Artist: Oriana Lee
Album: The Oriana Lee EP
Label: Chaste (Promo)
Rating : 7.5/ 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Most will know Oriana Lee simply as the wife of the world’s most slept-on Hiphop artist (with REAL skills) Count Bass D. This is more than a tad unfair as not only is she the yin to Bass D’s yang, but she is an outspoken poet, writer, performer, mother and manager in her own right, with a book release (“Something To Cope”) on the horizon. Although she has appeared already on several of the Count’s album tracks, this is the first real ‘solo’ outing for Lee, and one which many heads will no doubt be interested in as production duties throughout were handled by her husband.
This 7 track EP may well be a little difficult for these heads to get hold of though – its only scheduled to be released as a promo that will accompany purchase from Unchaste and their zany range of belts. Yes… belts. So unless you’ve got a significant other that is down to rock a belt called Natural Causes, you may well have to… ahem… begborrowsteel a copy somehow. I
roll with the flavor, poppin’ Cris on the reg with a variey of stars so my people got with their people to make it happen was happy to receive a copy in the mail from the gracious Ms Lee herself. Fasten your seatbelts…
The short ‘This Is For My Wife’ gets things poppin’. Avid Bass D listeners will not be surprised at the brevity of the track – it comes with the terrority. Sonically, this is part gameshow theme / part Petestrumental, with a repetitive section of elevator muzack laid over a bouncy drum pattern with light and fluffy results. This is followed by ‘A Padded Room With A View’ where the Count combines a RZA-esque soul sample with bright synths and crisp snares to produce an enjoyable head nodder. Two tracks deep and no sign of Oriana yet… what’s going on? Its as if Dwight can read your thoughts, and so he uses ‘A Padded Room With A View’ to set the scene for his wife’s first appearance, casually tossing out off-the-wall references to a myriad of subjects, but cleverly tying them in on the last few lines to his wife and family life.
“Male chastity belt, Dick Cheney,
Make him strip butt naked like a detainee,
I can see its all perfect – its Kodak,
This is where he lay down and she repped for Kojak,
Keith only sweat her cos I want her,
He buy her so much gifts we can hang a Christmas wreath on her,
Oriana Lee, not Kimora,
Nor the girl I knew who claimed she had homeroom with you,
We like the padded room with the view.”
And so Ms Lee finally makes her appearance on ‘Who Are You Any More”, a track which sounds like it has borrowed snippets from Johhny Guitar Watson, and which begins with the warning to “never fall in love with a musician.” Dominated by glittery percussion, a chunky bassline, and a familiar ‘Planet Rock’ sample, its begging for an emcee’s touch. Instead, Lee steps to the mic with spoken word poetry, which is amazingly engaging on its own, but which is definitely enhanced by the backing track that supports her furious words, as her anger pours through the speaker. Its definitely some rewind shit, as you’ll be hearing new barbs with every one of the first few listens.
‘The Expose’ is a simpler affair musically, with a sparse kick/snare combination running tthrough the track and very little other instrumentation on display. Where the heavy production on ‘Who Are You Now’ equally matched Oriana’s serious and stinging words, the lighter make up to ‘The Expose’ pushes her vocals to the fore as she eloquently breaks down how she ‘breaks it down’…
“I guess I’ll swallow my pride and Courvoisier for my nerves,
Even though liquor makes me sicker than herbs ciphering on the M-I-C after siphoning too many 40’s,
Now herb in my diet helps me clear the clutter,
Making all the words that I spit flow smooth like soy butter.
However due to the lack of trees,
My needs may not be expressed in a format that you care to accept,
But please respect my offerings as I strive to sow seeds of simple pleasures.”
The gem of the EP comes next. ‘Netsanett Ahun / Freedom Now (Peace People)’ is emotionally stirring both in word and in music, with Oriana’s revolutionary speech being supported by the Count’s superb invocation of Soul Mann And The Brothers. What Dead Prez have spent their careers striving to attain, Ms Lee and Mr Farrell nail with one track. Stunning.
‘The Write Way Baby’ is another bubbly instrumental piece which sets the scene for Oriana’s short ‘Write Handed Dot Com PSA’ outro. There’s little said to be honest, but the bap from the backing track serves to reinforce the vision that Lee and her Writehanded.com site are indeed “in the know’. Musically, spiritually, emotionally… its hard to see it ever being in doubt.
As with almost every other Count Bass D related project, the only complaint is the frustratingly short length. Yes, an EP is an EP and Bass D is (in)famous for brief tracks, but with Oriana realistically only appearing on 3 of 7 tracks, it feels like our time with her has been even shorter than the usual time we get with the Count… and at least we have 7 production pieces from him here. Nevertheless, as an introduction to a lady who has always seemed to have a certain mystery about her due to her playing the background on the Count’s art, its a positive one. And its free! Now can we make plans for an OL LP to accompany the book?