There’s certain artists who you can rely on to consistently release quality material. Those that seem to just improve on what is already close to perfection with each further release. Those that tirelessly work to refine their already masterful skills and abilities and push themselves to raise the bar again and again.
Oddisee is one such artist. He’s Arizona label Mello Music Group’s resident producer/rapper, a label that prides itself on being independent and championing intelligent hip hop, and it boasts some of the best talent hip hop has to offer, both on the mic and behind the desk.
There’s no doubt that their releases are amongst the best you’ll find in the genre. It’s hip hop, created by accomplished, knowledgeable individuals that have set the highest of standards for themselves. Nothing leaves their hands if it isn’t gold. Just listen to Diamond District’s (Oddisee + yU + Uptown XO) debut In The Ruff, which put Mello Music Group on the map.
It’s regarded as the best hip hop album to ever come out of Washington. Their follow-up March On Washington five years later isn’t too shabby either, by the way. Or delve into all of old-school-inclined producer Apollo Brown’s catalogue, or vivid wordsmith Rapper Big Pooh’s projects.
But let’s not digress. Back to the man in question. Oddisee’s break-out 2012 album People Hear What They See, an ubiquitous presence on many a best of the year list, and his follow-up, 2015’s The Good Fight, are both the sparkling diamonds on the MMG crown.
They display an expert combination of musicality and poetry, working together in effortless harmony, as only Oddisee knows how, and while his flows and rhymes are mesmerizingly good – if not already, he’ll be regarded as one of the most gifted lyricists of his generation – there are many moments when the beats he’s riding on shine through: they’re lush and layered, bright and textured, and always have an emphatic prettiness about them.
For The Odd Tape, Oddisee’s laying down the mic and letting his beats do all the talking; although, the word ‘talking’ to describe how his instrumentals communicate almost seems harsh. It’s too much of a one-dimensional, flat word for such dynamic musical pieces. In the same vein, the word ‘beats’ feels as if it’s far too simplistic a description for the multi-layered creations here too.
Take “Right Side of the Bed” for example. The keys, the saxophone, and the piano come together to make for a velvety, mellow feel, and the crisp drumbeat grooves in a reclined kind of way, so as not to disturb things. “Live From The Drawing Board” is another example.
It’s full of percussive drumming, hot horn stabs, and whirring keys, but it’s the wispy walking bassline that’s the real star, underpinning things while simultaneously climbing and descending all over the track. “On The Table” possesses the same, with a bassline that hops and skips all over the bottom-end, but here warm strings ebb in and out and keys fly over the top in glinting flourishes.
It’s hard to say which track on this album might warrant the spotlight, but if your life depended on it, gun to head, you may very well lean towards “Brea”. She’s the unofficial queen of the album. She embodies Oddisee’s soulful production flawlessly and elegantly. You can feel the care and attention that’s gone into the composition, with all the delicate tonal fragments in the small space of the verse giving each other breathing room yet working in tandem to set up a chorus that’s exquisitely rich.
Elsewhere, opener “Alarmed” exhibits some of the more intricate drumming on the album, the grand piano on “The Breakthrough” lives up to its description, “Born Before Yesterday” offers a darker moment, with its loop of warped voices, and “Out At Night” is what a symphony of a chopped up expansive string orchestra would sound like.
The Odd Tape is a collection of tracks that’s of the highest musical calibre, with instrumentation that’s impressively accomplished. It’s the latest addition to an ever-growing musical canon from an artist that persistently outdoes himself with every subsequent release. Oddisee has the envious gift of being able to eloquently speak his mind through his raps as well as inject his vibrant soul into his production. Let’s be thankful that he keeps sharing it with us.
The Odd Tape is out now via Mello Music Group, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Oli Kuscher