Oddisee has always excelled at expressing his innermost feelings and fears.
Oddisee turned heads with the release of his EP Alwasta earlier this year, a contemplative project that also saw the D.C.-born MC diving into overtly political territory. As a complement, he’s released The Odd Tape, an instrumental record that builds on many of the same sonic themes with its soulful, unmistakable sound while substituting some of the political commentary for hyper-personal observation.
There’s an arc to the project, taking listeners through a day in the life of Oddisee. “Alarmed” sets the scene with its splashy percussion and inspirational tone, and the nearly seven-minute “Still Sleeping” draws the affair to a pleasing close while oscillating between maximalism and restraint. This is an incredibly ambitious task (Kendrick Lamar did something similar on Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City), but Oddisee manages to succeed by building dense, intricate instrumentals that convey many emotions at once, just as our moods shift through our own daily grinds.
This is bold but Oddisee always been ambitious as a producer. His masterful 2011 instrumental record Rock Creek Park was written to express his love of the famous D.C. park and how his relationship with the place has matured and changed over time. 2013’s The Beauty in All was about appreciating and understanding the importance of making mistakes in life and embracing your flaws.
Unlike most instrumental albums by hip-hop producers, Oddisee is concerned with crafting songs, not just beats. He expertly creates soundscapes that are lush and organic, allowing listeners to sink in and observe intricacies, but also manages to keep incorporating new elements and letting the tracks build.
In some cases, the influence of his earlier 2016 output is quite literal. “No Sugar No Cream” is an expansion of the beat from Alwasta standout “Strength & Weakness.” Oddisee uses the opportunity to take the gorgeous production in a new direction, deviating from the conventional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure and layering even more live instrumentation.
Over time, his rapping has grown more contemplative and political; his instrumental work has become a bit more solemn and personal. There’s duskiness on The Odd Tape that particularly comes through on songs like “Long Way Home.” The project isn’t meant to capture the best day of Oddisee’s life, just a standard snapshot with all the ensuing highs and lows.
While a master of boom-bap drums and synths, Oddisee utilizes plenty of interesting instrumentation here. “Right Side of the Bed,” features a rich, shimmering saxophone line, and “Out at Night” gorgeously chops up its string sample.
The Odd Tape, like a lot of Oddisee’s work, does not feature much variance in tempo, but while a few more uptempo cuts would be welcome, there’s a pleasing consistency to the album that allows tracks to blend into one another.
As a rapper, Oddisee has always excelled at expressing his innermost feelings and fears in a way that feels genuine and relatable (he does so particularly well on his flip of K-os’ “Man I Used to Be”). On The Odd Tape he lets us walk in his shoes for a day, but also use the gorgeous instrumentals as a canvas to graft our own stories onto.