Following the release of two projects in 2016 (Alwasta, and The Odd Tape) Oddisee returns with The Iceberg, a 12-track album of his reflections ranging from wealth and inequality, personal growth and plenty more in between.
The Washington DC producer/rapper takes a straightforward approach this time around, incorporating a level of personal detail not found on 2016’s Alwasta EP. That said, Oddisee’s penchant for lyrical imagery is ever-present, delivered on top of tightly constructed compositions that feature a blend of luscious bass lines and up tempo melodies.
On “Digging Deep,” Oddisee introduces the type of complexity he hopes to present as per the album description. He sets up the verses by establishing contrast, whether it’s between the judge and the criminal or family and strangers, to serve his overarching theme of critical discourse. Oddisee doesn’t claim to have all the answers to the questions or scenarios he describes, but, as the album title suggests, he assures the best way to approach these heavy social topics is to engage them beyond a superficial level.
This isn’t exactly new ground for Oddisee; similar sentiments are found throughout the 7 track Alwasta EP. That said, personal vignettes punctuate his musings this time around allowing for a greater connection between Oddisee and his listeners.
It’s no secret that Oddisee didn’t have the upbringing of the average rapper. While not born with a “silver spoon” as he raps on “Built by Pictures,” his reality also didn’t revolve around the drugs or violence so prevalent in today’s hip-hop. Rather, he was fascinated by his environment and his observations between the life he lived with his Muslim-American mother and Sudanese father. (Oddisee has mentioned in interviews, like the one with DJ Booth, that he “did some really stupid things to make money,” though those don’t necessarily typify the majority of his youth).
But rather than approaching these vignettes from an embellished perspective to captivate the mainstream’s fascination with drugs, sex and violence, Oddisee presents his story very earnestly, encapsulating much of the wonder he experienced through his adolescence.
On “Hold It Back,” Oddisee very forthrightly acknowledges earning more than his sister strictly based on gender and not their qualifications. Subsequently, on “You Grew Up,” he takes note of the variance in upbringing that shapes racial conflict, recalling his bond with a white friend that was broken through prejudice and ideological polarity. Even then, recurring references to his hometown of Washington DC elicit stories of a Muslim classmate on “NNGE” or attempts (or lack thereof) to understand mental illness on “Waiting Outside.”
What’s most captivating about these bars and verses however, even more so than the content, is Oddisee’s unwavering delivery which remains consistently conversational throughout the album. Despite the gravity of some of his dialogue, his nonchalant tone implores the listener to really stop and listen to each line, which in turn require multiple plays to entirely grasp. Coupled with jovially funky guitars and percussion on tracks like “Want to Be” or the delightfully layered synths and strings on “Waiting Outside,” Oddisee demonstrates his lyrical growth and instrumental experimentation that stands out against his deep collection of beat tapes. Ultimately, Oddisee gives listeners a solid project to satiate his rap fans, intrigue his production fans and charm anyone in between.