It’s always admirable when a hip-hop producer can step in front of the mic and demonstrate serious lyrical and vocal talent. Artists like El-P, Flying Lotus, and Madlib got their starts crafting some fantastic beats before trying their hand at rapping, and each has found success on both fronts.
The latest artist to give it a try is D.C.-based artist Oddisee, who has built up quite a bit of hype in his hometown for his various talents. The Good Fight, his second official LP, is Oddisee’s most expansive and fleshed out release yet, displaying a newfound confidence from the MC. He manages to pay tribute to his city’s diverse musical past while also acknowledging current sounds and styles in hip-hop nationwide.
The most immediately noticeable aspect of this project is – of course – Oddisee’s production. The Good Fight is loaded with jazzy instrumentals that are just off-kilter enough to feel cohesive, but not dull. I could imagine someone like Chance the Rapper or Mick Jenkins sounding pretty great over these beats. Horns and acoustic drums are consistent features on this album, and they both help give Oddisee a discernible and recognizable sound.
I was pleasantly surprised by Oddisee’s abilities as an MC. His confessional and personal lyrics go well with his distinct voice and inflections. This isn’t the most creative or original sounding hip-hop album of 2015, but Oddisee deserves praise for the many strengths of The Good Fight. For example, he dismantles hip-hop’s standard 4/4 time signature by rapping in 5/4 on the track “Counter-Clockwise,” and it’s equally disorienting and impressive.
Where Oddisee could use improvement is the album’s hooks, which tend to feel out-of-place or otherwise pale in comparison to the usually dense and lyrical verses. The vocalists he tends to employ are good singers, but the melodies and lyrics on the choruses aren’t nearly as compelling as the production and verses.
Also, not every track on The Good Fight is a winner. The hook on “Meant It When I Said It” is too close to rap punchline G-Eazy’s “I Mean It” for comfort. I also don’t particularly like the outro that follows the last track, on which an unnamed interviewee sings the praises of Oddisee, comparing him to Blu, while also saying hip-hop has lost its replay value. Self-promotion and braggadocio are important parts of hip-hop culture, but it feels weird and superfluous in the context of this album.
Check out the whole album via the Bandcamp stream below:
All in all, Oddisee impressed me with this album. The production is consistently fantastic, and I love that the beats come off like updates to go-go, an essential D.C. genre. He’s also an ostensibly talented rapper, delivering some of the best bars of his career.
The Good Fight isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it does seem like a significant stepping stone in Oddisee’s career and path to independent hip-hop success. It’s a self-sufficient record that avoids most of the stereotypes involved with most indie hip-hop. It isn’t a “backpacker” record by any means, and I feel like straight-up hip-hop fans will find plenty to enjoy about this album without knowing much about Oddisee or where he comes from. The Good Fight is an admirable effort that doesn’t overstay its welcome or foster any moments of cringe. Oddisee does his thing, he does it well, and then he’s done.
Jakob Ross is a first-time blogger on the Rainy Blawg. You can find him on Last.FM, Twitter, and Tumblr as well as on Rainy Dawg Radio as a DJ! For more posts like this one, check out his music blog, “Jakob’s Album Reviews”