Oddisee keeps to himself. The DMV native isn’t all over everyone’s project, or on 106 and Park. With that being said, the producer-mc has developed one of the most loyal and cult following in the underground. The skilled emcee has released multiple instrumental projects and albums that have garnered great reviews and is currently in the middle of a 20 city tour.
Recently the NYC transplant sat down with Mechanical Dummy to discuss the benefits of being an indie artist, his introduction to production, and his new album Tangible Dream.
words by Christian Mordi
MechanicalDummy: Tell us that defining moment when you realized music was something you wanted to do?
Oddisee: When I got into production is when I realized that music was something I wanted to do for a long time. Learning to produce made the career complete for me, being able to produce the beat, write the song and then record it. Creating something in its entirety was when I knew this was for me.
MD: You come a very diverse background, as you are the son of American and Sudanese parents.How did this effect your sound?
O: Definitely. I grew up listening to a lot of different music from both sides of my background. The mesh of sounds that my parents introduced me along with the hip-hop I was caught on my own down the line played a huge influence in my growth. It helped my lyrics and my beats.
MD: If you were to use one word to describe your sound what would it be and why?
O: Relatable is the proper word to describe my music. I feel like my music can be applied to people in all walks of life. There is something there for everyone. Everyone can get their own interpretation from my music.
MD: Where do you find inspiration to create?
O: I get my inspiration from everything to be honest. My travels play a huge role to be honest. Being able to see all ways of life and the opportunity I have to dip in and out of different environments in different cities and countries is key. The fact that I can see the impact of hip-hop and certain sounds on different cultures is huge. I can take what I have seen, go back into the lab and give that right back to the people.
MD: I heard with your last album you did all of your writing outdoors in the streets of NYC. You credited that creative process to helping you take the project to another level. Was the creative process the same for this as well?
O: Pretty much the same process. I write more outside than I do inside. Its a lot sometimes when you are trying to write in the studio with a whole bunch of people around. I also tour a lot, so I don’t have a lot of down time in the studio. I make the best of it by writing in transition from one place to the other. I put the headphones, vibe out and let the city inspire me.
MD: You grew up in Prince Georges county, where Go-Go is a huge type of music played in that area. Tell us how you mesh Go-Go into your music.
O: From a production aspect, go-go has impacted my drum pattern. We call it the “go-go swing” as it is coined. It is a way you play the drums and the flow that goes over the top of it. A lot of my music still follows that guideline.
MD: Early on you learned the ways of production by living next door to Parliament Funkadelic Garry Shider. What were some pointers he gave you when you first started that you use still today?
O: Growing up next door to a neighbor who was in the Parliament was awesome because we had access to the studio. His son and I were able to get hands on experience with great equipment at an early age to produce. One thing his father didn’t like for us to do was to loop anything. He wanted us to play everything out. It was real tedious playing a drum pattern out for three of four minutes, especially with the possibility of messing up and have to start over again. It taught me patience and consistency in whatever you are doing. I know now I am not tied to the machine, I can create my sound by hand if needed. It has helped me as a producer and artist.
MD: You take great pride in not only being an independent artist, but being hands the whole process of your music business. You help set up your tours along with creating the music. How important and lucrative has being independent been to you?
O: Being independent has been a blessing for me. I came up at a time where the industry was collapsing and it was the right time to be in independent artist. I am from a city where we were constantly overlooked. No one thought we could do hip-hop because we did Go-Go, so we got accustomed to putting the middle finger up to everyone and doing things ourselves. We still carry that attitude to this day, I know that I do. I do things myself and do ask for help from anybody. That comes from a town that never really had a chance the mainstream recognition.
MD: You are currently in the midst of a serious 20 plus city tour. How important is that to you and spreading the music?
O: Getting out on the road is the best way to get out here and connect with the people. You can only do but so much through the internet. I feel like getting on the road solidifies what people are curious about when they check you online. You can bait people online with the music, but you really create lifetime fans with a killer live performance. That’s what I have, there are a lot of people who have bigger shows than me, but I have way more loyalty in my fan base. I don’t have a lot of fair weather fans. They allow me to grow and expand and experiment with a lot of different sounds. I create this by doing the shows in cities a lot of other artists wont go to. I also want them to know that I run a transparent business. Everything I get goes right back into my music. You once said in an interview that the pressure of being an artist can overwhelming. The fact that you get paid solely off the ability to create good music on a timely manner can be very stressful.
MD: Do you still feel that pressure?
O: Yeah with a doubt, I am very honest in the fact that I say my biggest motivator is fear. Fear of normalcy, complacency, things that I don’t want to be. There is positive and negative stress, and I find ways to transform that pressure into something positive.
MD: How do you gauge success?
O: it comes from making a living and a good one at that doing what I want to do and not being owned to the mass labels, which is an contradiction to what people have been taught what entertainment is. What people think being a successful artist means is that you are selling hundreds of thousands of records and you are winning awards on MTV and BET. My own definition of success is way different. Many want to be a rapper or producer unless its on a certain level. For me I feel success is a relative thing. The dream that I want is one I can actually touch. That’s what the records are all about. I have been all around the world, seen many famous historic sites I have wanted to see. I have seen so many great things that in the eyes of what mass society may think the only way a rapper can see these things is if they are on the level of Kanye or something. Because I am not him I shouldn’t be able to hang out in Paris for a weekend. These are things that mass society is taught you cannot due as a “struggling underground artist,” which is totally not the case.
MD: How would you like to be remembered?
O: As real. I am not selling anything false. I am not selling what people can only dream to have, I am selling what they can acquire.