It seems Rock Creek Park was inspired by Oddisee’s local scenic refuge while growing up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The Washington, D.C. woodland that is this album’s namesake represented somewhat of an escape from the metropolitan bustle for the Diamond District emcee/producer. Littered with cascading percussions and triumphant horns interpolated with occasional break beats, sonically, this ten-track largely instrumental offering is a serene detour from the conventional. Somehow, Rock Creek Park is equal parts progressive and nostalgic.
Fellow Diamond District-er, yU details the journey to Rock Creek Park’s monument laden landscape on opener, “Still Doing It.” “Feeling dynamite / Riding a bike / I’m downing Marlboro Pike, peddle at the speed of light / I hit a hill / Switch gears into a lighter one / Made it to the top and looked down peeping what I had done / Water bottle before I hit full throttle / Just a sip ‘cause a cramp could cause problems,” he raps over Oddisee’s hollow drums and funky bass riffs blaring subtly in the background. yU’s verses not only set the scene, but are this album’s only vocal contributions. In a sense, that’s Rock Creek Park’s coolest part. Oddisee succeeds in painting the narrative with no rapping required.
“Skipping Rocks,” with its wailing horn section layered lovely over subtle violins and groovy guitar strings feels like the soundtrack to a Spike Lee Joint or the opening scene to a blaxploitation flick. “All Along The River” screams relaxation while “The Carter Barron” screams triumph. “Uptown Cabaret” harkens Sugar Hill Gang’s, “Apache” when it first hops in, then settles into almost disco territory, then hops to a close. It’s enough to want to chant “Jump on it!” in celebration. Flares of distortion over a break beat and sporadic bouncing keys on “Closed After Dark” lurks more than the rest of the project and fittingly signals Rock Creek Park’s conclusion.
Oddisee continues to evolve as a producer. He continues to expand his range and perfect his layering. Rock Creek Park seamlessly blends live percussion with strings and blips and riffs and grooves. It’s a picturesque listen ready made for a movie score or moments of solitude and self reflection. It would be interesting to hear how he and his Diamond District cohorts would approach each instrumental, but honestly, raps aren’t necessary here. On some occasions, dope beats are all that’s needed.