Release Date: May 5, 2015
Record label: Mello Music Group
Carved into the ethos of the DMV-area emcee Oddisee is the spirit of something old. There’s the focus on lyricism, for one: The kind of straightforward talk that blows through trite gimmicks and bravado. The eclectic production constructs for another, as though Odd’ has finally managed to craft through all his influences (his father’s Sudan; the Washington D.C.
Mixing the bright retro soul of Aloe Blacc with the literate and alive lyrics of Kendrick Lamar, underground rapper Oddisee's work is more persuasive than usual on his 2015 LP The Good Fight, an excellent album that strives to crossover but doesn't pull any punches. That crossover bit comes from the music's endless supply of grooves and hooks that can lock the listener into place, but these aren't beats built for just the lowest common denominator, as "Book Covers" creatively unfurls with a singalong intro somewhere between a gospel choir and Tony! Toni! Tone! Still, the intro's lyrics, "Don't judge a book by its cover if you don't even read/There's no shame in saying that you're not up to speed" are quintessential Oddisee. The kinetic "Counter-Clockwise" sticks in the head after a first encounter, and yet it's a complicated song full of strife with a layered argument that haters across the world aren't helping matters much.
Having been on the grind churning out a variety of projects over the past several years in various creative guises, Maryland-reared, Brooklyn-based MC and producer Oddisee is definitely due to gain wider recognition soon. And if The Good Fight isn't the record that delivers him those rewards, it won't be for its lack of worthiness. Like much of his recent solo material, The Good Fight is rooted in a consistently pleasant and organic mix of live instrumentation and soulful hip-hop beats.
Oddisee’s music has taken many forms over the years: On his early compilations—101, Foot in the Door and Mental Liberation—Odd was the scrappy upstart, his distinct D.C. drawl and heavy drums carrying a unique "golden-era" hip-hop tinge. As leader of the Diamond District with rappers yU and Uptown XO, Odd is the mature figurehead: The group’s 2009 debut, In the Ruff, is a widely heralded classic in D.C.’s underground rap circles.
The constant complaint about Kanye West, ego issues aside, is how far he’s gotten from the classic soul-sampling sound that helped him break ground, leaving a void in hip-hop. But DC purist Oddisee has always been in the background, digging in crates for the craziest loops and perfecting his formula, and “The Good Fight” feels like an internal audit of his work’s worth and the state of black music. He lays out his findings over the four-note key loop of “Want Something Done”: “I guess I’ve got to do it all myself / It’s not a problem, though / Probably better off without you though / Oh, yeah, it’s working.