Rudy Ray Moore died in 2008. For many, that name might not ring a bell. The comedian/musician/actor/producer was best known for his role as a pimp in the 1975 blaxploitation feature film Dolemite, for which he also wrote the funky soundtrack. For those who don’t know of him or the movie, picture Shaft or the more recent blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite. But for those who recall Moore and his Dolemite alter-ego, you probably do so with a memory of being forbidden from watching/listening to him if you were a youngster. But under the crudely humorous lyrics and behind the scenes of crummy kung fu, rampant use of “mutha fucka” and constant sex is a classic, funky sound stacked with jazzy horns and psychedelic “wah-wah” riffs.
For years now, L.A. rapper and producer Oh No has wanted to use that sound, hinting at an album built purely from Moore’s work, even before the actor died. Finally he has done so with the release of Ohnomite, an album that evokes the funky and groovy, action-packed flow of a blaxploitation film with obscure and authentic samples from Moore’s audio archive, topped off with rhymes from some of hip-hop’s freshest MCs. The result is a musical journey between the ’70s and today, an homage just as angst-filled, cocky and clever as the anti-hero pimp who inspired it.
With tons of lyrical help from the likes of MF Doom, Alchemist and Evidence, Oh No weaves contemporary hip-hop conventions into the funky ’70s groundwork. However, thematically it’s not much different than what you’d expect to see and hear in one of Moore’s works. There’s tons of guns and violence with songs titled “The Hitmen” and “The Guns,” on which Guilty Simpson proclaims, “Every 10 seconds a man gets slaughtered. I don’t know your time, but I’m on nine;” a few instances of retaliating against police injustice, like when Rapper Pooh rhymes, “I really wish these ni**** would stop frontin’ on me, police pattin’ me down like they got something on me, I’m bout to go in, homie,” on “You Don’t Know Me;” and in classic Dolemite fashion, a handful of sexist remarks like the line on “Let’s Roll” when Damani says, “This is God-given, mixed with hard livin’, with a misunderstood respect for all women. I call a bitch a bitch. Not even a black woman’s carcass could make me switch.”
It’s when Oh No layers his own synthed-out, West Coast beats over the snippets of Moore’s Dolemite audio that he gives Ohnomite his personal Midas touch, seamlessly merging the two to create a genre of nostalgic-funk hip-hop. The tracks “Whoop Ass” and “Dues N Don’ts” are some of the best examples of that ’70s brass and trippy guitar sound matched with modern hip-hop’s heavy bass and snare beats. This album is much more than a collection of songs; when listened to front to back, Ohnomite has a cinematic flow, as if each song were a scene from a movie. When you reach the last song on the album, “Ohnomite Outro,” it feels like it could easily double as a song that plays over the closing credits. It’s as if Ohnomite is Oh No’s own Dolemite redux.
In the end, Oh No brings life back to Moore and his Dolemite legacy. Though many listeners might shy from the obscene concepts on the album like those who shied away from Moore’s work decades ago, Oh No did exactly what he came to do: pay homage to the legend of Dolemite. And if that means stinging the ears of some listeners, then so be it. After all, isn’t it impossible to honor Moore without shocking a few people along the way?