Published Jul 23, 2020Call it hip-hop's first pandemic masterpiece. New York-based, D.C.-born producer and MC Oddisee deftly captures the helplessness and hope of our ongoing quarantining with his new ODD CURE EP. What's more, he also uniquely conveys the opportunities to rest, reflect and reconnect with loved ones during this slower pace imposed on us by COVID-19.
Oddisee attacks these themes with the same skills he has been honing over the past two decades in rap's underground. That means old school jazzy instrumentals updated with his signature syncopated rhythms, the latter indebted to his Sudanese heritage. It also means relatable, socially conscious lyrics as upbeat as the music, not to mention his ever improving singing on EP highlight "Go to Mars." Fans will delight in hearing the veteran rapper smoothly shift from spitting to crooning over that song's jazzy funk instrumental, though more seasoned singer Olivier St.Louis's heftier baritone puts the song over during the chorus. Their lyrics about escaping to space (as if one of Elon Musk's rockets were conveniently attainable) are utterly relatable during this surreal year where COVID-19 and celebrity pipe dreams dominate headlines.
Better still: Oddisee's lyrics on the wistfully languid "Still Strange." Over a bass sample stifled by distortion, as if to evoke quarantine cabin fever, Oddisee weaves pandemic vernacular into a relationship metaphor ("don't wash your hands of me" proving to be a particularly vivid line in 2020). His lines about the unemployment of nonessential workers also match the music's melancholy to a tee.
And while snooty listeners might balk at the ratio of skits to songs on ODD CURE (breaking down to about half-half), those interludes are integral to the EP's story. Through frank and funny recordings of phone and Zoom calls with family, friends and colleagues, Oddisee elevates the typically trivial rap skit to essential listening. These moving conversations will remind listeners of how self-isolation has compelled us all to keep better tabs on our loved ones. The skits also compliment the music's sentiments, making ODD CURE live up to the title of one of its best tracks: "No Skips." You certainly shouldn't skip this musical cure to the quarantine blues. (Outer Note Label LLC)