Oddisee hones his sound and gets poetic and political over a pack of refreshing beats, fusing soul and head nodding with a poignant look at the state of the nation.
The Iceberg is the perfect name for Oddisee’s latest funky full-length album. Every track on this project features a serious topic ranging from immigration, to oppression, to direct jabs at our current POTUS. There is a deceptive glitter to this album’s sound, producing a strong dissonance between the uplifting ambiance of the beats and the gravity of the raps Oddisee spits. This initial disconnect is extremely attention grabbing, realizes the album’s leading image of an iceberg, and provides a layer of accessibility to Oddisee’s critical messages. This album somehow occupies the space of a sunny day album and an introspective nighttime listen, which means that there’s no reason to keep sleeping on Oddisee’s near perfect The Iceberg.
Oddisee is not shy about his beliefs, but he has a warm way of inviting the listener into his mind on opener “Digging Deep.” He hops on this grooving track with a contagious energy and invites us to “get into it” over a bright and soulful hook. From the first minute you can hear how Oddisee has essentially perfected his live-band instrumentals. The bass groove on the coattails of the track comes off like a deep sea dive, and leads us right into another undeniably catchy yet potent cut “Things.” This track starts off as a light critique of materialism and ends with allusions to the Black Lives Matter movement as he spits “We just want to matter more/ trying to be the matador/ in a pit of bull/ trying to gather our status in the masses.”
While keeping up with the bright blue sounds on the album, Oddisee brings some variety with a more relaxed cut “Rain Dance.” This track is a little closer to home, with Oddisee rapping about the disconnect between him and his immigrant parents: “They flee their countries, protect their families, perusing progress/ They think in needs, we think of wants, our views are parted.” He details his focus on art, on finding love, and arriving at a point where he can “make it rain no matter what the time.” This track serves as a hopeful wind-down in the back half of the track list.
Oddisee is a prolific storyteller, but the harrowing narratives on “You Grew Up” make it the standout track of the album. On the first verse Oddisee takes us back in time to when “had every race as a neighbor/ We were all working class trying to make it out of our hood/ My best friend back then was a white kid/ we were tight he liked the same things I did.” The camaraderie of their friendship quickly breaks down when hateful rhetoric against immigrants gets between them. Fast forward to adulthood and Oddisee sees that same friend as just another officer taking the life of a young black man, leading us into a ghostly hook about the cycles of hate and violence in America: “You grew up/ No you didn’t change/ You were made the same/ As those before you came.”
The second verse details a past friend becoming radicalized, despite his educated background. This verse showcases the dangers of ostracizing people for their beliefs to the point where they become “Attracted strong to the feeling acceptance/ He was soon gone to delusions of a cause.” Oddisee ends the verse with a sobering thought: “You can raise a child in a house full love/ But can’t keep them safe from a world full of hate.” The third and final verse features Oddisee as the subject, initially full of love. Shorter than the previous two, this verse quickly describes Oddisee’s growing cynicism towards social change.
Cutting through the severity of some of these tracks is cheerful “Want to Be,” with its glistening guitar, make-you-dance bass, and floating melody. Oddisee keeps things a little more lighthearted across the three verses. He’s not entirely abandoning his serious themes but padding them with an uplifting hook: “I just want to be happy/ I just want to be free/ I just want to be left alone/ I just want to me.”
Amidst the variety on this album, “This Girl I Know” settles things down a little too much. Far from a bad song, the verses break the momentum of the album down and struggle to hold my attention. That being said, the hook is solid and warrants replay after replay.
It’s rare to find an entire album that’s capable to striking the balance between overt politics and ear candy, but The Iceberg occupies that sweet spot. The messages on each of the twelve tracks on this album aren’t buried under dense images and metaphors, and they’re not tucked behind dusty beats. This is hip-hop dressed up for a day on the town. On The Iceberg, Oddisee needs us all to listen and the infectious funk of his live-band grabs our attention long enough for his immaculate bars to keep us in place. This album is much more than a timely listen, it’s Oddisee and hip-hop at its best.