YEARS ago, I heard Oddisee for the first time on a Little Brother song. The sleepy beat failed to inspire any of the rappers, so I wasn’t compelled to research the guy at all. But a few weeks ago, Peter Rosenberg recommended his new album, The Good Fight, and I figured I’d give it a try. I mean, dude’s from Washington D.C., minutes from my Baltimore home, so I might as well test it, right?
I don’t always agree with Rosenberg, but this time, he got it totally right! Contrary to that LB feature verse, this Oddisee guy spits! Even when The Good Fight slides into sounding a bit…soft… he’s still usually rapping his ass off. What I find most interesting, and sometimes annoying, about him is that he’s always rapping about something. His speed is often up and his rhyme schemes are always interesting, but the only braggadocio song on this album is Worse Before Better, and it’s one of my least favorites. That beat is a jumbled mess and it seems to have thrown Oddisee’s rhyming off. So even when ignoring the topics and just evaluating lyricism, his better verses are surprisingly elsewhere. I really wanted to hear Oddisee simply destroy the microphone for a song or two, but I guess that wasn’t in the plan for The Good Fight. Ah well.
Even with that complaint, the album works extremely well without many bravado songs because Oddisee has so much to say. Regretting unkept promises on Meant it When I Said It, making decisions when scared to fail on First Choice, and pursuing a woman who has emotional walls on Counter-Clockwise are just a few examples of the breadth of concepts that Oddisee attacks. Each song relates to the idea of fighting the good fight, i.e. doing what one must instead of doing what’s easy or the most beneficial, and that seems to encompass Oddisee’s happily underground career as well.
It’s refreshing to hear a rapper with a lot to say who still obviously spent a lot of time learning how to rap. That he rarely (never?) curses is another positive, as are his beats (yes, he produced all of this jewel). I’d describe the instrumentals as traditional, maybe even true school, hip-hop that’s very fun and sometimes light and upbeat. Imagine Native Tongues, but less low-key and you might have an idea of what to expect. Don’t look for the bass to rattle, and don’t expect anything like what comes on the radio. As I mentioned earlier, a few songs like That’s Love and Book Covers are too soft for my hip-hop taste, and there is a fair amount of singing on The Good Fight. But I liked most of the sung hooks, even when Oddisee himself is singing. He’s wise enough to have Maimouna Yousef do What They’ll Say‘s hook to beautiful effect, and when he’s on his own on First Choice, he does just enough to sound pretty good, unlike a certain rapper also from D.C.
So, in conclusion, go get The Good Fight if you’re at all interested in good rap that has things to say. The lyrics can be slightly dense but, as the ending interlude says, there’s no shame in looking them up. I know from my own experience, The Good Fight is worth that effort!