The man born Omar Credle is an ornate wordsmith; his tone is rough and rococo — every verse is like a boosted spool of handmade silk. There’s a meticulous rasp to every O.C. utterance, wherein his lavish darts seem composed by a Crooklyn corner-stander tickled by his technical brilliance.

O.C., on Word...Life, had to compete in this impossible climate (in which Nas was rap’s messiah, and B.I.G. squared mad circles the instant he uttered, “It was all a dream”). Against all odds, O.C.’s first LP captivated in its quiet way.