Sunday, June 17, 2012

People Hear What They See (Oddisee, 2012) -- A-

A complaint often levied against many-a Hip-Hop album is the incessant need to have three or four different rappers/artists on every track. Even someone like Kanye West, whose My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is roundly considered the greatest genre blending album of the past decade (or among them) brings in two or three different voices on almost every track. The same can't be said for Oddisee, whose People Hear What They See is comprehensively his, featured solo on every track, with a remarkably measured, diverse sound as the album progresses. Soul, Rap, R&B - the DC area based artist flows with a socially and politically minded foundation that's as listenable as it is thoughtful - an especially difficult feat given the artist's solo nature. To take the Kanye comparison further - compare Oddisee's American Greed side-by-side with Power, which even got play in the trailer for David Fincher's The Social Network. Kanye's track gets national, worldwide publicity, while Oddisee's similar, perhaps even more streamlined sound and piercing lyrics ("when George Bush took the oil from the soil/I was in front of the counter buying some milk from the Arabs") seems to go unnoticed. The ethnic ironies pile up as Oddisee challenges conventional notions of racism, imperialism, and commodified politics, all while suggesting his comprehensive musical diversity is equally subversive, confrontational. Commentary is Oddisee's game: listen to "Set You Free" when he says: "We livin' in the age of the microtip/think, real life is like your flicks/we used to watch for the doctors workin' for the villain to insert shit into your fingertips/danger is, those flicks desensitized us to the ideas it could exist/well done Spielberg and Lucas." Rhymes, rhythm, and message synthesize with Oddisee's proclivity for layered-musical narrativity. Without pandering or simply reifying his aims for object political gain, Oddisee continues to establish himself as a preeminent lyricist of his generation, even if the mainstream refuses to acknowledge as much.

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