Since Oddisee only came into particular view in the past couple of years, especially with his album The Good Fight, it’s easy to forget that he has been creating music for over a decade. What was exceptionally clear with his performance at Gorilla though, was the amount of time he’s spent perfecting his craft and the force of his performance. Helped in large part by his incredibly gifted band, Good Compny, there was a sense of skill and perfection in the effortless way the band maintained free flowing jazz rhythms underneath Oddisee’s soulful poetics. Olivier St. Louis who was on guitar and vocals, was also the support act, and amazed the room with his silky vocals and powerful, vibrant melodies. His act flowed seamlessly into Oddisee’s so the crowd didn’t have time to catch breath before being thrust into another explosive performance.
The energy levels of the entire gig were maintained constantly, with Oddisee moving around the stage, grooving with a sense of vibrancy that permeated the whole crowd until there wasn’t one still body left in the room. It appeared to burst from the small stage, which Oddisee joked made him feel as though someone had asked him to “breakdance in a bathtub”. And yet the restriction of the space only seemed to add to the feeling that the performance was too much to be contained. It wasn’t simply incredible for its energy but it was dynamic in every sense of the word. A range of musical influences could be felt throughout, particularly with the jazz instrumentals, but also with a grime track that Oddisee attributed with a shout to the UK. However, Oddisee’s tracks from his most recent and aptly named album The Iceberg, are very much grounded in the current socio-cultural context of the US.
The Iceberg is massively charged both politically and socially, with tracks exploring topics that are acutely relevant in contemporary society - everything from terrorism to exploitation. What was exceptional about the way these tracks were performed was Oddisee’s impeccable diction, something which has become somewhat underrated in live modern hiphop. After seeing live performers such as The Mouse Outfit, it becomes clear that artists can deliver great, energetic performances without giving the crowd the ability to engage with the content of the tracks, especially for an individual who may be unfamiliar with the track being performed. It is unquestionable that Oddisee’s lyrics deserve to be heard; they put race and politics under a microscope whilst keeping a hold on how that relates so intimately to personal identity and wellbeing.
On the track Like Really Oddisee raps, “how you gonna make us great, when we were never really that amazing/ take us back to what, I don't find hanging black lives entertaining/ how do you police the streets of a neighbourhood you do not engage in/ why a brother get three for a sack while your brother go free for a raping”. He moved freely between rapping about sociopolitical oppression to exploring the epidemic of depression and mental health issues within the black community, such as with the track Waiting Outside with the lyrics “thats a vital part in the art of blackness/ we don’t get depressed we compress the sadness”. With words as significant and potent as this, the crowd were clearly grateful that, unlike so many of today’s hiphop artists, in the live performance, the clarity of Oddisee’s diction could do right by his lyrical prowess.
Words: Lydia Entwistle
Photography: Charlotte Wellings