Album Review: Oddisee – The Good Fight

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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:

The Good Fight by Oddisee

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”

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Album Review: Esoteric Allusions

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Seattle and hip hop. The two are becoming more and more
connected, thanks in large part to the mainstream success of Macklemore &
Ryan Lewis
, but also due to the strong underground careers of the Blue
Scholars
, Common Market, up and comer Raz Simone, and of course our nostalgic
hero the great Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

Enter NOM Pérignon,
1/5 of the hip-hop collective .nuLOVE.

Recently relocated from Iowa to Seattle, .nuLOVE consists of Boycott, producer Jharee,
NOM Pérignon, Booka, and Freakmite. Jharee handles much of the
production on NOM’s solo album Esoteric Allusions, and the other
group members feature on a few of the tracks as well.

NOM Pérignon, aka Michael Westerfield, calls himself an
artist, lyricist, songwriter, actor, and visionary on their website, and listening to the album from cover to cover provides evidence of how these many titles can be rolled together into one person.

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Esoteric Allusions is
a dark album, as the artwork suggests, and it’s expansive lyrics contain many
references to the artists’ grimy upbringing. Yet NOM’s goal here is to educate.
The project opens with “Allusion”, with a woman’s emotional voice proclaiming
“Let me lay down my words in you so you know how I feel/All I have for you are
layers to peel”. Haunting strings grow to a crescendo, and as the drums blow in
and a melancholy sample is added to the beat, NOM beings his first verse.
Buckle down!

Listening to the album it immediately becomes apparent that
NOM is a gifted lyricist, with frequent wordplay and a skilled use of
alliteration harnessed to a confident flow. On the opener he raps “Soul
searching is the sole source of my sorcery”, and tracks such as “Happy
Feelings_Hopeless Protests”, “Ghetto Boy”, and “Crossroads” provide more than
enough evidence for why such musings create a shady art.

Standout “Bucktown
Blues” is an impressive stream of consciousness where NOM relates multiple
perspectives, of both a frustrated girlfriend and a dealer out of options
making one last phone call, and ends with him explaining that he will rise
above and travel “wherever the wind take me”. The beat is indeed reminiscent of
a chilling, whistling wind, overlaid with a clattering snare.

Jharee’s production throughout the album is superb,
complementing the messages the lyrics deliver and fleshing out the murky nature
of the mixtape. Yet all is not depressing on the album. The mercurial nature of
relations with the opposite sex is addressed on “Good Evening” and Find Your
Loving”, with the latter featuring a stellar verse from Chicago native Freddie Old Soul.

At the beginning of the mixtape, NOM raps “I ease on down
the road less travelled/where it’s way less paved and way more gravel”,
illustrating his struggle to find success coming from a position where success
is not the norm. Esoteric Allusions
may be his first project, but NOM Pérignon has made serious progress in blazing
his own path to find ever-elusive success.

There is much to be taken from this album. I am only
scratching the surface as far as the depth of material covered on the 15
tracks, so I highly recommend downloading the album for free here and seeing for yourself what Seattle has to offer up next in the world of rap.

Also check out .nuLOVE’s website for more of their solo projects, along with their Facebook.
And in the words of this promising new collective’s slogan: Stay Gold.

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DJ Holmes

New Track: Earl Sweatshirt – Solace

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Earl
Sweatshirt
is one of the most talented rappers out right now. He
produces a lot of his own beats and flows over them like none other.

Earl is plagued by
depression. He talks about a lot of his issues in his music. His latest album was aptly
titled I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go
Outside.

With Solace, he bares himself like never
before. Earl dropped Solace on
YouTube earlier this week, without warning. He raps about
his sadness and pain with brutal honesty. Solace is a ten
minute voyage into Earl’s stormy mind. I’ve never heard anything quite like it,
simultaneously stark and beautiful.

The YouTube
description for Solace is succinct: “music from when i hit the bottom and found something.”
There isn’t a video to accompany the song. There’s just a plain, pink square
for us to stare at.

Solace doesn’t have a hook. It doesn’t
need one. Haunting instrumentals ebb and flow and transform. Earls three verses
are mostly mumbled and slurry, to good effect. His voice conveys his
hopelessness better than any words could.

Which
isn’t to say that the lyrics here aren’t powerful. Bars like “I spent days
faded and anemic/You
could see it in my face, I ain’t been eating, I’m just wasting away” and “My
brain split in two,
it’s raining a bit/I hope
it’s a monsoon, my face in the sink” are visual and cutting.

The
piano-heavy instrumentals create a dark, claustrophobic vibe. Disembodied moans
mingle with eerie chords. Shrill screeches pierce through, at points. Despite
all the melancholy elements, the beats are as smooth as melted butter. Earl’s production never ceases to impress.

