Oddisee - Interview pt. 1
On Tuesday he dropped what will likely become a DC classic, In The Ruff, with is group Diamond District. On top of that, Oddisee’s got a ton of projects he’s working on. He’s a real dope producer a real dope MC, and a real interesting person. So check out the interview, and support DC hip hop!
JM: What’s up? Thanks for having me over.
Oddisee: What’s going on with you? Glad to have you in my house.
JM: Last year you were all over the place. You did the Rosenberg Oddisee, the Trek Life album, the Stik Figa album, and a whole bunch of other stuff… What were the highlights of ’08 for you?
Oddisee: I’d have to say my personal highlights would be the completion of a lot of projects. I start so many things that I often times don’t have a chance to go back and finish. So seeing an album from start to finish and then [putting it] out and people hearing and receiving it well…that was the best moment of 08 for me.
JM: Are these projects something you had started a while ago, or are they like 08 start, 08 complete?
Oddisee: A mixture of both. A lot of those projects I had started some time ago. The Trek Life remixes were done maybe a year before they came out. The Oddisee one-on-one was done maybe a year before it came out. The Rosenberg Oddisee joint we finished in August. I believe it came out in September or November. And then some projects were done instantly. I actually finished the Stik Figas album in 09. A couple of months ago, we did 11 tracks in four days.
JM: You’ve also been doing a lot of features. Any of those stand out?
Oddisee: As far as collabos, I did a track with Hassan Mackey from Rochester, NY and Bilal Salam, a singer from DC called “In the Jungle” which is coming out on this compilation I produced called Mental Liberation for Mellow Music. That’s one of my favorite collabs. I really enjoyed that production wise. On the mic, on that same compilation, I did a track with Stik Figa and J- Live with a song called “What’s Crazy” and I’m excited for people to hear that one too.
JM: One track in particular that I wanted to talk about was the Super Friends track. I’ve slowly been catching up with all the people involved on that track for interviews, and getting their perspective on it. So I have to get yours.
Oddisee: The Super Friends track is a real interesting story. I was supposed to just have a session with Fresh Daily that day, and the studio was scheduled to be at Print’s house. Print’s the producer and the mastermind behind the whole comic books thing. That’s kind of the concept behind his EP. So when we got there, Print and Fresh were there. And because I’m not in New York a lot, but I’ve got a lot of artists there that I’m friends with, they always take advantage of the opportunities to get up, hang out and work with me. And that kind of was how the Super Friends track was created.
Print already had Mickey Factz and a few other people on that. And at that time, I was already working with Outasight. So once they found out that I was coming to that studio in Brooklyn to work with Fresh, Outasight said “you mind if I stop in and say what’s up? I’m recording right around the corner.” So that was cool. He was working with 6th Sense, and they drove each other over there. Then 8thw1 was stopping by. Then Homeboy Sandman called me and was like, “Oh you in Brooklyn in the studio? I’m gonna come through and say what’s up.” So he came through. So really, Fresh and I were supposed to be working on another song. So that Super Friends song just came through cause a lot of other people were there at one moment, and everyone was just trying to say what’s up and get some work done.
JM: Sounds cool. Let’s backtrack a bit. When you first came out you were known mostly for your production work, but nowadays we hear you on the mic a lot. Was production something that came more naturally, or was it just an easier way to get your foot in the door?
Oddisee: I definitely started MCing first. I got into production because the cat who got me into recording my material was a producer. And I just became attracted to production. Early in my career I realized that I stand better chances of making a living from hip hop if I focus more on production than Mcing. It’s a lot easier to have my hand in multiple projects. But now that I’m in a place in my career that I’m a bit more comfortable financially, and with my fanbase, I decided to go back to my first love. Cause when I choose to rhyme and work on my own material, I’m in some ways losing out on a paycheck, cause that’s time I could be spending working on other people’s material. So I always take a paycut when I work on my own stuff. But these days I’m a little more comfortable and can do that.
JM: Ok, another big factor in bringing the name Oddisee into the public eye was DJ Jazzy Jeff. Just wondering how you got in touch with him, and what’s that relationship like now.
