Odd Man Out

When I was a teenager I was pretty intimidated by hip hop music. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. Some of it I liked quite a bit. But the problem for me is that I’m a pretty introverted guy for the most part. In conversation with friends and acquaintances I can hold my own, for sure. And in work situations I can be the take charge guy, but it wasn’t always like that. Growing up I preferred to not be in the limelight. I wasn’t the life of the party, nor was I the center of attention. I held court in my bedroom most of the time, either listening to countless hair metal and Rush cassettes or I was plunking on my guitar. Of course being a promising guitar slinger at 15 AND being an introvert was a scary prospect, too. Everyone wanted me to “play something, man!” No,….man. I preferred the solace of a dimly lit bedroom, headphones, and my guitar plugged into my Rockman. That’s how I rocked out.

IMG_2136So what does all this sharing and self reflection have to do with me and rap music? Well, even though I secretly craved to drop the beat and shut someone down in a rap fight that wasn’t my personality. I always felt rap and hip hop were for the extroverts. Those folks craving to be seen and heard. Those who could walk into a room full of strangers and leave that room with a room full of friends. And really, mainstream hip hop was(and maybe still is) a lot of bragging and bravado. Lots of machismo and misogynistic crap. I felt the beats and grooves weren’t enough to get me to sit at the hip hop table in the cafeteria. And really, a lot of the people at the time I was in high school listening to rap and hip hop were the douche bags that would push you from behind in the hallway going to class and say nasty things to girls that would’ve rather not heard it. These guys weren’t the best representation of the hip hop community, yet that’s all I had to go on back in 1991 in this godforsaken town. Still, I dug the Beastie Boys once Paul’s Boutique hit, and I liked Run DMC, LL Cool J, De La Soul, and Urban Dance Squad….secretly in my bedroom. Despite me being a quiet soul, I loved the beats and the grooves. Hip hop had the grooves that my pasty white, long-haired LA metal bands terribly lacked.

Well fast forward to, like, just last year when I discovered the world of instrumental hip hop. I was oblivious to the instrumental hip hop album. I guess it makes sense as these producers are trying to get performers to use their beats for their songs, so the producer makes an instrumental tape of their beats and shops it around in the hopes of a Snoop Dogg, Kanye, or Jay Z biting. Somewhere along the line guys like J Dilla, Flying Lotus, and DJ Shadow realize that these beat tapes sort of stand on their own. They can release these instrumental albums and people are gonna dig ’em, rhymes or not. Well for someone like me this is the best. I can get down to the grooves and not feel mildly embarrassed with overtly sexual or drug references while I’m picking up my son from school.

My love of the instrumental hip hop began with Flying Lotus. I quickly picked up most of his albums, with Los Angeles being the closest to a straight up instrumental hip hop album. That one concentrates on groove with a healthy dose of atmosphere throughout. Everything that came after was far more out there and, dare I say, psychedelic at times. I love all his records, but Los Angeles is my go-to for straight up groove and feel. Earlier in the year I picked up J Dilla’s Donuts. That one is killer, man. It feels like Miles Davis’ On The Corner processed through some urban time machine and spit out grittier and even groovier. It’s a testament to the soul of Detroit and J Dilla’s love of music. DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… is yet another I find fascinating. It feels just as much like an indie record as it does a straight up instrumental hip hop album. I love the longer tracks on that one. I also think it’s DJ Shadow’s best record.

IMG_2138My newest find is Oddisee’s The Odd Tape. I first found out about Oddisee a couple of years ago when a friend recommended his album People Hear What They See. For me, that album is the perfect mix of smart lyrics, catchy wordplay, and great beats. He doesn’t do the violence, drugs, and sex thing in his lyrics. They’re socially conscious, which I appreciate. I also got into Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music that year as well…which in turn made me a huge Run The Jewels fan(a little more on the expletive side of things, so I listen to them on my headphones during workouts.

What I didn’t know was that Oddisee makes his own beats and has released a couple instrumental albums, one of which is the new The Odd Tape. The Odd Tape is very much soul-inflected. Musically it reminds me of the 70s, with a street soul and gritty groove vibe throughout. Oddisee doesn’t seem interested being hard or tough. His instrumental tracks have an upward swing to them. You can’t help but feel good listening to them. He’s a guy that I can dig both his instrumental tracks as well as his tracks with rhymes on them.

IMG_2135So I’m still that painfully awkward pale guy, but I feel I’ve loosened up a bit. These instrumental hip hop records have opened a whole new world of groove to this guy. And also a whole slew of albums I can play in the car with my kids and not feel embarrassed over as well.