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Earl
is mired in regret and it keeps him up at night: “I done stayed up the whole
night…It’s me and my nibbling conscience.” He misses his dead grandma: “I got
my grandmama’s hands, I start to cry
when I see ‘em/Cause they remind me
of seeing her”

Earl’s
honesty pays off, because Solace is real
and relatable. The YouTube comments section is full of praise for Earl. Some
commenters even thank Earl for Solace. It
“strikes a chord” and “speaks volumes.”

Do
yourself a favor and give Solace a
listen. It’s amazing.

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Pranav Shivanna

Tech N9ne: Aw Yeah? (InterVENTion)

My hometown hero Tech N9ne, the rap god from Kansas City, unleashed his new single, “Aw Yeah? (interVENTion),” which serves as the intro to his upcoming album, Special Effects, due out on May 5. The new album follows up 2014’s Strangeulation, which debuted atop the indie and rap charts, and in the Top 5 on the Billboard 200. 

Until now, Tech N9ne has never released an intro to his album as a single because he prefers to leave the audience guessing about the overall direction of the project. He made his first-ever exception to that rule with “Aw Yeah? (interVENTion)“ because, according to Tech, “the world needs to hear this.” 

It’s easy to understand that sense of urgency when you hear his bars, which touch upon pressing issues like inequality as well as Tech’s irritation with his musical peers. 

The song is opened with low, rumbling whispers that will eventually propel you into an opera/beat ensemble as Tech starts to rap. Check it out.

I’m a long-time Tech fan, but I really love this single because not only does it sound great, but its lyrics also differ from a lot of the other rap and hip hop in the music industry today. I like that Tech chose to write about different social problems that aren’t traditionally addressed in the entertainment industry, such as the events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Libya, Benghazi, Syria, Nigeria and Australia. Tech’s not holding back.

Also, in the middle of the single Tech mentions Jamaican rapper Zuse. Reportedly, Zuse is accompanying Tech on his Special Effects tour, along with artists Chris Webby, King 810 and label mates Krizz Kaliko and MURS.

"All my Technicians who have been patiently waiting for this, get ready for your minds to be blown! We made some dreams come true on this album. You WILL NOT be disappointed. It’s a beautiful thing.” -Tech N9ne

Watch for Tech’s Special Effects to drop in early May, and keep your eyes peeled for his upcoming tour dates.


nilorap

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Artist Profile: Let’s talk about Doja Cat

Whoaaaa, so I’m completely out of my element.

Actually, I was really wanting to share with you another reallyhippie indie, guitar playing artist that “seemed incredibly raw” as I like to
say. But enough of my uppity attitude, we should switch it up sometimes, you know?

Let’s talk about Doja
Cat
.

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I’m not super into hip-hop or rap so when I became intrigued
with Doja Cat, I was a little inspired. Not much is known about her, really, but
born Ami Zindale, she’s an 18 year old singer/rapper and L.A. based. She’s
young and she’s new, but she’s got this weird trippy vibe about her, and I
really just dig it.

This EP Purr! that
Doja Cat has out is relatively new, released in August 2014. It’s got 5 tracks,
and I’m not a fan of all of them, but her sound is just so different and airy and
so blended with soul vibes, I can’t help but like it.

“So High” was a single Doja Cat released prior to her EP, in
April, and is one that definitely gives off the impression of being high. It’s
dreamy, kind of psychedelic with the beats she uses, and her voice is kind of
just this high lilting mystery that pulls you in. It’s not a catchy, boppy
song, but definitely when she sings over and over again “You get me so high/You
get me so high” I catch myself grooving along to her.

It’s good, listen. It’s really trippy.

Okay, so then we continue on to the rest of the EP and it’s
pretty much along this vibe. She has this absentminded, lazy, spacey way of
singing, but once in a while, she dips into smooth straight rap like in “Nunchucks”
get this slower, soul Nicki Minaj
feel to her tracks.

Honestly, I have no idea why I like this, but I just do. I
listen to a track like “Beautiful” and it’s dreamy and mixes her smooth rap with
hippie beats in the background.

I really like “No Police.” She mixes her rap stylings with
some really chill beats, and her overall style makes it one of the best tracks
on the EP. But I also like “Control,” with her slow builds and real, breezy,
echoes that just relax you.

Doja Cat is consistent within her EP and that’s good, but
she’s definitely different. I think that’s what it is. She’s weird. She’s
different, I’ve never really heard anyone like her before and her originality
of mixing soul, rap, and R&B together is intriguing. She mixes her little
cat references into her rap and just randomly purrs or meows in her tracks, so
you definitely can’t escape Doja Cat’s identity. It’s weird. It’s cool.

Or maybe I’m the weird one. Either way, check her entire EP
out here:

Ariana Rivera