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Diamond District rapper and producer Oddisee uses free time to hunt down rappers. He’s up on his Google Alerts, Twitter, YouTube, you name it. Finding piggy-backers that liberally license his beats is a daily chore.
“I’m bombarded by the underdeveloped and overexposed,” Oddisee says. “I never have a problem with an artist rhyming on my beats for promotional purposes. But what’s happening is people use my name for exposure and then mask it as homage.”
No-name newbies sometimes leach onto flurries of free, instrumental material Oddisee disseminates. Since Oddissee is a budding underground name himself, it’s reasonable that new listeners would deduce a song titled “My Oddisee (Produced by Oddisee)” is, in fact, produced by Oddisee.
“I released [free music] to publicly diversify my style,” Oddisee says. “If I rapped over a Dilla beat five years ago, I’d be too low on the totem for anyone to notice. But now there’s guys on Twitter releasing The Oddisee EP the same day our album drops.”
For a voice as interesting and crisp as Oddisee’s, however, the subcultural space race toward his shit seems more rite of passage. Take Just Blaze’s “Exhibit C” beat, which in the winter months took all comers from Fabolous to Cassidy to a nation of cross-training nobodies, and became the season’s peak hip-hop moment.
Oddisee says: “Taking an old song and rapping isn’t ‘produced by Oddisee.’ Trek’s new album is produced by Oddisee. I know him. I spoke to him.”
Today, West Covina, Calif.’s Trek Life releases Everything Changed Nothing, an album completely cooked from Odd’s learned love of West Coast sounds. It’s a record framed from narratives about the black migration to California via the Midwest, and about happy cookouts commemorating both a law school graduation and Trek’s incarcerated brother.
“I touched on everything I wanted, ” says Trek Life. “We had bullet points written out and I penned 80 percent of the songs in two weeks. The goal was to go beyond Crips and Bloods. It’s about the duality of growing up out west, about wanting to rap while being normal.”
As the pair arranged shows, the plan to collaborate became a looming mission marked by nerdy late-night arguments over samples. Oddisee eventually bunked for two weeks in makeshift space provided by Trek’s sister.
“[Recording] was like a sleepover. We’d stay up late, drink Coronas, and spend nights at Taco Bell. I broke Oddisee’s health-nut diet,” says Trek.
“It was like studying for a part,” says Oddisee. “I ate junk. I lived it. I had Trek play me his childhood records. I wanted to cover G-Funk and Cali underground. The best regional hip-hop works as a tour guide. We became a factory: I’d wake up, make a track, he’d come home and take it to work the next day and return with a song.”
Everything Changed Nothing specifically refers to the birth of Trek’s baby daughter. His “everything,” his liason into adulthood and the corresponding responsibilities, doesn’t detract from hip-hop life plans. Contextually, it’s a work by rap dudes from suburbs—-West Covina is a Los Angeles enclave, Oddisee hails from Prince George’s County—-during a rap cycle wherein corner-hustle talk isn’t shocking.
“The suburbs financially supported hip-hop forever and now, people just want interesting, surprising music,” Oddisee says. “This is just a return to form: Rakim, De La Soul, those acts hailed from Long Island and that’s what influenced me.”
“Where we’re from still matters,” Trek says. “You still have to represent home. People wondering if the sunshine or the girls make L.A. rap upbeat matters. The difference is where you’re from is no longer taboo.”
LISTEN: Trek Life – “Ready to Live”