And really, I’m not nearly as pale as I used to be.

17 thoughts on “Odd Man Out

  1. First I wanna say, I totally relate to being the guy who would rather hold court with a few friends in my room and a pile of records…secondly, 91-92 was essentially when I stopped paying attention to Hip-Hop. at least the media’s representation of it and it’s subsequent downslide in creativity etc. The same douche bags that used to shove us from behind ruined both Hip-Hop and Punk music..remember this was around ‘The Year that Punk Broke’ also, so you caught the tail end of it with the groups you mentioned above. The 7-10 years prior were amazing to be aware of, I was lucky enough to catch onto it around 84-85.

    I also enjoyed the brief ‘re-endtroduction’ of musicality and craft in the genre with Shadow’s debut and there were a few things out around the mid-late 90’s that re-energized things like the Mo-wax boxed sets, Beatminerz releases, DJ Food comps…all had killer breaks and hooks and a true return to form of the days of early Hip-Hop which essentially worked best instrumentally.

    I get more into this stuff in an older post, if you are interested:

    It’s a long one btw. enjoy at your leisure!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes. I will dig into your post this evening. Thank you!

      And yeah, I totally remember when the underground was forced above ground. The guys that would’ve beaten you up for listening to Big Black and Minor Threat in 1985 were reveling in the pseudo punk and hardcore by 1993. They were all purchasing their grunge-wear their sophomore year in college and thought they’d expanded their minds. Sure, bro. Those were dark times. I rode it out renting VHS tapes to locals and experimenting on a 4-track cassette recorder.

      I’m a latecomer to hip hop. I just had to find my in. The producers I think are my in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yap the early 90’s was when the Music died for me’ oh I still grasped on to the “Rock n’ Roll’ of 69’ (That’s Rock n’ Roll’) and on through the 1970’s and it sucked bad when Rock legends like Steve Ray Vaughn died in Plane crashes’ you know’ like why Steve Ray man! Why not Millievanille or Vanilla ize for Fuxsake! I would cringe when I would hear ********** or *****!

    ‘Anyways ‘oh’ thanks for being honest Brother’

    …also I need to state that I was always a few years or five or ten behind in discovering music and movies. I mean when a really good band came out and I took my first glance first spin’ I would put them aside’ no interests, but then five year on and I listen to their LP again or hear a song’ and I am like where have these guys been? “Hay you guys you have to check this band out” and they would reply back with: “Oh Dude! ‘Rip Van Winkle’ I heard them on ‘Don Krishner’s’ ‘Saturday night live Rock Show on TV, back in 74′ where have you been? And so Yes I am convinced I am in some sort of time slip here… Scratches at glass back window, scream miming wait… “stop the buss! Hay wait let me in”… as the red tail lights disappeared into the night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man, Stevie Ray was such a loss, for me and the world. He was at his prime; he was drug free, healthy, and making the most vital music of his career when that chopper went down. I was in high school when he died and was playing ‘In Step’ and the Vaughan Brothers album pretty regularly. Like Hendrix, no one can fill his boots.

      Nothing wrong with being behind when it comes to music. It just means you’ve got something to look forward to every few years.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really interesting stuff. I still prefer my hip-hop, umm, old skool (as we rural Welsh types say). I don’t tend to think of DJ Shadow as hip-hop actually – I put him up there in a separate category with all the really cool Mo Wax stuff that was being released at the time.

    I’ll definitely give this a listen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well I’m not as hip as you, so I categorize this stuff all wrong. Maybe that’s why I like DJ Shadow…because it’s not so much hip hop.

      Give Oddisee a listen. I think you’ll like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I like this, JH. Cursory listen judging going on, but yeah …

    As for DJ Shadow, I lost touch after The Private Press, but Endtroducing is one of my all time favourites. Genius.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Instrumental hip hop? I am bookmarking this post for name references. THANKS!

    Also, great write-up. Being an introvert in a world that demands extroverts can be frightening and tiring. Glad you found ways to deal!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. Yeah, my insular self has gotten better with years passing. Once you have kids you’re sort of forced out of your own head and have to deal with more than your own neurosis. Lol

      The instrumental hip hop is the soundtrack in my head lately, and I’m not complaining.


  6. Great read! There’s lots of the Hip Hop you are looking for out there. It can be hard to find with the mainstream stuff getting most of the promotion. Hip Hop is for all kinds of people including introverts. it can bring out the extroverted side that’s in there!

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think? Let me know

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.