ODD CURE is less an album than a humanistic hip-hop musical journal on adapting to life under the early months of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The project was recorded during a spell of self-isolation spent in MC and producer Oddisee’s Brooklyn studio apartment; he returned home from a surprise gig in Thailand right as New York City entered lockdown. On opening track “The Cure,” he gazes out at the world from atop a billowing disco-soul arrangement, wondering, “Is it recess or recession?” Before long, he’s entered full flow—putting politicized news broadcasts against loaded conspiracy theories, paranoia against empathy, and of course, humanity against virus.
The release’s five other full-bodied songs persuasively showcase Oddisee’s combination of smart and earnest lyrics, with production that weaves together soul influences and hypnotic hip-hop loop science. The bass-propelled “Shoot Your Shot” muses on responding with fear when faced with pivotal junctures in life; the cymbal-cushioned “Still Strange” delves into bittersweet relationship territory; and “Go To Mars” features Oddisee balancing dreams of escapism with the reality of being stuck in a certain situation—a dilemma he relays over a backdrop that brings to mind Bill Withers recording a song about drifting off to a remote galaxy.
Crucially, ODD CURE pulls off the rare trick of using skits to thematically gel the music together, without inevitably prompting you to hit the skip button. Five recorded phone conversations between Oddisee and his family and friends foreshadow themes explored on subsequent tracks, including hearing his father assuming COVID was malaria at first, his mom detailing her feisty PPE setup (mask, gloves and pepper spray), and talking to a friend about trying to score filtered masks. The last of these skits involves Oddisee’s Germany-based manager, who informs him in blunt terms that there will be no more touring for 2021; instead, he suggests recording more music at home. It’s a solution Oddisee reacts to politely, but with a tangible murmur of doubt in his voice. The skit—like the album writ large—is a sobering stance on 2020 as a societal flashpoint, interwoven with poignant reflections on the uncertain decisions and uncharted territory of today’s reality.