"Mental Liberation" by Oddisee

Oddisee
Mental Liberation

Mello Music Group
2009

Review

Of Oddisee's prowess as a Hip-Hop Producer, there can be no doubt. On this album, he makes it clear that from a lyrical standpoint, he's no slouch either.

So here we are with an album full of Oddisee beats. That should be enough in and of itself. I've loved the tracks he's produced for J-Live so I was definitely looking forward to hearing this album.

A few general notes about this album: first, the album seems to be split into two distinct sides; side A consists of more traditional Hip-Hop beats and themes while side B brings about a more production-heavy and experimental sound to it. Secondly, the album has a metric ton of guest appearances that don't always work. Thankfully, Oddisee himself is always on point with both the beats and the rhymes and manages to salvage even the tracks where the guest appearances are a bit unnecessary.

What better way to start a record than to proclaim that you are going to make Hip-Hop cool again? I suppose by implication Oddisee wants to let you know that maybe Hip-Hop has lost something. Well, at least he manages to be convinced of that sentiment enough to want to construct an album to bring it back (by the way, is it me or is Hip-Hop always coming back? Does it ever leave?). At first, you would get a sense that this is truly a "solo" record. Well, as it turns out this isn't the case. There are only two out of the total of the twelve tracks that don't feature a guest spot. The most compelling guest spot comes near midway on the Ken Starr featured Q&A. This track to me demonstrates that Oddisee could have held the album down on his own and also that he has a very good understanding of the average Hip-Hop listener. On the track he says that:

I am asking questions
Do they really want the answers?
Really want to know what I'm about and what it stand for?
Nope, I don't think so
Nope, I don't think so
We gonna keep it simple
Everybody get your hands up

...true dat. Other notable collabos are "The Jungle (Featuring Hassan Mackey & Bilial Salaam)", Declaime's appearance on "Get Up", and J-Live's verse on "What's Crazy".

The first half of the album is excellent, but very straightforward Hip-Hop then starting with the track "Rhymes Get Written", things take a more experimental change. Although that track doesn't quite grab my attention, the J-Live and Stic Figa featuring "What's Crazy" is ridiculous! This track marries quick percussion beats with "Sanford and Son" influenced organ samples, playful synthesizer tones and Hip-Hop punchlines (the most quotable of which is when Oddisee proclaims that he "can't stop like Diddy in the background f**ing up the song").

Of the three songs on the album that I thought were just ok, mostly it was due to less than compelling content (Hip-Hop/drug game comparisons? Still?) or less-than-spectacular beats. Yet overall, Oddisee is putting his own spin on Hip-Hop music. I would have liked for his MC-producing tendencies to be toned down a bit and that he would have had more confidence in his own MC'ing abilities, but it works. This is a solid Hip-Hop record from a producer coming into the height of his abilities.

I have to spend a moment talking about the album artwork which is a very literal interpretation of the idea behind mental liberation. You've got a man focused with an open heart and a liberated mind breaking free from his (literal) chains. It's a nice thought that does a good job of demonstrating the overall theme of the album. It's nice to see an artist make the album artwork continue the theme of the music. The track where the theme is made definite is "Don't Stop" where Oddisee proclaims:

My mind and eyes open
and finally got my vocal motor
spoken murder herder homicide nervous
won't doze, no to those urges

Well, Oddisee has finally got his voice heard, all right, and he's got plenty of say. I could have done without so many guest appearances, but his production is on point as usual. I hope that his next solo release is truly solo.

4.167 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Hip Hop's Cool Again (03:10) 4
2. Let the Music (feat. LMNO) (02:32) 4
3. The Jungle (feat. Hassaan Mackey & Bilal Salaam) (03:46) 5
4. Get Up (feat. Declaime, Prince Po, yU & DJ Clear) (03:40) 4
5. Q & A (feat. Kenn Starr) (02:31) 5
6. Rhymes Get Written (feat. Silent Knight & XO) (03:38) 3
7. What's Crazy (feat. J-Live & Stik Figa) (03:23) 5
8. Cold For That (feat. Trek Life) (03:33) 3
9. Endure (remix) (feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow, MED & Rapper Pooh) (03:30) 5
10. Don't Sleep (remix) (feat. Invincible & Finale) (03:57) 5
11. Drugs Outside (remix) (feat. Black Milk, Rapper Pooh & DJ Romes) (04:02) 3
12. When Everything Changed (03:26) 4