Oh No in Elemental Magazine

  • J. Butters
  • Elemental, Issue 62
  • May 06, 2004

Saying that Mike Jackson, a.k.a. Oh No, is prolific is pretty much an understatement. The Kaliwild representative and Oxnard resident is more like a man on a mission somehow finding time to crank out up to sixty beats a month, record over forty songs for his debut, work on collaboration projects with practically everyone he meets, play a few video games and still spend time with his children. He also happens to be Madlib's little brother, which begins to explain his work ethic and propensity to rhyme, DJ and produce. And when your dad is heading up a jazz band and your mom is a songwriter, its inevitable that some of that talent is gonna rub off. He recalls following in his brothers and sisters footsteps playing his dad's old records but gives Madlib the credit for getting him into hip-hop and ultimately production and MCing.

"I wasn't even feeling hip-hop at first," admits the budding producer. "I was real young and playing video games but I started listening to it more because we shared a room and he kept playing it. I was hearing Run DMC and hearing him and my sister rapping over the instrumentals, so I'd be at the table trying to rap with them too." As his siblings became more and more entrenched in hip-hop he followed suit. Anytime a new piece of equipment came into the home he'd play around with it in his free time, but once Madlib got the SP-1200 things got a little more serious

"When he got the SP-12 it was really on," Oh No confesses. "I'd mess with it when he was gone. When he started finding out I was making beats on his equipment he got real hot and was like you can't go in there no more and started locking his room. So I'd go in there with the good buffer knife, unlock it and have all kinds of beats. I'd have beats off of his records before he could make them. When he moved out, he took his equipment with him so I had to get my own shit. But instead of buying the SP-1 200 I went and bought an MPC 2000 and started getting my own shit and flipped it different."

With his new MPC, the youngest Jackson started making tracks on a regular basis and began carving out his own identity. Like his brother, he had a love for beat making but his interests also included an addiction to video games. He spent just as much money and energy digging as he did beating Zelda and collecting new games and peripherals. He even built his own custom four-player controller so he and his three kids could play together. On top of that he had a full time job, which gave him even less opportunities to make music. So to get things done Oh No had to learn to maximize his time deciding to set up shop at work and get some tracks done on the clock.

"I used to work at this job helping mentally disabled citizens for six and a half years," he reveals. "I was pulling eighty hour work weeks. I've done twenty-four and thirty-two hour shifts there. It would be so much that I'd just take a crate of records, unhook all my equipment, take it over there and make beats while everybody was asleep. When they would wake up I'd unhook it, put it back in my car, get home and start doing it there until I fall asleep on the floor. Then I'd get up, play with the kids and go back to work."

Nowadays even without the 9-5 he is still incredibly busy but it's the beats and rhymes that are taking up the bulk of his time. Hip-hop is both an escape and a release for Oh No and depending on his mood you might find him driving down the street writing rhymes or locked up in the lab hammering out ten or twelve joints. Whichever it is you had better believe he's having a great time. "Music makes me happy so I like to have fun when I do music," he explains. "If I'm going through crazy situations I don't usually feel like writing so I'm in beat mode because I have all kinds of shit going through my head. That's why I don't like to write when I'm real stressed because it might come out crazy. I like to wait and think about it before I just spit it out. But after the bad times are over the shit starts pouring out because I can talk about it then. I basically talk about the situations I go through and make sure I'm styling on the track. If I'm feeling it I'll be driving and have to write some shit down and have twenty bars done before I get to the spot, which is like ten minutes away. The other day when I got all the contracts straight with Stones Throw I went and wrote five verses and got a few songs done."

With the beats, he is just as quick and actually practices to make them even faster. "When I make beats I'll just go in there and clown real quick and do one in like a minute," Oh No continues, speaking on his recording process. "I'll just pull out four or five records and I'll throw it on real quick and go right to the first thing and just sample it. I'll pull out a record and I'll find drums right away. As soon as I make that one its time to make some beats. I'll make a beat, listen to it for a little bit, lay it down, go to the next one and not even mix it. I keep doing it like that and then at the end I'll mix em down real quick, pop em on a CD, go back out to the car to smoke some blunts and listen to it. If I do thirty or forty beats in a month I'm cool with that and I'll move onto the next month and forget about last month. I'll go fifty-sixty, sometimes twenty-thirty depending on how busy I am so when I do go back and find them I can make something out of them. Other times I'll just get some shit. My man Egon put me onto some Galt MacDermot and I took that shit home and made ten or eleven beats in one day. I constantly try to make a bunch of beats. If you came to my room there are CDs everywhere."

