Oddisee Keeps It Fluid and Fresh on ‘The Iceberg’
Oddisee has a very extensive hip-hop catalog that resides deep within the culture’s underground circuit. Although the 32-year-old rapper has steadily raised his overall popularity to a moderate boiling point over the past two years, he still remains an underground phenomena; especially in the eyes of those who wholeheartedly value “bars” over “vibes.”
The Washington, D.C. native, and many other rappers cut from this same boom bap cloth, face comparable problems in 2017: how do you remain competitive when everyone in the genre is playing a different sport? The answer for most young rappers gung-ho on hardcore lyricism is to eventually throw in the towel and start making dab music. Luckily, Oddisee’s seasoned taste level doesn’t allow for a compromise of that magnitude even though on The Iceberg he manages to mix in some more than modern sounds.
The Iceberg is Oddisee’s 11th solo studio album, which means at this point he’s pretty well cemented in his ways of rapping, producing and ultimately executing his music. At the end of the day, Oddisee is smart. This project doesn’t sound like its straight from a 1990’s DJ Premier starter kit; there’s a fresh energy that shines through as soon as you press play.
“Digging Deep” warms up the naked ear to the new swing in Oddisee’s beats but “Things” is the real uptempo opus that blends his mind of rhymes with profound dance grooves. It’s the obvious choice as the album’s first single and still pumps out three solid verses filled with quotable after quotable. Whether you relate to his morning qualm (“Things, on my mind when I wake up”), agree with his selfishness (“When your schemes matter more than the next man’s”) or are equally as self-aware (“Puttin’ pressure on the shoulders that ain’t really there”), Oddisee understands the struggles we all face and raps about them over a beat you can more than just bob your head to.
The next few tracks contain a more personal prowess that Oddisee has become accustomed to making. Amongst this mix of personal fables is “Built By Pictures,” which can be best described as a jazzy boom bap bombshell that will and should exist exclusively in the headphones of diehards and hip-hop heads fanatical with introspective deep cuts.
However, it’s “Like Really” that will truly attract the anti-establishment fans obsessed with using hip-hop as a vehicle for social change. You wouldn’t be able to guess by the hypnotic beat but Oddisee uses this one as an attempt to completely tear down Trump’s administration with daggers like “How you gonna make us great, when we were never really that amazing/Take it back to what, I don’t find hanging black lives entertaining.” It’s a racially-fueled song with tons of insightful commentary about the political climate in America.
The back of the album does a good job of cooling down the heated dialogue found on the aforementioned governmental crusade. “This Girl I Know” is the exact songs long-time Oddisee fans have been waiting for; a smooth mid-tempo drum backing with lines personifying hip-hop to a female counterpart. It’s one of hip-hop’s most clichéd themes but Oddisee performs at his best when rapping about the fairer sex. He doesn’t reach for any stretch parallel which allows it to be listened to both as an ode to hip-hop or to a muse of his. “I got a lover but it’s complicated/We’ve been off and on, trying to keep the fire warm” fits both narratives perfectly and even speaks truth to his underground situation in the game: “You ever love somebody that didn’t reciprocate it/But they give you just enough to keep waiting.”
The first and only collaboration comes in on the last track “Rights & Wrongs” with Olivier St. Louis singing the first verse and hook. Other than that though, the album is a complete DIY project. Nowadays, featured verses and guest production is the norm but Oddisee comes from an era where making your own beats to rap over was practically commonplace, which remains true on The Iceberg.
After 10-plus years in the game, Oddisee doesn’t have much left to prove to both himself and hip-hop as a whole. He knows exactly where he fits within his beloved boom bap lane but also doesn’t shy away from keeping things fluid, fun and downright fresh.
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