Oddisee’s “After Thoughts” Has 11 Million Streams on Spotify
Rapper/producer and face of the Mello Music Group franchise Oddisee dropped a very profound tweetstorm on Sunday, November 19th, 2017. If you’re interested in sifting through the entire thing, it starts here.
After wrapping up the Beneath The Surface tour with his Good Company Band, the DC-native seemed to be in a particularly reflective mood. In the midst of his tweets, Oddisee wrote “I’m doing my part to make the world consider Hip-Hop as serious art form & not just disposable tunes for the masses. There is a place in populace for Hip-Hop to be educational & entertaining.”
If anyone has proved this to be true over the course of their career, it’s Oddisee. He doesn’t get widespread play on mainstream radio. He doesn’t have what we would traditionally classify as a hit record. He just cranks out album after album of impressive-as-hell beats and lyrics, mixing traditional rap albums with all-instrumental LPs.
“We don’t need everyone to like everything for it to be valued & have real worth.”
Though some know him best for his instrumental work, Oddisee’s skills on the mic are not to be denied. Want thought-provoking lyricism that weaves together his thoughts on racism, the justice system, law enforcement, and whitewashing in the matter of a few lines? Look no further than “Like Really” from his recent The Iceberg album, where the Mello Music artist raps,
How you gonna make us great, when we were never really that amazing (nah like really)/Take it back to what, I don’t find hanging black lives entertaining (nah like really)/How do you police the streets of a neighborhood you do not engage in (nah like really)/Why a brother get three for a sack while your brother go free for a raping (nah like really)
How you make a film about Egypt with all leading roles caucasian(nah like really)/How you saying all lives matter when the stats say we are not adjacent (nah like really)/Tell me if I got it all wrong, like I signed on the line but I didn’t read the form/And the fine print is all about the times we mourn, and the color of my skin means I gotta be strong
Amidst the current bitter division in America, these kind of logical, honest lyrics won’t help you crossover. Oddisee himself is very aware of this, as he noted in his tweetstorm. “The path I’ve chosen is niche. I don’t expect the masses to appreciate it. Those that do have afforded me the privilege of making my love my career. For that I’ll never consider myself slept on. We don’t need everyone to like everything for it to be valued & have real worth.”
“I’m doing my part to make the world consider Hip-Hop as serious art form & not just disposable tunes for the masses.”
The hard truth is making timeless art doesn’t always pay immediate dividends. If you take a stand on important issues, chances are you’ll alienate some listeners. But if you’re willing to commit to a slow and steady stream of quality output, year after year, you’ll find an audience and some level of success. And Oddisee is showing every single independent musician just how impressive that level of success can be with the right amount of thought, care, and time.
After many years of building a fiercely loyal fan base through touring and a carefully crafted online presence, we’re witnessing the career arc of someone who seems 100% content to taking the long view with his career.
And though Oddisee may have chosen the niche path and the long view, he’s proving that niche music can slowly grow to match the performance of the well-known. Take his song “After Thoughts”, the lead single from 2013’s The Beauty In All. An instrumental song off of an all instrumental album, “After Thoughts” is closing in on 11.5 million streams on Spotify, putting it just a bit behind “Nas Is Like”. Despite having under 60 thousand Twitter followers compared to Nas’s 2+ million, Oddisee has an instrumental song that could soon stand side by side with a well-known track by the creator of Illmatic.
“The fans I have were earned not purchased.”
And it isn’t just the Spotify streams for “After Thoughts” that are impressive. The Beauty In All is pulling in incredible sales on Bandcamp — along with the rest of Oddisee’s catalog — while “After Thoughts” is also closing in on 1.3 million plays on YouTube. Oddisee has taken full control of his creative destiny by studying the music industry, the media landscape, and the current trends that control how we listen to music. Instead of balking at it, he’s using it to his advantage.
He became a titan of Bandcamp, embraced all streaming platforms, shot and edited a slew of impressive music videos, and realized that investing in each separate niche of the internet creates a funnel that benefits his catalog as a whole. Instead of waiting for a CEO or A & R to empower him, he empowered himself. As he said on Twitter, “I’m thankful for not having the backing of someone else’s fortune to start my career. The fans I have were earned not purchased.”
And though the financial gains may not yet be at the level of someone with a wealthy backer, Oddisee appears grateful for the path he has followed thus far. “That fact has made me useless to those gate keepers that need a hand in an artist pocket to make a career for themselves,” he said. “But it’s given me such wealth in perspective in my own right.”
“I’m thankful for not having the backing of someone else’s fortune to start my career.”
Despite the gratitude, Oddisee seems ready to move out of his comfort zone and take things to the next level. As he says in his tweetstorm, he wants to work with rappers that have a far reach and a higher level of visibility. He hopes, “in 2018 you put your egos aside & let’s get some work done.”
Whether or not these unnamed artists take Oddisee up on his offer remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure — Oddisee is one of the leaders of a growing group of artists who won’t compromise their sound for commercial appeal and aren’t afraid to flip the bird to existing power structures. By building a massive catalog, taking control of his destiny, and outperforming some of his major label counterparts, Oddisee has successfully blurred the line between niche and popular. If you’re still unfamiliar with his work, do yourself a favor and start getting familiar now.