There is something to be said about sheds or warehouses that make performances that much better or intimate. The rain kept away some of the concertgoers who otherwise would have showed up and missed what was an impressive display of not just hip-hop music, but music in general. This small showcase was the equivalent of an artist showing you around his studio.
I was sitting in my boy Jay’s car at SXSW debating whether to get out and walk a block on this rain with my camera or just go back to my hotel and edit pictures. Then I realized that all week I had been shooting the bigger showcases and that this smaller show was the essence of what hip-hop is. I gripped my camera, tucked it under my shirt and jetted to the warehouse. As I was walking in, I saw Killah Priest just vibing as his boy and producer Gensu Dean set up his turntables.
Gensu Dean started playing his instrumentals and off the bat you could tell it had the Mellow Music signature sound to it. This is when people really got into it and some MCs who had opened the show earlier kicked a cypher while he was playing some joints. There was an 8 Mile-esque vibe coming through.
And then came the D.C. born and raised MC/producer Oddisee. He got on the mic and asked, “Real shit, how many of you here know who I am?” The crowd stayed quiet as if they were called in class to read a part of the chapter they didn’t read. So he responded, “Shit, be real, it’s cool if you don’t know me 'cause you’re about to hear me.”
Oddisee has performed with The Roots, produced for Freeway, Jazzy Jeff, Little Brother, De La Soul & Nikki Jean, and has rapped on production from Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke and Kev Brown, amongst others. He consistently demonstrates that an independent artist can really be successful and remain true to their art by being independent. Reaching the masses through his own push, he books his own international shows and does his own marketing/ photography, finding different kind of ways to stimulate his music. After speaking to him I understood why having music like this is important, and in this same token, he made me understand math a little better.
WOO SUPREME: I’ve been following you for a while now. I know you’ve been a part of Mello Music for numerous years and also doing your own thing. How does it feel right now throughout all this time staying consistent?
ODDISEE: Ah, it’s a blessing and it feels good. You know the object of any business is to grow exponentially, never to go backwards, and your concepts and your ideas should always move forward. I feel like we been fortunate and intelligent enough to continue to grow each year.
I can appreciate the fact that no matter how trends change musically nowadays, in your music you have stuck to your guns the whole time. You never switched up. What do you feel helps you progress?
I’m a very socially observant human being, I watch trends, I watch people, when I travel I’m taking in everything I see and I interpret that into my music. I don’t let it change my music but I give it my own interpretation. So it’s allowed me to somewhat keep a relevancy throughout the years because when the sound of music changes in popular culture or when its fashion changes, I’m able to see it for what it is and see it for what it means to me and then give that back to people in the form of art and I think that’s been a very huge asset for me.
That’s dope man, now that we’re speaking on the form of art, I know that you take some dope pictures with your iPhone. Do you feel like your music transcends into the art form in photography?
I feel like all art is universal. And the universal language is mathematics. Whether it be music or photography, it’s all symmetry. It’s all about numbers and lines and where they line up. Just music and melodies, you know, is the chords on a scale and the math of how you combine those chords whether it’s a photo, it’s a composition versus the distance and the angles that you line it up with. So to me, it’s all math and math is universal so it all translates.
That’s real dope, being a photographer myself,hearing you say how math transcends into art forms puts things into perspective. What is it you’re looking for in photography?
I think I look for the standard things a photographer looks for. I look for subject, the positive the negative space, composition, and vantage point. I like the technical aspect of it. I used to be an art major.
I’m looking for the typical things a photographer should look at, the lighting the exposure, et cetera. As far as apps go, I’m almost exclusively using VSCO.
As far as inspiration goes, what is inspiring you right now at this moment?
Ah man, what’s inspiring me right now... [long pause] technology. The progression that technology whether it is through music software or camera phones. Technology is allowing people to do things that they otherwise didn’t know they had the ability to do so. And it continues to make it easy and easy as it simplifies itself as it becomes smaller and less expensive and more accessible, technology is really pushing the limits of creativity and your allowed to use it how you see fit and I’m really inspired by it.
“DON’T FALL VICTIM TO UNDERDEVELOPMENT AND UNDEREXPOSURE… CULTIVATE YOUR CRAFT.”
Indeed. If you had a chance to pick like right now you’re at a record store and there is every single available record right there which one is the one you’re looking for.
[Laughs] Real shit, this might be some egotistical shit but truth, I’m looking for mine. I don’t have any of my own records.
Wow, that’s crazy fam.
I know people that got more of my records than me. I don’t have copies on my own shit. If I saw one of my records I would probably grab it and hold onto it for my kids and say, “Look what daddy did.” [laughs] My future kids. I don’t have any kids yet. But you know - shit, I don’t have my own records, man!
[Laughs] Shit, man, I feel like I’m about to buy some and ship it out to you and just be like, “Here bro, here is the dopeness.”
[Laughs] Yeah man, please, I need a copy of my own records.
I respect artists like Big KRIT, DB Cutlass and you that rap over your own beats. Do you feel like that flies over people’s heads or do you feel like notice an appreciate it more when you’re actually rapping to your own beats?
I don’t think anybody notices, I don’t think anybody cares. Personally, I don’t think anybody should care. I don’t think that I should be praised any more or less because I made a beat and rapped over it. For me it’s the end result, it’s the song. I do feel that producer MCs are at an advantage for making better songs because they understand both sides of it. But as a listener I don’t think they know the difference or should not be expected to. Just like the song or not like the song. Whether or not you found out if I made the beat or not should not sway you to like it more.
Word. And lastly would you to the person that is in their basement right now on his MPC making beats trying to find his niche and trying to find “it.” What advice would you give?
I would give anybody just starting off the same advice I always give: Don’t fall victim to underdevelopment and overexposure. Stay at home and cultivate your craft. You’ll know when its ready, and the way you know that its ready is the more people that are calling you versus you calling them tell you when your ready. You don’t need to ask anybody else if you’re good, you’ll know because people will be knocking at your door, hitting up your phone, asking you for your music versus you asking them to listen to it. And it starts off with your friend down the street, or the guy who works at the club, or the guy at the movie theatre all the way up to an A&R. You look out for the signs of how interested people are in you versus how you are in them and that will tell you how good you are.