5 Questions With Oddisee

Why has the rapper followed up his stellar 'People Say What They Hear' with an instrumental album?
Oddisee performing at Red Bull Music Academy presents SonarDome at Sonar Festival in Barcelona.
Oddisee at Sonar © Pere Masramon/Red Bull Content Pool
By Clare Considine

Last year, rapper and producer Oddisee's album 'People Say What They Hear' won the iTunes Hip-Hop Album of the Year Award, beating both Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean. We spoke to him ahead of the release of his next album, 'The Beauty In All,' an instrumental which comes out in September.

What can we expect from the forthcoming album?

It’s an instrumental project and I’m really excited about it. I get inspiration from the smallest things that can be overlooked. This album is dedicated to those little moments. I get ideas from riding on public transport and the sound bites I hear from people’s conversations. Those things really find their way into my music. I’m really inspired by the workings of everyday life.

Why did you decide to follow up 'People Hear What They See' with an instrumental offering?

I have a core fan base and they really support me and I know that whatever I decide to do musically, they’ll appreciate it. As a producer-MC I really like going back and forth. It allows me to take a break from MCing and focus on production. And then after I’ve done a production record I’m usually antsy and ready to do a vocal album. It allows me to put more releases out there under the same brand without over-saturating myself.

And making live music is important to you?

I first got into music production from the live aspect. I wasn’t introduced to hip-hop through sampling, I was introduced through playing music. I grew up next door to the bass player from Parliament and Funkadelic, he had analogue equipment and instruments in his studio. He encouraged me not to sample everything but to play it all out.

It was later that I was introduced to sampling. I come from a city that champions live music over electronic music. So I was fortunate to come from a place where there are lots of young people playing instruments. My sampling comes from trying to emulate that live sound. It’s really nothing for me to start off a track electronic and samples-based and then call any one of my friends to add something over the top.

You come from Washington, DC, but you’ve lived all over the place. Does that inform your sound?

It allows me to think outside of the box and see what different parts of the world appreciate. Finding a way to incorporate all of those influences on one record ensures its success. I’d say that in Europe there’s a pre-occupation with the new. Europe and the UK specifically have pioneered so many genres there’s this real big preoccupation with a new sound versus a good sound. It takes some time to realise that that sound may not be good – you just like it ’cause it’s new.

But you like pushing boundaries with new sounds. On your 'Odd Renditions' EP, you sampled Bon Iver and Metronomy…

I think a lot of people don’t appreciate hip-hop as an art form in itself – they don’t know just how many other genres influence the making of hip-hop. My last album had a huge influence from Feist. I love her production techniques, the big horn sound she has and her dynamic quality. Those are the things I apply to my records to make my hip-hop more interesting. And I would love to work with those artists to create really interesting pop records.

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