Review Summary: Oddisee's official "debut" album is a solid collection of tracks pinpointing all of his strengths as an MC and a producer, even if it is slightly front-loaded.
"They say you've got your whole life to make your first album". That's the opening line to Oddisee's newest release People Hear What They See
, and it feels fitting. While this is pretty far from his first album, technically it is. Oddisee has been working in hip-hop for over a decade, having done production for Jazzy Jeff, Talib Kweli, and his own Diamond District crew, among others. Along the way, he's self-released a series of instrumental albums and the Mental Liberation
mixtape. However, People
is his first studio release, and if that opening line is true then he's had plenty of time to practice for it, and the practice definitely shows.
Opener "Ready To Rock" is the obvious single, and while it's slightly different than the rest of the album, it still sets up what's to come rather well. While Oddisee definitely shows his skill as an MC, his bigger strength comes through in his production, with the beat starting out slightly skeletal before giving way to more and more layers of instrumentation to finish out the track. The impressive winning streak continues for the following five tracks, including "That Real" and "Do It Again", which battle it out for the role of album highlight. Both tracks feature hooks sung by Oliver Daysoul, the former being a throwback song with a soulful undercurrent. The latter delves more into funk, and is as close to a Curtis Mayfield hip-hop song as you're ever likely to hear. The Mayfield influence shows up on later tracks, including "The Need Superficial" and "Set You Free".
After the phenomenal first half, the album cools somewhat. This isn't a knock against the back half of the album per se, since most of those tracks would be highlights on a lot of other records, but more a testament to the strength of the front half. And even then, there are tracks that hit the same highs as the first six. "Another Grind" steps back to the soulful sound of "That Real", even adding some strings to the mix. Another highlight to side B is "You Know Who You Are", which has some of the most unique production on the whole album with its mix of pianos and horns.
, Oddisee has crafted one of the more interesting hip-hop releases of the year. It manages to be left-field while still being accessible. It's undoubtedly a hip-hop album at its core, but has enough going on to prove interesting to even those who might not be the biggest fans of the genre. And once again, if that first line of the album is true, then he's definitely made one to be proud of.