There are very few emcees who resonates with me as deeply as Oddisee. One of the smartest, most authentic and passionate artists I’ve come across, his words have been known to burn me to my core. The stories, thoughts and knowledge he shares quell my fears, soothe my racing thoughts and stir something deeper, motivating me to push myself and do better.
But long before I found Oddisee the emcee, it was his beats that spoke to me.
As I've said 1,000 times over and will say 1,000 times again, I’m a producer-driven hip-hop head. Oddisee’s lyrical prowess is only rivaled by his ability to flip a sample or make a snare kick like a mule in a Tae Bo class. Like K.R.I.T. and Kanye, he’s one of my favorite emcees and one of my favorite producers. I’ve talked about (and with) Oddisee the emcee, but haven’t had a chance to share my passion for Oddisee the producer. In celebration of his newly-released instrumental album, The Odd Tape, I thought this was the perfect chance.
There's always a ton of new music at your finger tips, and no think-piece or article I can write will really convince you to spend your time and money on The Odd Tape, but the music may just be able to sway you. As an expert in the field “Oddiseebeatology” I've compiled a short list of some of Oddisee's best beats. There's nothing I want more than for people to know how insanely good he is at music and the best way to do that is to share his music.
So, let's share…
The reason beat tapes often fail to connect with the average fan on a deeper level is because they feel incomplete. A sample looped for a minute may be dope, but there isn’t much for people to hold onto and even less to bring them back. What sets Oddisee’s “beat tape” productions apart is that they aren’t some fractured samples crudely sewn to a drum kick but a constantly evolving piece. There’s so many subtle sounds and nooks and crannies to explore and it makes for a much more complete listen. “Fashionably Late” is the perfect example. You could seek refuge in the hi-hat or follow the meandering little twinges in the background like that sound at the 1:40 mark – How did he make that? – but as a whole the track never loses its overall flow and pace. By the end it’s a completely different song, but you almost don't even realize it. This isn't a beat, it’s an instrumental.
Hearing a location be mentioned that's only a few blocks away is a common occurrence if you reside in New York or L.A., but for some of us it’s rare. Rappers mention D.C. here and there (shout out to Ludacris and Biggie), but Oddisee’s Rock Creek Park is an entire project dedicated to one of D.C.’s hidden gems. I had my second grade field day at Carter Baron park – you are looking at the potato sack race champ right here – and most importantly, I’ve driven on the sinuous Beach Drive more than any other road.
You know how you can smell something and have it take you back to an exact place and time? That's what this beat does for me. When I listen, I close my eyes and can see the sun glimmering through the cracks in the trees. I can smell it. Though Beach Drive isn't always the smoothest ride, it’s a respite from sitting at lights, dealing with traffic and driving through circles. That’s what this beat is. There’s no really crazy ebbs-and-flows, nothing that's going to make you stand up and say “holy shit,” but the pace and the vibe really allows you to to cruise. I’ve never experienced a beat this viscerally. Maybe it takes being from the DMV and driving on Beach Drive to get it, but I think anyone can feel the way those strings glide with the horns or the texture of the drums. And don’t even get me started on that outro.
“Yeezus Was a Mortal Man”
I wanted to remain focused on the instrumentals, since that is what you will find on The Odd Tape, but I had to include “Yeezus Was A Mortal Man.” You might have this impression that Oddisee is all about low-key summer vibes, but while it’s certainly some of his best work, the man can also make a cold, hard, dead-of-winter beat. The anthemic choir-esque “ooing” certainly lends itself to the haunting vibe, as does the whirring synth (at least I think it’s a synth), but what always gets me is that sinister string riff and the way it fills the space between the drums and the sample chop.
The real artistry is in how they're glued together. The vocal sample grabs your ear, but the way it’s stretched out and then cuts off, leading right into the strings with no gap between them, it draws your ear to a different place. It’s a beat that sounds so minimalist but has so many moving parts. Don’t think for a second Oddisee can’t reach through those speakers and slap you right in the mouth.
I swear I wanted to keep this focused on the instrumentals, but the more I dove into his discography, the more I realized some of my favorite Oddisee beats are rapped over. If you asked me to play one song that best represents Oddisee, I’d choose “Own Appeal.” In the article I wrote last year I focused on what his lyrics mean to me, but I never really touched on the beat. It's the production that put me in the right frame of mind and after a thousand listens, it still never ceases to get my head bobbing. That boom-bap sample, the dusty vibe, that almost elevator-like chime, it all blends so perfectly. Take away Oddisee’s vocals and you’d still have a complete, emotional effort, one I could listen to on a loop forever.
It’s only a few weeks old, but when place “Brea” next to Oddisee's best portraits it more than holds it's own. I remember first listening to this beat and expecting a calm, laid-back experience, but the second those exalting horns and cascading drums build, I’m floored. Even though I’ve listened to countless Oddisee beats a countless number times, the change up still caught me completely off guard. Some instrumentals I want to hear rapped over, some have me breaking out my gibberish freestyle flow, but this one should never, ever be touched. It needs to be sealed inside a glass case in a museum with a 24-hour security guard. I’ll take the first night shift.
“Ain't that Peculiar”
Sometimes in order to really appreciate and understand something, you have to grasp i at its most fundamental level. Unless you really study sampling, you may miss how Oddisee takes that one snare or that horn section and turns it into his own monster, but it's impossible to mistake the voice of Marvin Gaye. In hip-hop there’s nothing more fundamental than a soul flip and here Oddisee shows what he's capable of. The production has that soulful, heartbroken vibe, fitting the theme of the song, and there's an intoxicating aroma emanating from this beat that gives it a fresher, more upbeat feel. This shit just knocks. So if for some ridiculously stupid reason you are on the fence about checking out The Odd Tape, I'm confident this beat will send you over the edge. Consider this your Oddisee beat mic drop. Oddisee out.
Boom! There you have it, six of Oddisee's best beats. If you want to hear everything this amazing artist has to offer, you'll have to listen yourself. I can only do so much. Now it's your turn….
Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth, tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth. Image via Instagram.