By Kevin Cormier
“To many people, I’m many things/But never me, and that’s beginning to be a strain” opens the song “Many Hats” on the latest record from DMV artist Oddisee. For those who have been following his career for a while, it’s a jarring realization.
To What End is the natural progression in what has been an evolving sound over the last decade-plus. Oddisee began his career making beat-focused records, eventually adding vocals more regularly, and began to hone his craft in a way where you could tangibly hear growth. Listening to his catalog chronologically is an experience not possible cherry-picking a record at a time. He eventually added the live instrumentation of Olivier St. Louis and Good Company, and as a result some funk and soul tracks would become more front and center.
But there were always the lyrics. Professorial in a way that didn’t feel like a lecture. But they had substance. Themes of social justice and healthy relationships, both with himself and others. All of these were pieces of the process in an Oddisee record.
And it’s all here. From “Already Knew” – which wouldn’t sound out of place in an 80s roller rink – to “Ghetto to Meadow,” which brings in Freeway and a little more of that street feel. “Bartenders” has him trading verses with former labelmate Toine in a playful battle-type structure, and he even has Phonte on a track called “Choices” where he delivers the amazing punch line of “shoot your family like Olin Mills.”
Oddisee is hip hop, but feels like so much more. To categorize it the same genre as music you hear playing in Foot Locker feels like such a major disservice, and yet, it doesn’t. It’s aspirational. I listened on earbuds, and that was wrong. This is for full-scale headphones, or riding in the car. It’s an experience. It’s at the same time an end, and also a new beginning.
Now available on Bandcamp, physical media TBA.
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