Tag Archives: Oddisee

The Best New Hip-Hop on Bandcamp

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This month’s crucial hip-hop picks include indie rap veterans who are embracing their years in the game, video game fiends paying tribute to the late, great Frank White, and a rapper who at one time had the whole Internet convinced he was actually an alias of Nas. In a break from the normal U.S.-based selection, we also take a detour to Auckland, New Zealand where a whole bunch of rap cats are mustering up their own brand of creative hip-hop.
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Album of the Day: Oddisee, “The Iceberg”

Oddisee, a Maryland native and Brooklyn transplant, has been one of the country’s top independent hip-hop producers for more than half a decade, amassing a sizeable fan base out of the rap nostalgists and beatheads attracted to his mellow, expansive instrumentals. But his new record marks a first; the rapping on The Iceberg—fluid, dynamic and above all, thoughtful—finally matches the pull and urgency of his production. In the past, a solemn chorus of horns and bass, like the one on Iceberg opener “Digging Deep,” may have outstripped the lyrical overlay. Here, though, the music provides a backdrop for Oddisee to explain the album’s premise: Our actions are only comprehensible once you understand the circumstances that have shaped our respective characters.

The Iceberg zeroes in on those circumstances, while serving up another selection of near-perfect beats. On the clear standout, “You Grew Up,” one verse traces the divergent paths of Oddisee and a white friend who grows up to become a murderous police officer; another examines a man whose self-loathing leads him to radical Islam. Oddisee offers a complex portrait of both men, and his storytelling is complemented by sharp lyrical asides. The producer places himself under the microscope as well: The go-go beat on “NNGE” affords him an opportunity to return to his D.C. roots, while on “Rain Dance,” he explains how his ambitions as a musician confounded his Sudanese father. The parental pressure led him to focus on his finances.

Oddisee’s focus on the business of his art led him to analyze the weaknesses of independent hip-hop as a whole. In an interview with Passion of the Weiss last summer, he explained his takeaways—“We rap about rapping, we chastise, we preach, we live in the past”—and said that he had challenged himself to do better. He’s succeeded in that regard. The Iceberg uses dynamic narratives to (mostly) avoid the sanctimony that has stained the genre, pairing Odd’s always-reliable board work with a new commitment to lyrical exploration.

Jonah Bromwich

The Rock ‘n’ Soul of Olivier St. Louis 

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D.C.-born, Berlin-based singer/producer Olivier St. Louis (formerly Olivier Daysoul) has made a name for himself through his collaborations with renowned electronic music producers like Onra and Hudson Mohawke, as well as through his role as a member of Oddisee’s tight live band, Good Company. In that context his latest, Ever Since The Fall, represents something of a stylistic departure.. Packed with dark, electrifying tones, and St. Louis’s bold, sanctified vocals, Ever Since the Fall is a majestic collection of polished, elegant guitar rock that’s deeply informed by the blues. During rehearsals in preparation for his U.S. tour with Oddisee, we spoke with St. Louis about his newest project and the art of infusing new songs with the spirit of old traditions.

So, could you give a little insight into your background and how you got into music?

Sure. My mother’s Haitian and my father’s Cameroonian. I was born and raised in Washington D.C until the age of 10. Then, I spent the rest of my formative years—up to the age of 18—studying in England at a boarding school. Although I came from a family that prided itself on education first, there was a great appreciation for music. We have a few opera singers and some classically-trained pianists in the family. Although it was mostly classical, there [was sometimes] soul, jazz, and funk often playing in the background at home. My mother was a big fan of Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye, and The Brothers Johnson. So I was influenced by music very early on. I didn’t really consider music as a career, however until I was at university. A random meeting with someone on the bus, while en route to returning a mic to record some demos, introduced me to a whole music scene in D.C. that I wasn’t entirely aware of at the time. Everything branched off from there.

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Album of the Day: Elaquent, “Worst Case Scenario”

Having already established himself as a prolific beatmaker with a growing catalog, Elaquent could’ve simply released another collection of sample-heavy, head-nodding instrumentals—that’s how he built his fan base, after all. But on Worst Case Scenario, his latest album, Elaquent delivers a personal work focused on life’s unexpected twists. Scenario deals with the search for inner peace in a world of constant chaos, and learning how to be content when things don’t go as planned. Its songs are transformative, and the album as a whole seems designed to calm and to relax.

Its 12 tracks are full of nuanced beats that contain snippets of Elaquent’s previous work, mostly from the albums The Scenic Route, Less Is More and Good Karma. While he’s always spiked his sound with lush R&B and soul, Worst Case Scenario feels richer and more fully realized, a culmination of the wistful aesthetic he’s strived for over the years. On “Nollieflip,” Elaquent constructs a Dilla-esque stomp, complete with faint keys, floating organs, and rising synths. “Spur of the Moment,” with its heavy drums and cricket chirps, has a strong nocturnal vibe, landing somewhere between Oddisee’s instrumental work and Flying Lotus’ Cali-focused electronica.

Rising singer/producer (and Kendrick Lamar collaborator) Iman Omari adds emotional weight to album standout “Last Breath,” and producers Go Yama and trumpeter Octavio Santos flesh out the jazz-influenced two-step of “Caviar.” Worst Case Scenario is an album that burrows deep into the soul—tranquil music for troubled times.

Andrew Martin

The Year in Photos

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Illustration by Valentina Montagna.

When we started Bandcamp Daily, one of the things we knew we wanted—in addition to great writing—was great photos. And while the results of an interview end up clearly on the page, the process behind capturing great, unguarded moments can be somewhat opaque to those of us unfamiliar with the art. With that in mind, we reached out to the photographers behind some of the stories that appeared on Bandcamp Daily over the last six months and asked them to share their memories of the process.

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