Brooklyn-bred, Portland-approved, Ohmega Watts is simply one of the finest practitioners of that easy, organic b-boy thump that bold boho brothers like Toronto's K-OS specialize in. It's the same style the Black Eyed Peas trafficked in (before popadelic Fergification launched them to previously undreamt heights of irrelevance), a seriously soulful strain first germinated by Tribe and their jazzbo ilk, although it often gets written off as mere "entry-level rap." Yet a record like Ohmega's sophomore release on Ubiquity, Watts Happening, while doubtlessly fully embraceable outside of the hustlers-and-hardcore set, rocks its universality like a tilted Kangol belltop. It's b-boy to the very grain, with an unforced party-rocking throwbackedness, quickly pulsing with a bright Sunday-morning funk that's eminently listenable to non-rap listeners and diehards alike.
Part of it all is the sheer likeability of the personality O allows to shine through. Humility and gratitude come through loud and clear on the stripped-down shuffle of "Dedicated," as Ohmega honors his fam, his musical heroes, and a litany of NW luminaries with equal gratitude. As Watts' rubbery cadence bounces pleasingly over his live-meets-MPC production, apt heads will doubtless catch his numerous giddy nods to classics of yesterday, from "Mellow My Man" to "C.R.E.A.M." Refusing to beat anyone over the head with his own Xtian faith or his own emcee skills, Watts excels at a trick lost on most rappers: how not to get in his own way. Just as with his excellent 2005 debut, The Find, the standout from PDX's Lightheaded crew knows how to let a record breathe, and here he gives full berth to shimmery smoke-break instrumentals.
Watching him rock a huge stage at Bumbershoot last month, I was reminded of all the reasons I liked Ohmega Watts. Splitting duties between emceeing and DJing for himself, Watts' charm came across just as easy to a couple thousand as it did when I'd seen him perform to a room of (maybe) eight people. He's a consummate pro.