Hip Hop albums that can deliver a truly unique storytelling experience while also maintaining a tremendously strong production and rhyme game are hard to find. But alas, my slumber of the 9 previous studio albums and latest release by Washington D.C. rapper Oddisee has ended. I was introduced to his work by my brother by way of the track Different Now off his 2010 album Helpless Dreamer.
Out earlier this year, The Good Fight makes album number 10 in a scrimp 7 years. Even without taking into consideration the 9 instrumental-heavy mixtapes he also released (in-between 2005 and 2011), his prolific prowess is staggering. Most if not all the albums he’s released have been produced by him, citing walking the streets of the cities he visits as inspiration coupled with his rhyme layer.
Outside of the music itself, the heart-on-your-sleeve storytelling throughout the album make for great argument for a rewind even if you have other listeners around you. Jabs at politicians, peers, old lovers, and more broadly, the overall human condition is a needed refresh.
Also, the personal timing of an album’s content is one of the connections to music that I believe is oft felt, but seldom discussed. The last time the lyrics of an album spoke so close to what I was feeling in life like this was Brothers by The Black Keys back in May 2010. Oddisee, real name Amir Mohamed, takes us through a reflective feast on tops ranging from modern courtship hardships, passing judgement on the things around us prematurely, being the lone fighter in distress, and other follies of our lives.
While the entire album is of course solid hip hop (make sure you have dat bass) and food for thought, let’s move on to my handful of overall favorites.
The intro track and single That’s Love is an anthem\love letter for those on the grind, looking for the next step in life, or a solid shoulder to lean on when the times get tough. When I heard the track for the first time, I knew a beautifully crafted air-instrument-playing album was at my door.
The third track, Contradiction’s Maze features a chorus heartbreakingly well sung by Maimouna Youseff. I’ll put it this way, I regularly lip sync her part with the windows down in traffic, with zero shame and a steady shoulder shrug motion. More importantly is the list of scenarios of the above mentioned plight of wanting to be a good person, while being a cool and calculated individual. Frustrations many of us face as straightforward as not ordering that combo from Shake Shack, to feeling letdown in oneself while under pressure on a more philosophical level.
Nick Hakim brings an almost choir like feel to track 8, Book Covers. It holds court on something we all do: talking and judging on situations we aren’t briefed on. It happens in our love lives, the news, in family life, on the streets when dealing with race relations, and beyond. Bonus points for the breakdown flow in the latter half.
The air guitarist in me is strong with the fifth track on The Good Fight, First Choice. Smooth percussion layers and bass give a tropical funk undertone when paired with the high notes being strummed on the guitar. It dives into the concept of sticking to your guns, and the frustration of learning to do that the hard way, and the many hurdles life entails. It’s complementary in many ways to the track before it, and also my favorite on them.
The most connected I felt to the album was on track 4, Counter-Clockwise. The fight to be relied upon, while also being the scapegoat is a test of true leadership that Oddisee touches on expertly, while also brandishing a lyrical switchblade for all the would be haters one encounters on the road to becoming great. Stress weighs heavily on us when we know better. But as mother says, once you make that decision, the stress goes away.
The layering of lyrics on Counter-Clockwise coupled with surgical delivery, then baked into roller coaster build-ups in the drums before the chorus, then glazed with a chilled out xylophone section and eclectic upright bass is air tight. To quote Big Boi, “tighter than gnat ass” even.
Start with this album and work backwards like the song suggests, and hip hop heads will agree there’s much to be discussed than just what I say here. Also, if you’re not a hip hop fan, I promise you’ll find at least a few songs to love and add to your exception to the ‘No Rap’ rule in your catalog. The idea of seeing Oddisee with a live band and this album would be a damn near perfect night. Angelenos, you can catch him in a few months on November 2nd at The Roxy. With luck, I’ll see you there too.
Until next time my friends,