Harold Stallworth is a grown ass man.
O.C.’s collaborative EP with Ray West, Ray’s Café, qualifies as what the Passion of the Weiss staff affectionately calls “grown man rap.” In fact, it’s so grown-up that the Red Apples 45’s creative art director took care to spell it with a tilde. G.M.R. means a lot of different things to a lot of different constituencies – perhaps antiquated production, corporate dress code, daunting student loans, relationship woes, erectile dysfunction. These are certainly relatable grown-up themes, but the best kind of G.M.R. does more than just voice our vices and pander to our aging sensibilities. It makes us listen to ourselves. It cons us into appreciating the present by reflecting on the past.
Ray’s Café does just this, working the wise old owl shtick to magnificent effect. Ray West’s style—probably best showcased on A.G.’s third Showbiz-less album, Everything’s Berri—is generally dark and moody, but the production here sounds like a cloudless day on a sunny beachfront. It’s an about-face from O.C.’s last LP, Trophies, which could be described as either a masterful return-to-form or unimaginative panderfest, depending on your tolerance for second-rate boom-bap in 2014. He hasn’t sounded this cheerful since, well, ever. He rhymes—nimbly—about barbeque pits and beautiful women and groovy vibes with the type of understated confidence that comes with age and experience. Ray’s Café, surprisingly, lives up to its tilde.