oddisee @ myspace
posted: 12-22-04
interview : tadah
Oddisee, ever read Homer's "Iliad"?
I've only read the "Odyssey" but I own the "Iliad"
So what's the meaning behind your name?
Well, 'odyssey' means journey and I want to take my listeners on journeys with my music. And the change in spelling simply means I see with my third eye; three being an odd number makes odd-I-see.
I know you live Maryland, but have roots somewhere else: tell us a little about both places.
I was born in D.C. but raised in P.G. county MD, just outside of the district. I'm half Sudanese so I spent many summers back in Sudan with my dads side of the family. Maryland is a great place to be, with such a strong presence of black culture from D.C. and the allure of the city to the country sides of Maryland and northern Virginia. I'll live here for ever.
Back in the days rap was very 'local', i.e. everybody repped a place and each area had a particular sound. Now I think that's gone, but do you think your area has a particular sound?
Yes, D.C. is home to some of the greatest singers, song writers, and producers of all time. Being that we are in the middle of the east coast we pull things from all around us. With most of the Blacks here coming from the South and D.C. being below the Mason Dixon line, there is a strong southern influence in the flow of more traditional D.C. emcees. But then the north is just as strong in us as well. D.C. is also home to 'Go Go' music which is an all live band that's based around the emcee and the percussionist. It's almost like hard core jazz music.
(smiles) I'm always amazed that there's actually people that like 'Go Go'. I never got my head to like any of what I heard. Is there any other place in the US where people like 'Go Go'?
I doubt it. It's truly a D.C. thing. I've heard it gets played in North Carolina, but that's about it. Jill Scott had a 'Go Go' track on her first album, so I know it's getting exposure.
As you mention Sudan, please - maybe in short - can you say something about what is currently happening in Sudan?
Well, I'm sure you know about the fighting in the western region of the country; which stems from tribal and territorial disputes gone too far, leaving many dead and many others displaced in near by countries. But they have reached a peaceful agreement over the last few weeks.
You're going back there for a month: what are you going to do?
I'm just going back to visit family and relax from the hustle a bit.
Again - maybe in short: how do we have to imagine life in Sudan?
Sudan is a divided country, the people of the North are of Arab descent and Muslim and the people of the South are pure African and mostly Christian. When the English invaded Sudan after the Turks, they shaped the fate of the country. But industrializing and educating the north and simply converting the south to Christianity, they used the divide and conquer strategy. Even today it still brings about problems. There is no middle class in Sudan so if you have money it's heaven and if you don't its a living hell. but thing are on the up and up in Sudan despite the problems.
How much of a culture shock is it still to go back there - even though you've been in Sudan a couple of times?
It's always a shock to see how people live in third world countries, without a star bucks on every corner and a gas station on each side of the street; and there still happy (laughs). But seriously: the Sudanese are a people that are used to there conditions and make the best of it and that always shocks me.
Moving on to your music: you rap and produce. Are you better in one or the other?
When I compare my beats to my rhymes, I like to do it on a song to song basis. On one song I might say to myself: my lyrics are better than my beat. And on another that the tracks is better than I. It's easier to place a beat on another artist album than it is to put my own singles out whenever I feel. So you'll always hear more beats than rhymes from me.
Could you do with only one or the other?
No. I need both of them, because one displays a different type of emotion than the other. The feeling I get after writing an ill sixteen is different from the feeling I get after making a hot beat. And I'm addicted to both.
Let's say people discuss the 'best producer on the mic' and the 'best rapper doing production'. In which of the two categories should they discuss you?
I'm not a fan of categorizing and people always feel the need to. Prince plays a dozen instruments and writes his own songs and sings them and nobody says "which one does he do better". He's simply an artist and artist can do whatever there abilities allow. So I'm simply an artist who loves everything hip hop. Discuss me in both categories.
Now, you first got in touch with us to get more feedback on some criticism I wrote in a review. But you've done it very respectfully, while others often enough just curse me out. What does criticism mean to you?
Criticism is the opinion of one human and humans are pure emotion. So unless the critic has a uniform guideline to judge what ever he/she is critiquing, it's simply another opinion. And opinions don't matter cause everybody has one. So when I read critics saying: "it's good, it's bad, it's wack, I've heard better", etc. - these are opinions that the next critic to judge it will most likely disagree with.
So when I get this type of criticism, I ask for more detail: was it my mix, was the emcee wack, was the structure wrong, has it been done before, are the rhymes elementary, was the hook weak? I want to know these things. If enough people say them, I'll learn from it. And overall it can help the listeners become better listener as well.
You've worked on - more high profile - stuff like the Halftooth Compilation, songs with Wordsworth, but you also did a beat on the 12" for SoulStice: how did these projects come about?
Well, no matter how far the music takes me, I'll always stay close to my roots and my roots are where I am from. Soulstice moved to Maryland from Chicago and I met him at a D.C. open mic. I pass out CD's to all the local artist in hopes that they'll work with me so the D.C./MD/VA music scene will grow as a whole. So if you move here tomorrow and want a beat from me, I'll hook you up for next to nothing.
