The Micro-Chop Daily X #32–Oddisee Edition
A Micro-Chop playlist featuring 10 hand-picked instrumentals — every single day for an entire year.
Oddisee is a fascinating artist to study. The more his stature grows — from NPR Tiny Desk concerts to having a single Spotify song with close to 16 million streams — the more he continues to blur our understanding of mainstream and underground in the internet age.
As Oddisee changes our understanding of what it means to be mainstream and underground — two words which feel increasingly meaningless these days — he is also challenging our idea of what an artists can achieve without a hit record. To the average person with only a casual understanding of rap music and hip-hop culture, his name may be unfamiliar, yet he gets significant licensing money from some of the biggest sports media companies around for his music. “I just got two messages for two separate licensing opportunities. One from ESPN and one from a premiere league in Ireland,” he explained in a May of 2015 interview with DJBooth. “I’ll license a song to them and nobody will ever hear it, but the money I make from that is someone’s salary.”
That’s a rather remarkable statement. Today’s artists are navigating an increasing complex landscape where streaming is dominant yet people are craving physical releases at the highest rates in many years. It’s a confusing and overwhelming moment int time, and even with the slew of options that are available to the modern musician, monetizing your work in a meaningful way can feel like a Herculean challenge. Yet Oddisee is able to licence a single song for the amount of money an average person makes in a year, despite having few production credits for superstar level rappers.
Though financial success has not necessarily lead to super-stardom, widespread notoriety and fame doesn’t seem that important to Oddisee anyway — something he credits to his experiences as an American immigrant who has seen the stark contrast in potential life outcomes between two different countries. “I’ve been a very grounded individual since my childhood, and that has everything to do with going back and forth to the Sudan as a kid and seeing the poverty of a war-torn country,” he told Passion of the Weiss in a March of 2017 interview. “Coming back to America, you appreciate everything that you have and would take for granted if you hadn’t left. That had a profound impact on me as a child, as an adult, and as a businessman.”
In addition to his trips to Sudan as a child, Oddisee also credits his father for helping him build an understanding of how to navigate the inherent business challenges of being a musician and performer. His father showed him early on that creating multiple investments and revenue streams was vital to a financially healthy life. “I never had an aspiration to be a superstar,” Oddisee told Passion of the Weiss. “My father is a businessman and he’s a very good one. He taught me over and over that you can’t have one big thing. You have to have your hands in as many little things as possible.”
Oddisee is a walking embodiment of this philosophy. A relentless live performer who seems to always be on tour, he explained in the aforementioned DJ Booth interview how he organized his first European tour all by himself early on in his career. He also has also achieved levels of success rarely found on Bandcamp while also winning over a large audience on YouTube and streaming — his song “After Thoughts” is currently closing in on 16 million Spotify streams. As he masters touring and digital platforms, he also continues to push carefully designed and packaged physical releases.
We sometimes hold the mistaken belief that this level of business savvy leads to the death of creativity. If you’re familiar with Oddisee’s work, this certainly isn’t the case. With early releases dating all the way back to 2002, you can see the early flashes of brilliance on albums like Oddisee Instrumental Mixtape Volume One (“Rhyme and Reason” and “Flute Groove” are included here). At the same time, his growth as a producer is clearly seen with the maturity and polish demonstrated on 2013’s The Beauty In All.
In the end, whether this article inspires you to further study his impressive business acumen or you’re just here for the music, I’d love to hear what you think of today’s playlist. The thirty-second playlist in The Micro-Chop Daily X series features 10 Oddisee instrumentals hand-picked by me. You can further support Oddisee’s work by checking out his Bandcamp page.
Be on the lookout for The Micro-Chop Daily X #33 dropping tomorrow.