Oddisee works hard, and on People Hear What They See, he’s not about to let anyone forget it. Not for one second. To longtime fans of the gregarious emcee, this album will probably serve as another frustrating installment that doesn’t get the shine it deserves. Nonetheless, heads who aren’t familiar won’t take long to be convinced. Dude eats, breathes and defecates quality hip-hop.
Oddisee has been a mainstay in rap’s working class for about a decade now, steadily accumulating a loyal fan-base that will surely continue to support him. He shares that middle-ground with other mad-nice-but-under-appreciated cats like Consequence, Masta Ace, and a slew of others. These are rappers who, without question, possess a higher degree of lyrical prowess than most. If widespread recognition has largely evaded them, they hold steadfast in rap’s trenches, giving depth to a genre that is so often criticized for its lack thereof.
People Hear paints a self-portrait of an MC who is still striving toward greatness, and avoids coming off as a disheartened lament or diatribe railing against the injustice of it all. Perhaps this is owing to Oddisee’s grace on the mic; indeed, he’s the kind of rapper who sounds like he could speak in rhyme in his everyday interactions. Put differently, dude has better things to rap about than whining about other rappers. His grace on the mic, combined with his ability to relate to his listeners lyrically with original topics, make him a uniquely engaging presence.
He skillfully intertwines his own life and perspective with his surroundings on every track. (And isn’t that the essence of being a great lyricist, really?) On “American Greed,” he begins, “When George Bush took the oil from the soil / I was in front of the counter buying some milk from the A-rabs.” He goes on to give a scathing critique of economics fueled by greed, and the short-sighted pursuit of capital.
Even when he isn’t rapping about lofty subjects, Oddisee offers interesting viewpoints that are easy for listeners to buy into. Over a jolting stutter-step on “Think of Things,” he glosses over subjects with infectious nonchalance: “I could think of a few things: try and keep my levels of stress down / not get all worked up when I get let down / just keep my work up, prepared for the next round / work out… it’ll work out … flex now.”
Ultimately, People Hear What They See is a lesson in perseverance. Quality music and hard work will always win out, and Oddisee is here to prove it.