The internet often comes under heat for blowing open the floodgates for any young blood ‘xanned’ enough to careen their way into what predecessors had spent decades perfecting. Irregardless of your stance, there’s no way the web’s sky-rocketing of rap’s outreach – all the while sticking it to the diminishing powers of greedy labels – is not a great thing for everyone.
But with the immense expansion of Hip Hop’s backyard pool-party follows an inevitably bleak and over-baring dilution. Things can get disorientating, and quick. The shepherding figureheads that rap news outlets once were have degraded into little more than project promoters and facilitators of gormless hype. When GZA likened 50 Cent’s music to disposable paper plates, he couldn’t have expected the comparison’s applicability to widen this far along with the diss track’s age.
Whose to guide our path through the raring arcade of stroboscopic releases each month? We have mixtapes dropping from kids who haven’t finished high school and grown-man raps from legends on self-funded labels. For some, it’s an all-out battlefield lacking even the grim prospect of nuclear escape. Thankfully, I found Oddisee to lay it all out flat for us. His open, insightful and encouraging perspective is dousing to all heated worries.
The Mello Music Group rapper/producer humbly spent some time with me after his show in Manchester to discuss how artists take the reigns on self-promotion, the impact of the trap era and wether its lyrics might one day inspire future offsprings to loot their nan’s prescription meds.
Where do you think the global appeal for an artist such as yourself stems from?
I think my appeal for a global audience comes from me, somewhere, reflecting my audience. I think the fact that I’m from Washington D.C. which is the home of democracy in the United States. I’m been privy to a lot of political discussion and exposed to a lot of different parts of society to so many people around the world coming to Washington D.C. to protest any amounts of things. Witnessing that as a child definitely had an impact on me. My Father being an immigrant to the United States and my Mother being indigenous to the states gave me a more global perspective, so I understand a lot more than the neighbourhood I was raised in. And I think there is the reflection in my music.
Are Hip Hop fans still open to the influence of lyricism in music today?
I definitely think that Hip Hop fans are open to lyricism in Hip Hop, especially today. I feel like there’s a resurgence in it, I feel like more people are starting to become interested in lyricism again. And not just subject matter but also the way it’s written, metaphors, similes double-entendres, the things that make a rapper a good rapper. I think people are starting to appreciate that again.
Do listeners latch on to the way it’s being delivered as opposed to what’s being said?
Yeah, I definitely think delivery is more intriguing, currently, than subject matter. But, that’s not to discredit anyone with an exception of delivery and lacklustre subject matter. There’s still plenty of people saying things and talking about things in very clever and witty ways in their own fashion.
Can you see today’s mainstream rap filtering through the next generation of Hip Hop audiences?
Absolutely. I don’t think there’s a decade that goes by where people don’t have a connection to Top 40 music. Memories are made to popular music just as much as they are to independent music if not more. It may not be that song that reverberates through time but anytime it comes on it will bring someone back to that summer when that song came out and they were maybe at a high moment in their life or a low moment- And it’s usually the most popular songs that have the ability to do that.
Do more conscious-orientated emcees have to put in more work to engage with their fans?
I don’t honestly know if it’s easier if you’re not a conscious artist to generate more fans or not. I will say that any artist in today’s current climate of music has to put a lot of effort into marketing themselves, and more so than their music. I think wether you’re independent, mainstream, conscious, street, trap- the level of marketing that goes into pushing that artist supersedes anything else. And I don’t think there’s anyone that’s an exception.
So people are invested in not only the music but the person and the artist behind it?
I think you have to be invested into the artist and the person behind it because that’s the only reason people will buy the music. Because people no longer have to buy music. They don’t have to, they buy it because they want to. You have to make them want to because they can just take it for free. So the artist is [put under pressure] to be more social and to be somewhat of a character of themselves to make themselves more attractive to a listener.
Do you feel like Hip Hop is going to come full-circle as a genre or will continue on its progressive momentum?
I think Hip Hop is in a very interesting place, in a good place, directly due to the internet. I think the internet has worked as an equaliser that’s balancing out preference and the walls that used to exist in rap from underground to mainstream, in conscious, or unconscious – for lack of a better term – are starting to disappear. Where more and more people listen to everything. I saw the day my album came out people were so excited to get my album and Future’s album. That’s a good thing for rap. Listeners no longer have to subscribe to one particular style of rap and live by it- through their ethics, their clothing, and their culture. They can listen to trap when they want to and they can listen to music about social and political issues, and it not be an issue anymore. So I think that’s where rap’s heading.
So they can have their fanbases co-exist without the need for competition?
Absolutely. Direct to fan marketing has made it balanced where record labels don’t necessarily have the power that they used to to dictate what was popular- to meaning that ‘if you wanna get a record deal you must sound like this’. Artists are making themselves and record labels are catching them after they’ve invented themselves. So it’s allowing fans more diversity and choice in what they pick from, and you’re seeing it, y’know. Now that the radio doesn’t tell you what’s hot, you tell yourself what’s hot, you can listen to Oddisee and Future.
Thank you, Oddisee.
The Iceburg is available now. Support the movement.