You know what the world needs now? Apart from a total reboot (JJ Abrams - are you free?) is some feelgood sounds.
Step forward Oddisee, the Washington-born, Brooklyn-based producer/MC who changed the way hip-hop works back in 2006, when the thrusting young performer ignored the live-concerts industry and came to Europe on a self-funded, web-arranged winter club tour. US rappers rarely came here outside of summer before then, thinking there’d be no audience; now they do.
10 years on, Oddisee – real name Amir Mohamed el Khalifa -has just released a novel new album, The Odd Tape, which takes you on a more home-based Oddisee odyssey.
“I was searching for a theme for my next instrumental record and I had done a photoshoot, it was a ‘day in the life’ piece, and a lightbulb went off – the theme for the record should be an audio version of that,” he says. “And we ended up using photos from that shoot for the artwork: full circle.”
Those 12 instrumental tracks make his average day sound pretty awesome, all retro funk and euphoric hip-hop beats: It’s the sort of record that gives a mighty lift to your own day, which is handy given all the depressingly divisive stuff flying around recently. Oddisee has been following the UK’s furious march toward oblivion (“really sad”) and made a rare foray into overt politics on his last ‘lyrics’ EP, ‘Alwasta’, with a thoughtful dig Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. Still, positivity reigns.
“We have a way of prevailing past ignorance, we’ve proven it over and over again,” he says. “No matter how ignorant people become, what they throw at us, we have a way of prevailing against it. And goodness prevails, and progression prevails. We may get thrown back into the dark ages periodically, but we always prevail.”
Hey, let’s hope so. Now, what does Oddisee put on, Clash wondered, to give his day a similar fillip? Which artists soundtrack his own life?
So, what goes on first thing in the morning, in Oddisee land?
That’s honestly an impossible question for me to answer, because, like, today’s a cloudy day: it’s a James Blake morning. Whereas tomorrow it’s going to be sunny outside, and James Blake and sun don’t mix. James Blake is exclusively reserved for clouds and rain. So yeah, it’s really determined by how I feel when I wake up, how many hours of sleep I got, if I feel energized, if the sun is out, if I don’t have any deadlines and I’m going to wake up and just cook a breakfast and have a long day in. Music is so flexible.
What about when it’s not grey and James Blakey then?
My ‘coffee’ music would be Mulatu [Astatke, the Ethiopian jazz innovator], or any type of Bossa Nova. George Ben, that’s my music, man, in the morning.
Then you need to actually leave the house…?
My turn-up music to rev myself up is definitely Future. The Drake/Future album [‘What a Time to be Alive’] is really, really good for getting hyped.
And when you’re out?
My cruising music, middle of the night, walking down a street in New York that’s empty, or riding around, I love listening to ‘Electric Relaxation’, by A Tribe Called Quest. Or my hustler music, when I want to get in the mood to like, ‘yo, I gotta get money’ – ‘Reasonable Doubt’ by Jay Z.
When I’m cooking, I want to just lounge around and feel good, two-step around the house: definitely anything by Marvin Gaye. Or Maze and Frankie Beverly: that’s my clean-the-house music. My ‘in my own thoughts’ music is most likely Bon Iver, I love listening to ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ when I’m just in my own head. And my emotional music, when I’m really going through it mentally, is probably Feist. Feist’s ‘Metals’ – that album will sum up every emotion I’m feeling.
What about when you have some friends over?
A soiree? When I have a few people over I love Toro y Moi, you can put his stuff on in the background of anything with six or more people: you’re good to go.
Finally, who’s playing when you hit the tub?
What’s the shower music? Van Hunt! He’s got the funk. I like listening to the funk in the shower. I don’t really take baths too much. But if I had a bath, it’d be Sade.
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The Odd Tape is out now, at https://oddisee.bandcamp.com/
Words: Si Hawkins // @SiHawkins