Oddisee: To What End Album Review

As long as he can create as he wants, Oddisee is content to exist on the fringes of rap. The Brooklyn-via-Washington, DC-based rapper-producer treated his indie music career like a small business long before it became the norm, featuring pragmatic, athletic rap songs and a busy touring schedule. You won’t find him clinging to industry credibility: “Being neglected has done wonders for my self-esteem,” he says on 2015’s “Belong to the World,” one of many songs about the benefits of niche celebrity. Even at his youngest and boldest, on albums like 2008 101 and 2009 mental release, his boasting was tied to the reality of his modest upbringing and environment in the DC area. He went from simple hip-hop fitness and pure boom-bap revivalism to reducing politics, racism and ultimately the comforts of family life to raps as concise and practical as amorphous production. of live bands that he slowly learned to favor.

But the vigor of his early rapping days lingers on, fueling a grudging desire for respect. On “The Start of Something,” the intro to his 10th solo studio album To what end, Oddisee retraces his steps in a career spanning almost 20 years and gives himself a pep talk before the next sprint. “How I’m seen and how I’m heard is not why I work,” he says, doubling down, “I’m off, how do I make a million without going limp.” For the first time, he seems to be trying to convince himself as much as the listener. To what end goes beyond being raw and honest about life, society, or even hip-hop; he’s too busy dissecting the reader to do that in the first place.

Thematically, the album explores the nature of ambition and how far we will go to get what we want: a career, a relationship, peace of mind. As his work matured, Oddisee embraced the rap game Sidney Poitier, an ordinary man who bends his own life experiences into flows that are as much reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s wanderlust as the reverence of Little Brother. His writing has never been held back, but it has rarely been so personal. Juxtaposed with the clean and energetic beats, its new opening makes some of these revelations uncomfortable, even shocking. “People Watching” is the most explicit of the bunch, taking an ax to forced politeness and ending with one of its most blunt confessions: “Became an artist to hide in plain sight… The rhymes are without a filter, in real life, I’m silent / I feel like I’ve said enough, it’s time to take a step back on the mic But the sweetest moments cut the deepest “Many Hats”, which draws inspiration from his very first therapy sessions, doesn’t shy away from talking about burnout and panic attacks; “Choices” confronts the uphill battle of avoiding your parents’ mistakes. theatrical, but that’s the closest thing to seeing it in the ropes.

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