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Gig Review: Oddisee at Neck of the Woods

Oddisee at Neck of the Woods

Friday 10 May 2024

Words by Amiria Gentry-Tuck

 

If you wanted a rapid-fire summary of Oddisee’s Auckland show, I have two words for you, spoken by the man himself as he entered the stage, "I'm him". Oddisee, I have to say I would agree. 

Brooklyn-based artist Oddisee returned to Auckland territory Friday night, delivering a masterclass in energy and charisma, inevitably capturing and engaging his crowd. In the rapper's own words from his 2015 single 'Thats Love', he "Never did it for the praise." As a niche acclaim of creative freedom, Oddisee remains content on the genre's periphery. His work becoming more nuanced and cultivated, and his sense of place ingrained in his stage presence. An energy all but withholding.

Music vibrated across the walls as we bounced down the stairs. Quickly the corners of the 'Neck of The Woods' filled. Anticipation proliferated, eventually to be met by a refined ensemble of musical dedication carrying poetic narrative and political prose. Oddisee stood confidently, effortlessly engaging his audience. There is something so endearing about the panoramic crowd he captures. An astray of black denim jackets, eclectic box-dye repping girls, fellow university students and clusters of business workers still in their suites retiring from their 9-5 for the weekend, all swayed and bounced in motion. We were unanimous and euphoric. 

Oddisee's comedic relief was distributed between heavily contextual songs. Singing 'We gon be alright', with the crowd echoing, only to conclude the song with "Well, Drakes not. But WE gon be alright", followed by an audience poll because, yes, the Drake vs Kendrick beef made its way into the night's agenda. But I think the night's most illuminating detail was Oddisees's ability to balance his light-hearted energy with irrevocably meaningful testimony. At one point, when Oddisee was talking to the crowd, he said, "Share and expand your empathy for people who don't look like you", an example of how he carried himself with a knowledge of social justice devoid of any underlying performative intent. The best way to articulate the feeling Oddisee projected was genuine and empathetic. He echoed a desire to understand people as individual human beings, not collective ideals. Before performing ‘People Watching’ Oddisee iterated that the song was based on moving to New York and people "assuming a new identity like they are cosplaying". 

For those who've followed Oddisee's career, I would argue his setlist uncovered a stable equilibrium between the songs that began to refine his career (like ‘Ready To Rock’ from the 2012 album ‘People Hear What They See’), and his newer songs (from his most recent 2023 album ‘To What End’),  which reflect his evolution as an artist and being. Oddisee made the crowd laugh numerous times, grins and smirks traced the faces of his admiring crowd. At one point he pulled an ecstatic boy from the audience on stage with him, his face beamed with pure joy, a joy that you couldn't help but share.

Before I impart my closing thoughts, I want to take this opportunity to credit the openers. Jayday, in the words of my grammatical-anarchist notes app bullet points, "opener 1: jayday= incredibly bubbly & inviting energy, yk when you can just tell someone's a good and deserving person. her." Mazbou Q, your rallying for representation is a perspective the music scene will hopefully see more often. Your, Gino October, Warren Duncan, and Phodiso's energy and dedication are admirable. 

A positive atmosphere filled Neck of the Woods that night. Handshakes, daps, and hugs from both members of the audience and each other as the artists switched from the stage to the crowd. It is this very atmosphere that makes live music so incredibly special. Overall, Oddisee proved once again that his melodies and lyrical narrative capture the experiences and novel emotions we've all evolved through, a superpower that remains on this tour indefinitely. Oddisee makes what, as an annoying psych student, I can only affectionately refer to as music for developed frontal lobes. Music that speaks to the parts of us that recognise the development and growth we inevitably age through. Acknowledging self-destructive tendencies and formulating concerted efforts to adapt. It all comes back to Oddisee's declaration of his truth and what he wants to get across; embracing all that's truly meaningful. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's one hell of a charismatic man. Balancing humour with social and political truth, whānau wisdom and pure talent? To truly grasp what I'm saying, you must experience Oddisee's electrifying performance firsthand.