Oddisee: The Okayplayer Interview
Oddisee: The Okayplayer Interview

The Okayplayer Interview: Oddisee Speaks On Tangible Dreams + The Beauty In All

Oddisee: The Okayplayer Interview

After releasing one of 2012’s most acclaimed albums last summer, Oddisee has remained relatively quiet in terms of releasing new music. But that is all about to change, as the Sudanese-American double threat dropped not one but two full-lenght projects today. The DC-based rapper/producer is dropping his sophomore instrumental LP entitled The Beauty in All and a mixtape of him rapping over his own production called Tangible Dream. The Beauty in All is the official follow up to 2011’s Rock Creek Park and is inspired by imperfections and inconsistencies that help him appreciate the beauty in the world. Okayplayer got the chance to speak with the Mello Music All-Star to get his insights on his new projects.

Oddisee - The Beauty In All

OKP: You got a couple of new projects for us – a mixtape called Tangible Dream and The Beauty in All, an instrumental album. What’s the difference in making beats for an instrumental project and beats that you rap over?

Oddisee: I don’t really think the process differs for me too much, other than the fact I’ll take a few more liberties with the instrumental album than I would with a vocal album because on the vocal album, the lyrics are meant to be on the forefront.  And when you have no lyrics, you have that space you can fill up with other things, you know. I tend to take those liberties when I make an instrumental album and maybe use live instrumentation to do solos or interesting sequences that may not be the easiest to rhyme over.

OKP: What makes your instrumental albums, Rock Creek Park and The Beauty in All different from a standard beat tape?

ODD: It’s music that’s being composed and constructed versus just being a series of loops that go over and over. It’s deeply rooted in the hip-hop format – there’s a level of redundancy to it, but the way the tracks expand on themselves is where the musicality comes into it. That’s what’s kind of different from a beat tape.

You know, often times beat tapes are truly meant to just be beat tapes where they’re made for artists to listen to them and rap over. But a lot of these instrumentals aren’t really designed for lyrics in the first place.

OKP: You’ve used a lot of live instrumentation in your production in the past, is there any difference in your beat making technique when you use live instruments as opposed to sampling?

ODD: Yeah, of course. When you’re sampling, you’re just taking the instrument and melodies that already exist and manipulating them. When you’re playing something live, it’s a completely new and original interpretation. That’s the difference in itself; it’s more of a freedom when you’re using live instrumentation than sampling. But often times I just use my musicians to replay a lot of samples that I use. It definitely has a close-knit relationship for me, in the way I use them to make hip-hop.

OKP: Are you using more live instrumentation on The Beauty in All than on albums like People Hear What They See?

ODD:  No I’m actually probably using less on this record. People Hear What They See had an entire brass section and string section on a good portion of the beats. I didn’t use any live strings on The Beauty in All and I only used horns on one track on that record. So definitely a lot less instrumentation on this record.

OKP:  Do you see yourself or somebody else rapping on any of these instrumentals?

ODD: Yeah, I may touch on a few of the tracks in the future. The majority of the time when I hear artists rhyme over my instrumental records, they’re not something I look forward to. They’re very rarely good...in my opinion.

OKP: You’re also releasing a mixtape on the same day as your album called Tangible Dream. What made you want to release two projects on the same day?

Oddisee - Tangible Dream mixtape

ODD:  It’s been over a year since I’ve released a vocal release, and my next album is an instrumental album. And I’m constantly on the road, I’m getting a lot of promoters wanting to hear vocal records and a lot of my fans are wanting to hear instrumental records from me, so I kind of come up with the idea that I wanted to put out both. I was in a place this summer where I was writing a lot, and I took a couple weeks out to do some recording over tracks that I produced and it just kind of came about.

The concept of the record and the majority of the subject matter is based on a tangible dream, which is where the title comes from. Meaning that a lot of things we aspire to have, we can actually achieve and they’re not as far-fetched as we think they are. Especially according to most of the rappers in the industry. You know they give us this perception and motive to travel that has to be in check. And that we can’t go out and have good time unless we’re blowing loads of money, when in fact if you do it the right way, it doesn’t take much money at all to travel and see the world.

It’s something that I come across when I come home and talk to friends and family back home, who are somewhat envious of my travels. And then I realize how much they may spend at the bar or on cigarettes throughout the week, they don’t even know that at the end of the month, that could accumulate a plane ticket to go abroad. You can go and see the Eifel Tower. And a lot of people don’t know that. They think that aspect of life is shut off, and I just wanted to shed light on that.

OKP: You touched on the back story of your mixtape, and a lot of your other projects have interesting stories behind them, is there anything like that for The Beauty in All?

ODD:  Definitely. As with all my records, they come from my influences; they come from what I observe. The Beauty in All is no different. From the perspective that throughout all my travels things started to become so redundant – every place I go starts to seem similar. There’s so many little small things, little inconsistencies and imperfections, that make me realize where I am. The things people take for granted, they walk by, are really what is starting to inspire me.

This record is more about the crack in the mirror, instead of the mirror itself. It’s more about the ugly things that make us appreciate beauty, and how that in itself, is something that is attractive to me. That’s what the record is about.

OKP: Do you find it more difficult to communicate that idea through instrumentals than lyrics?

ODD: I don’t really find any idea hard to communicate. It’s all interpretation. Now my interpretation may not register with other people, but it definitely isn’t something that is difficult for me to do. You know, it’s very personal, so it’s just my own interpretation.