A Week’s Worth Album Review: Oddisee’s “To What End”

By Daniel Paiz

Another under-the-radar album is the topic of conversation as A Week’s Worth Album Review digs into Oddisee’s new project, To What End. Oddisee’s 12th studio album is one of reflection, and merges thoughtful rhymes and soulful sounds. Six years have passed since Oddisee’s last album, and it sounds like life between albums has made its impact on the D.C. emcee.

Oddisee’s observational skills are on point, and each track delivers. From the funky R&B feel of “Try Again” to the Freeway-assisted “Ghetto to Meadow”, there’s a spectrum of sounds as well that grabbed this listener’s attention. What really makes this project worthy of such praise is that there aren’t filler tracks; sometimes, a project has a track that feels like it was only meant to be a transition. That’s not really the case here, as each track has its own story, and adds to the overall investigation of to what end a listener will go to on particular subject matter.

What Stood Out

Sonically pleasing are two words that come to mind when listening to this album. Each track has an energy about it, something that draws you in musically and then moves into the background to make way for the rhymes. There isn’t a track on here that disappointed; however, a few stood out more than the others. In recent history, the writer before you focused a bit more on the beats and sounds on a record, to try and catch up with a lifelong interest in rhymes. That effort was put to the test with this album, because there are some verses that have an overt musicality to them. One case in particular has to be “How Far”:

Peddled in by the melanin to Europeans fleeing their skeletons,

in need of a reckoning, while I reckon I’m selling them,

addiction in a civil suited garment I settled in,

live from the colonies of cotton, tobacco, sugar and rotten planning,

harvesting a promise wasn’t rooted when I was planting,

equity not equality I’m demanding,

Your past or my future, who wants it more? Panic

verse 2 from Oddisee on “How Far

The horns on this track are fantastic, along with the bass line. But those sounds are subdued during the verse, and at the end of verse two, there’s a melody in these words. The delivery, the fluidity and bounciness from line to line here is so smooth. Oddisee is such an effective rhymer that what’s heard here and on other songs has a balance of reflecting between historical events and contemporary times. “How Far” is another look into the current state of the US and the world, and how historical injustices haven’t been corrected. Change and growth are required to undo what’s been done. A major barrier to doing so is challenging comfort levels and the status quo, per usual.

Oddisee isn’t being overtly political either, but rather reminding listeners what’s still having to change. Other questions of life also pop up in other records, including what effort one will put into pursuing their goals, building relationships, themselves, etc. Another track that has more of this reflective tone would be “Choices”, featuring veteran emcee Phonte:

Just so I can roll with the punches and the uppercuts,

under the pressure I feel it,

when choosing a life that is neither ideal nor idyllic,

my friends in low places keep me in high spirits

Phonte’s verse on “Choices

Phonte delivers every time he raps, and this one adds even more smoothness to the track. During live shows, this North Carolina emcee says he has grown rap, and the reflection here is indicative of that. Life often contains grey areas and navigating that is all anyone can do to survive. If you or I choose to blame our choices on others, that does a disservice to ourselves as well as whoever faces the brunt of that blame. Phonte and Oddisee remind listeners of that, all the while backed with a subdued yet driven combination of sounds.

Final Verdict

“To What End” poses this simple question in a number of ways: to what extent will one pursue their goals, to what extent will one reflect and build their relationships, themselves, and their lives. The positive thing about this open-ended question is that it’s a rhetorical question, it brings the listener into different spaces in terms of life. Life is always on the move, and sometimes our action/inaction is a reflection of that; therefore, it posits that everyone should reflect on if that movement or lack thereof is leading towards what one aims for. The abstract description thus far is because there is no singular answer here, only pondering and a realization that’s different for each listener. That’s such a beautiful tool and body of music to craft for everyone. 

Every single track on this album deserves the attention of your ears. A few tracks that stood out for this listener includes “People Watching”, “Choices”, “Try Again”, and “Hard to Tell”. Each track fits exactly where it was placed, and the cohesiveness of it all will make this a dark horse album of the year contender when 2023 comes to a close.


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