In honor of Black Music Month, NewsOne presents MY MUSICAL INSPIRATION, where newsmakers and celebrities talk about the artist who most inspires them in their lives and work.
Oddisee (pictured) may not yet be a household name, but considering the incredible growth of the Washington-bred rapper that reality is due to change. Beginning his career officially in 2005, the impressive boom-bap sounds of his earlier work have now expanded into a rich and lush sound that incorporates live instruments and soundscapes that transcend his hip-hop beginnings.
Currently splitting time between the nation’s capital, Brooklyn, and London, Oddisee’s expansive worldview and approachable musical quality is made evident on his official debut album, “People Hear What They See,” an early contender for Album Of The Year. On the album, Oddisee displays an uncanny ability to offer angles of discussion that are certainly not present on mainstream channels, yet it never feels overbearing.
NewsOne caught up with Oddisee in Washington during a break in his busy schedule, where he talked about how music is a centerpiece in his life and how a homegrown musician’s ability to make people move and think simultaneously is a goal he aims for in his own compositions.
NewsOne: As a professional musician, what are some of the challenges you face?
Oddisee: The biggest challenge, I’d say, would be answering you, because you don’t necessarily have a boss, you don’t get paid every two weeks, so if you don’t stay on top of yourself it can be self-destructive. That same freedom you enjoy can also be your demise. So it’s an ongoing struggle to know you can wake up when you want to wake up, but you still gotta get yourself up (laughs).
NewsOne: You’ve seen the world not only because of music, but because of your Sudanese father. How do your travels help your music?
Oddisee: I think my travels help by adding to the diversity of my music. I think I’m an eclectic artist as a result of going to lots of places around the world. I think each place I travel to and each person I encounter, they rub off on me. The more places I go, the more people I meet, the more diverse my sound becomes.
NewsOne: Your instrumental album Rock Creek Park was highly conceptual piece of work, much unlike your earlier boom-bap sample work. Why was it necessary for you to grow into this more lush production style?
Oddisee: I guess I attribute that to just a natural evolution. When I first started making music, I started without a sampler. I would just play keys and loop it on a 4-track recorder. Then I would play the same notes for four minutes because I didn’t have the equipment to loop. I got into sampling later, and when I got better, I began playing keys over my samples. From there, I just started to work with more live instrumentation. I’ve always had this connection of going beyond the loop, so to speak. Also, once I’ve done something, I don’t want to go backward; I only want to go forward.
NewsOne: Being a producer, you surely have many influences. But which musical artist inspired you the most?
Oddisee: My biggest inspiration and influence is Marvin Gaye, and I know that’s one a lot of artists say. For me, it wasn’t necessarily Marvin’s singing that was an inspiration but more so his idea that he understood how to make music successful and impactful without compromising the integrity of his work. Marvin had this unique ability to give you a song with a message without it sounding preachy. So if you wanted to party and dance to that song, you may not hear the seriousness of the message. Or if you did choose to focus on the lyrics, you could absorb the message.
He wrote in layers; the message didn’t interfere with the entertainment and vice versa. That’s the line I’ve always been trying to get to in my own music. How do you rise from your underground status to a point where people are hearing your message yet still are be entertaining? I think Marvin mastered that and I hope to head there too.
NewsOne: Over the years, your music has always maintained a certain standard, but with your album “People Hear What They See,” you’ve embraced a mature sound. Why is that?
Oddisee: I put out a lot of music over the years but “People Hear What They See” is my official solo album. Mine is a career built on cameos and collaborations, not to mention my production work. But I’ve never done a full length featuring myself. So I had a lot to say. I never consciously worked on the album as it was done over time. I would just record, and eventually I got enough songs where I could form an album. I worked on the record for over four years and it just captures various snapshots of my life during those times.
For listeners unfamiliar to Oddisee’s work, a great starting point would be the aforementioned “Rock Creek Park” project and his debut album currently available for purchase People Hear What They See by way of the Mello Music Group label.
Watch Oddisee’s “You Know Who You Are” here: