Let’s get this out of the way. This is a good album. Good but not great. I don’t want you to think of that as a damning verdict though. There is so much here that is laudable but it falls short of greatness by dint of the overriding sense that this is nothing we haven’t heard before. That’s not too shabby though. Right? If, after repeated listenings, the only negative crtiticism that can be levelled at an album is that it’s lacking on originality then you can rest assured that it’s a quality product.
Quality is what smacks you about the face as you listen to People Hear What They See. The production and the lyrics show an artist with an assured touch. I’ve got to be honest and say that I’d never listened to Oddisee before this. My initial response was that I was listening to a MURS and Common collaboration. I haven’t been able to shake that impression yet.
Musically it sounds like we went to an all you can eat hip hop buffet that prides itself on having other music under the hot lights. The main dish of the album is made up of soulful hip hop that never gets too gritty. Oddisee was obviously feeling a little bit more adventurous with his condiments. He’s sprinkled on some orchestral arrangements, added a dash of Daft Punk style synth and garnished his dinner with some monster sub-bass that would get ravers reaching for their white gloves. It’s considered production and everything feels like it rests where it should but it’s perhaps a little too smooth. Maybe a little too expected. At no point through the album was I startled by anything.
You might think that’s not a problem but think back to the first time you heard El-P’s production. It seemed messy, untidy and almost unpleasant. That only lasted until your ear had been re-trained to understand what it was hearing. I’m afraid to say that you’ll not need to undergo any such process of re-alignment here.
It’s a shame because I suspect that if he put his mind to it Oddisee could, emboldened by the spirit of experimentation, teach us something new. A guy this talented should be carving his own niche. His own sound. He shouldn’t be content to make something that sits comfortably within the field. I hope that on his next outing he gets it together to put his head above the parapet. Some people might hate it. Others won’t. Most importantly though, any victories and their spoils will be entirely his.
Lyrically the album displays a degree of intelligence and wisdom. Oddisee does motivational speaking (Let it Go), his understanding of capitalist American society, (American Greed) and the vicious cycle of economic oppression that faces the young in America (Way in Way Out). These are all keenly observed by Oddisee. The problem is that I’ve heard these same subjects covered before and better.
For all of his undoubted talent Oddisee is a better producer than he is an MC. As discussed earlier his production shows real skill but lacks originality. His mic skills suffer from much the same thing. The microphone is a far less forgiving mistress though. It is not really good enough to be ‘ok’ once you pick it up. This album would have been elevated by having a gifted MC rather than a good one.
This album displays Oddisee’s prowess and that he cares about his product. It does also display a lack of ambition to find his own way or find his own sound. That’s saddening for me because this guy is clearly capable of greatness.
It’s a quality album and you won’t be wasting your money. This is proper hip hop and it’ll be interesting to follow his development as an artist. Let’s hope that Oddisee can hit a homer with his next album.