Ha, I like to hear that. But if someone is not living around your way, what does it take for you to work with someone?
Well, if they ain't from around my way; for the money to be right and for me to respect what they're doing musically.
Tell us a little more about that Halftooth Records project though.
"You Don't Know The Half" was a big project for me. Originally the label owners only wanted me to do two or three tracks for the compilation. But I submitted a beat CD with 53 tracks on it and that was when they signed me as a producer and artist. That album was like going straight to war without training for me. Producing 80% of the record and supervising the recording and who goes on what was something I had no previous experience with. So I finished that project with a lot more than I started.
What else is out there that you've done?
There's "D.O.A" for the U.N., "Road Trip" for Critically Acclaimed, "Musiq Lounge" for Jazzy Jeff, "Hind Sight" for The Visionaries and a whole slew of music with local artist that you'll hear soon enough.
How did that Jazzy Jeff thing happen?
Jazzy Jeff's "The Magnificent" was the first commercial release I was on and opened the doors for me to meet the guys at Halftooth. Kev Brown had got a job working at A Touch Of Jazz as a producer, so when that happened he brought the whole crew to Philly to meet Jeff. Jeff liked what he heard and put myself on the album and a few other members of Low Budget.
So what is coming up?
My remixes of Wordsworth's "Mirror Music". This compilation I've done called "The Remixture Vol.1", a bunch of tracks on Kenn Starr's album, a bunch of tracks on Critically Acclaimed's album, a duo record from myself and Hezekiah, a jazz album from my self and another local producer named Unknown, and a whole bunch of tracks too soon to talk about.
Are you remixing the whole Wordsworth album?
Nah, just twelve out of the twenty.
And Jazz album? Tell us more about that.
I enjoy all types of production so I wanted to do a record that was a bit outside of hip hop. So we came up with the idea to make hip hop influenced tracks and get live musicians to play on top of them. I'm not saying it's a new idea but our twist on it is something yet to be heard.
What's more fun, to hear yourself rhyme over one of your beats, or have someone else rhyme over it?
To hear someone else. I always have a concept or subject matter to the beats I make, so it's fun to hear what other artist think of when they hear my beats.
Now, for some up and coming producer, how can someone 'score' to work with better known artists?
Don't fall victim to 'underdevelopment and overexposure'! Master you craft before you get fancy CDs and websites and all that other bullshit. Then you'll find that the iller your music is, the less work you have to do to get it out. So if your sending beats out 24/7 and not getting and call backs, it might not be the fancy package but what's in it. Also learn to be a people person and not a basement dweller (laughs). Most deals I make don't happen in offices; they happen at the bar down the street.
According to the Babygrande site, Wordsworth soundscanned about 2,500 copies of his album. Is there even still money to be made in this indie game?
I think so. See, there's two ways to hustle: ne way is to put a lot of time and money in to one thing in hopes that it pays off. The other is to have your hand in a little bit of everything, but on a smaller level. So with me, I sell tracks, mix and record cats, do live shows, do albums, sell beats through the internet to overseas, develop artist locally, and do small runs of CD duplication. And it's enough to pay my bills and live well.
Now, what would you like to tell us about you, that we probably don't care to know? (smile)
I'll go days without bathing if I'm musically in the zone, and I think women are smarter than men.
Any other fun facts about you?
I do music so I won't ever have to grow up and wear a suit.
In your year end poll, you talked about very specific spots that you like to eat at. Hmmm…. so you're a real food connoisseur, huh? So how come you was able to just pull that list out?
I love eating out and so do a lot of members of Lowbudget. And those are my regulars spots. if you want a good spot to eat from D.C. to N.Y. holler at me. (laughs)
Lowbudget? Now who is that?
Lowbudget is Kev Brown, Critically Acclaimed, CY Young, Kenn Starr, DJ Roddy Rodd, Kaimbr, I.Q., Sean Borne and myself. Many of those names you might not know but you will.
So what do you guys have cooking?
Cy's working on an album, so is Kenn Starr. Critically Acclaimed, Roddy Rodd and DJ Marshall Law of Critically Acclaimed are doing a Low Budget mixtape and a Low Budget instrumental album called "L.B. Grooves". And be on the look out for tracks by Kaimbr, I.Q., and Sean Borne.
What was the last album/showcase/experience that had you go: man, I better step up my skills before I step out with something again?
The Kev Brown discography.
What do you like about it particularly?
The variety of it. But it's still cohesive. To go from De La Soul to Freddy Foxxx to Jewel is what producing is all about.
Let's say you have an unlimited budget and the most tolerant label: who'd you work with?
J. Dilla, Mase, De La Soul, Jay-Z, DJ Quik, Kardinal Official, The Neptunes, Quincy Jones, The Roots, James Poyser, Kanye West; many, there's so many. (laughs)
Do you have a website? What is it?
I sure do and it is: halftooth.com and myspace.com/oddisee.
Any comments or shout outs?
Thanks for the interview fam and shout outs to Maryland, D.C. and Northern VA, and all the lovers of hip hop music.
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