Veteran from the West: Spice 1 Remains The O.G.

Dean Van Nguyen goes in on the East Bay legend's new album.
By    September 25, 2019

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Dean Van Nguyen lets the bass rattle in his voice.

Forget retro revivalism. For Spice 1, the sound of the 1990s is a resource as renewable as solar energy. New album Platinum O.G. won’t put him at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist but, a year out from his 50th birthday, Robert Lee Green, Jr reminds us that he’s spent a career in the orbit of some of Cali’s finest. How old school are we talking about here? Well, Platinum O.G. features following: an ode to Eazy-E that samples “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s” and features a verse from his son Lil Eazy-E (“Studio Gangstas”); a séance session that summons the spirit of Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” (“I Don’t Wanna Die”); vocalist Nawfside Outlaw lifting a verse from D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” wholesale (“Respeck”); guest spots from such past masters as Kurupt, MC Eiht, Too $hort, Richie Rich and a handful of surviving members of The Outlawz.

Though this love letter is addressed to the West Coast, there’s some retro Southern flavor sprinkled in there for good measure—“Say It Wicha Chest” is built around a slowed vocal hook that heavily gestures towards DJ Screw. There’s no attempts to crowbar in fashionable sounds into this album for the sake of it. It’s the only kind of music Spice 1 should be making.

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Platinum O.G. follows a similar outline to Dre’s 2001: it’s long and stuffed full of guests. Handing out so much studio time to friends is sometimes to the album’s detriment—Kurupt, for instance, sounds sluggish compared to Spice and Devin The Dude on nostalgic weed jam “Since 85.” But with a high-energy flow that sometimes bears the same funky wobble as E-40, Spice shows no signs of him sagging into a less ferocious vocal style as he sees his 50s on the horizon. That’s why he can cheekily step to a girl with suggestions she brings a friend too on “Doing What The Playas Do” and not sound like a horny old weirdo.

Drug and sex jams aside, most of Spice’s lyrics focus on a life well lived in the rap game. On “Yo Life” he declares that all his demons have been conquered while celebrating overcoming years of poverty and hunger to dine on good seafood, steak, and spaghetti. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before but it would take a very hollow chest to not be taken by Spice’s humility. Platinum O.G. beams with pride—pride at what he’s achieved in music, pride that back in the day his band of brothers took hip-hop music and turned California into America’s pop culture centre.

Appropriately, Spice leans on a batch of old-fashioned beats that connects South L.A. to Vallejo—prominent piano chords, funky basslines, soft-focused grooves. Some of the production values are a bit dingy, matching the amusingly gaudy, effects-laden album artwork. But it’s all part of the throwback charm of the project. Add in the sticky-icky hooks and you’ve got an enjoyable hit of nostalgia. And for that alone, it’s good to have Spice 1 around. He’s lighting a candle for the spirits of the past in case they ever need to find their way home.

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