It's been a long time since Oddisee made his debut on Jazzy Jeff's The Magnificent and started working with the likes of Talib Kweli, Little Brother, and his Low Budget crew. With compilations, seasonal EPs and the critically-acclaimed In The Ruff album from his group Diamond District, he's quietly proven himself as one of the hardest-working producers in the indie Hip Hop circuit. The dedication seems to have paid off in the Washington D.C. producer/emcee’s frequent flyer miles, as he’s kept a consistent stream of shows, recording, and visits around the world. Oddisee’s new instrumental disc Traveling Man is a concept project of sorts, as each of its 24 songs is a beat made in the city of its title. Thankfully, this project is more of the Oddisee that Hip Hop fans have grown to appreciate.
Traveling Man balances cohesion and versatility: each instrumental showcases a different feel for its city, but it’s still the same producer in each area. Many of the instrumentals here flawlessly capture the essence of the city in question: “NYC” embodies the bustle and motion of the Big Apple with its shuffling percussion, and “Long Beach” soothes with its plodding, Cali-friendly synths and bassline. Overseas locales get the business too, as “Paris” truly sounds like the city of love with its breezy woodwinds and female vocal loops. The concept probably helps the idea as much as the music, but a listen to the disc from top to bottom can actually simulate traveling from place to place, by taking on so many varied rhythms and moods.
Another highlight is how Oddisee maintains his own sound while adapting the sounds of other areas. The stomps, chants and synths of “Atlanta” wouldn’t sound out of place alongside productions by the likes of DJ Toomp or Shawty Redd, and the G-Funk sound captured in “South Central” successfully channels inspiration from older, c-walk-ready Dr. Dre records. Meanwhile, “Miami” would fit a Rick Ross project with its ominous horns. While some instrumental albums are filled with beats that would be difficult for emcees to rhyme over, the tracks here aren’t so left-field that a capable emcee couldn’t handle them. It would be interesting if Oddisee made another version of Traveling Man that featured emcees from each respective city rhyming over the beats to drive the homeliness of the instrumentals home.
Oddisee has shown his ability to make a cohesive album with his beats, and he’s shown a penchant for topical lyrics on his songs. Here, he showcases a combination of the two with beats that are equally conceptual and harmonious with each other. If Traveling Man is any indication, Oddisee’s going places in 2010.