Oddisee is aging like fine wine, becoming a producer-rapper’s producer-rapper. Two decades into his career, the native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, still doesn’t care about mainstream popularity—as long as he can feed his family off his music, fame isn’t important. This doesn’t mean mainstream accolades aren’t apropos; his big music is innately hip-hop, but the way he infuses it with elements of genres such as soul, R&B, and go-go makes it more expansive and widely relatable. From his early days with D.C. rap trio Diamond District through his widely heralded solo projects (such as 2011’s Rock Creek Park mixtape), and including his production work and killer live band, Oddisee has always been far above average. And in the spirit of Pharrell and the oft-troubled Ye, Oddisee has the vision and skills to do whatever he wants with music, because his music is just that good. He touts fierce independence, sociopolitical commentary, and intelligent, layered introspection over bright production.
Oddisee’s latest record, To What End (his second project with Outer Note), continues on that path. The album is so polished that even when some of the choruses falter, the powerful verses and dynamic instrumentation are strong enough to create balance. The orchestral opener, “The Start of Something,” floats in knowing and proud, with Oddisee declaring that you “can’t appreciate the winnings, never learning loss.” Philadelphia rap icon Freeway provides his signature “rah-rah” to the driving bass of “Ghetto to Meadow” and surprisingly meshes with Oddisee’s mellifluous veteran’s flow. To What End shows Oddissee’s knack for bringing together incredible talent; “Choices” is a melodic bed of roses with great verses from Little Brother’s Phonte, British rapper and producer Kay Young, and singer BeMyFiasco. If Oddisee never blows up, that’s OK. His family is fed, and his music is so good it feels universal.
Oddisee’s To What End is available through Bandcamp.