While most of those CDs are instrumentals, a lot of them are old albums he's recorded and new collaborations he just finished. If you haven't guessed by now Oh No likes to get things done fast and many times his work ethic is infectious to those working with him which helps get things done a lot quicker. Everyone he meets gets hit with a beat CD and projects just start developing.

"I have albums with everyone that I'm meeting now," boasts Oh No. "I have mad albums. I have albums with Madlib before I was even producing myself. Me and Grand Agent did a whole EP. I've been working a lot with Wise Intelligent from Poor Righteous Teachers and I just got done working with AG. Me and Aloe (Emanon) did a whole album, Kazi and me have a whole album and I did Declaime's album coming out in November. With each person that I work with there is a different aspect. With Kazi he's real raw so I wanted to make sure that every beat represented him. The one with Aloe Blacc is real jazzy because he is singing on it. It's real mellow while the stuff I'm doing with Kaliwild is like a hip-hop party."

With so many side projects planned it's easy to forget that Oh No is also dropping his debut album, The Disrupt, a mostly self-produced epic with a few tracks from Madlib and J-Dilla rounding out the project. The album features guest vocals from Wildchild, Aloe Blacc and others but Oh No handles most of the mic time on the LP. And even though The Disrupt is Oh No's first full album in stores it's only a small glimpse of what's to come.

"I want people to know that I'm one of those producers who has a lot of shit," Oh No declares. "I wanted to put out something new that people haven't heard yet. I made sure my album was real thorough. It has bonus songs and interludes so it's not crazy cluttered. It's about real life situations that people go through. You have people getting shot over here in the hood so I had to talk about that, I talk about politics but I also got a clubby joint on there. It's a complete package."

And if there are any extra expectations or comparisons of his work because he's Madlib's brother Oh No is oblivious. He's far too busy on the MPC to even realize that fans may very well be anticipating this release. The beats he used are already years old so his attention is on outdoing what he has already delivered and elevating his ability for his future exploits.

"There might be expectations but the beats I'm doing now are gonna smash those," he exclaims. "I'm on a higher level than before and everything gets better. So if you think this album is tight then the next album is gonna be ridiculously sicker than that one 'cause I'm already doing it. I have twenty songs done for it. AG. and a few other people are on it but that won't be coming out for a year and a half. The next thing that's coming out is a compilation I'm doing with the Galt MacDermot beats. I ended up flipping thirty-three beats out of all that Galt MacDermot stuff so its gonna turn into a compilation and I'm gonna get all types of people on it."

The Galt MacDermot compilation is only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the previous collaborations mentioned and a planned duet with Madlib, Oh No has a laundry list of other projects in the works. "I'm about to drop some instrumentals and I have a mix CD out but I'm about to drop another one," begins Oh No. "Me and my homeboy Rocc-C already have 17 songs done for our album and he has at least thirty something songs for himself. I have a new click about to come out which consists of me Aloe, Infamous, Rocc-C and Fry. Fry and I have an album together that's gonna be coming out pretty soon too. I did LMNO's album and I just did another thirteen songs with him. Infamous' album is dropping on the same date as mine and I did his whole album too. I'm also working with a cat named Approach from Kansas City who just dropped an album that I did a remix on. I gave him a beat tape and he is supposed to be sending back ten or eleven songs in a couple days so I'll take those in and start mixing them down and have another album with someone else.

Music isn't the only place Oh No is staging his takeover. He is also looking into a few business ventures to spread himself around just a bit more. With a clothing line, a production company and label planned the amount of work released might actually increase ten fold.

"I'm about to start this clothing line with my crew Kaliwild and me and DJ Romes been studying the game for a minute and are about to drop a label on people," the entrepreneur divulges. "I also used to take video production and I ran into a couple of my partners who do that stuff now so I'm thinking about starting my own production company. I might start doing videos to keep it moving and get this hip-hop out there. My goal is to put out good hip-hop music just like how Primo did. He came up, put his click on, and did productions for other people just like Pete Rock, Dilia and Madlib. I'm following that route and hopefully I can take it to the plateau they did and work with them too as an MC."

I think it's safe to say he's off to a good start.