Oddisee: I first hooked up with Jazzy Jeff through Kev Brown. When he was working at A Touch of Jazz, he extended an invitation to myself and anyone else in the Low Budget Crew to come up and play their material for Jeff. I accepted that invitation, went up there, played him some stuff, and he loved what he heard. And that landed me a track on The Magnificent. And from that point on, we’ve always been acquaintances with each other. We sometimes go a year without speaking to each other, then randomly we’ll see each other somewhere. But the beauty of that relationship is that he always looks out for me. So when it was time to get a DJ to mix Foot in the Door, I hadn’t spoken to Jeff in like year, but he said sure. So I came up to his house, and he mixed it right on the spot. And he didn’t want anything in return for it. So, we’re not in contact on a consistent basis but we know where we stand at.
JM: Now that you’re sort of in the spotlight, I’ve seen you doing that for other people. How important do you feel it is to give back to the new up and coming artists. And who are some of the up and comers we should be looking out for?
Oddisee: It’s extremely important to give back to up and comers, and new artists in general. That’s how we can guarantee the progression of hip hop, and make sure it’s around for years to come. Personally, I feel that I have to bring new artists out because that’s like a new lifeline for myself. My career can only reach so many ears in such a short span of time before it expires or it grows stale or people start wanting something new. So any time that I bring out another artist it’s yet another outlet for my creativity.
There’s tracks that I produce and I love that just don’t fit me as an MC. And I go out to find MCs that fit all of my production styles. So that when I create something in the studio, I don’t have to worry about who I’m gonna send it to. It will land somewhere. And with the artists I’m bringing out now, Tranquil from London, Stik Figa from Topeka, Diamond District from DC, Trek Life from LA. I’m working on all their albums either exclusively or almost exclusively. I’m really a fan of regional music. So I’m putting artists out that are from different regions in hopes of capturing that region and putting it on record. It’s really a challenge, but I love it.
JM: With these artists that you’re working with, are you actually getting in the studio and working with them in person, or is this something that has been aided by the dawn of the internet age?
Oddisee: My collaborations with artists have been sort of a mixture of the internet, and being in person. I sent Stik Figa a rack of beats, and he picked some and wrote to them. But I felt there was something missing, so I told him to hold off. We ended up scratching the majority of them. And I bought him a ticket, brought him out to DC, and we recorded 11 tracks in 4 days. Right before I had to go do a tour in the UK.
And I actually prefer working in person. But if the person sees my vision, without me having to be there, I’ll leave them alone and let them do that there. I send Trek tracks often and he just kinda sends them back and asks how I feel about that. With Tranquil, he just does his own thing, and I know what his own thing is. We get into a lot of arguments and debates about beat selection, because he’s real meticulous about it. But he’s one that we do almost all over the internet. Diamond District is a mixture of both. yU lives right here, but because of scheduling, he had to do the majority of his recording at home. Whereas X.O. did the majority of his recording here. A little bit of both.
JM: So what projects should we be looking out for in ’09?
Oddisee: Definitely look out for the Diamond District, album title In the Ruff. April 14. The single should be out March 17 once I figure out what that’s gonna be. Mental Liberation: A Compilation of Mellow Music a compliation coming out May 5th. Trek Life’s second solo album, I’m not sure what the title of it is yet. Stik Figas album produced by me. We haven’t figured out a title for that yet, but that should come out in June. My solo album will come out sometime in the Summer or early Fall. The title of that is People Hear What They See. It’s nearly done, and I’m really excited about that. And then a slew of production. I can’t really say when that’s coming out, but I’ve been working with a lot of artists that people have been dying for me to work with, and a bunch of artists that people wouldn’t have imagined that I would collaborate with. So I’m excited for all those things. I don’t wanna speak on that too much cause I don’t know the finalities of it, but yeah. Should be good.
JM: What can you tell me about the solo album?
Oddisee: The solo album is a concept album. The reason I put it away is honestly due to the weather. I write everything outside, to make sure I’m looking at everything that I’m depicting in a literal sense. Sometimes in a metaphorical sense, I’ll see something that will parallel something that I’m thinking about, and I’ll use that as kind of like my ideas to pull from to write. So I literally just go outside with those tracks from my album, and walk around the city all day. I sit in benches, or the side of sidewalks and just write. And so everything you hear on the record, I’ll have a visual reference for. And then we’ll do a little documentary, re-tracing everywhere I was when I wrote that track. I’ve just been so busy I haven’t had time to continue with the theme. But it’s gonna be a great record though.