have consumed much of the focus. From dumate and Rob Dz to the Crest and Adem Tesfaye, the voice of local hip-hop has maintained a slick tone and clean, intellectual persona. But then OX shows up with gravel in his throat, pure fury in his words and honesty in his delivery, and his presence in the local sound is made dramatically clear. The Day Before Tomorrow is as much a statement about one man’s story, his trials and weaknesses, as it a strong musical statement, with diverse flavors infecting virtually every track. Without a clear political slant, without taming his strong personality for an instant, and without a single moment of retreat from his pride, OX pushes violently and steadily through this album of creative sounds and deep flow.
This man delves into his issues with anger and alcohol, arrogance and anguish. He shows it all, from standing up to an asshole bouncer and making a scene (“Rowdy”) to struggles with drinking (“Talk of the Town” and “Gonna Be Okay”) to rage and its ramifications (“Get Thru My Day”), this is a man dealing with his vices in public, confronting his pain with poetry. This record expounds on the themes of fatherhood (“Be a Father to Your Child”) and the pain of loss (“Payin’ Homage”) while revealing a fresher and more mature outlook than on his previous release, Syllabus. However, this record also develops the thuggish, street-strong voice that is often absent from local hip-hop’s focus on positive ideology.
With help from some of the finest talent in local hip-hop, the tracks are tight and soulful. Produced with help from A-Waxx, Joey Vitale, DLO, DJ Curfew and Problem Child, with the voice of Jesse Lester and the turntable skills of Newsense, The Day Before Tomorrow delivers its grooves with a polished finesse and solid performances. When OX lays his gritty tone over the mix, the result is a satisfying synergy between tone and content: the sound reflects the message and the message drives the groove.
A-Waxx produced the majority of the disc and his sound reflects a broad sense of what drives the beat. The Eastern string flavors of “OX is My Name” are somehow classic while remaining totally fresh. The soulful blues and funk of “Payin’ Homage” is somehow utterly different from the rest while remaining totally OX. And in “Beef,” the groove is mashed-up around a sped-up soul sample and a tight progression that develops a thick drive. The ability of A-Waxx to generate grooves that mutate the theme while developing a characteristic sound at the same time is an absolute strength of this record.
OX’s last album Syllabus was good enough to put some real pressure on this unique voice to live up to the hype and hit this shit hard a second time. He did it. OX can be both proud and humble, both cold-hearted and a warm, caring friend and son. This is a man who delves deep and delivers a solid collection of solid tracks that represent a step forward. He might be more aggressive than what this town is used to, but this is a new dimension to local hip-hop and it adds an edge that has been missing from this scene.