Emcee and music producer Oddisee’s twelve track instrumental album The Beauty in All (2013) is an emblem of his creative process. He tours and performs between 100 to 120, sometimes 180 shows a year, so to make music he’s adjusted his recording studio to a mobile one with a hard drive full of samples, headphones, and a laptop. In an interview on Nah Right, Oddisee shared that his music is influenced by his environment, “I’m always trying to find the beauty in everything I see. I’m fortunate enough to travel and see the world through my music, and I always want to put that back into my records.” The Beauty in All was made while he was on the road. In finding the album’s mood Oddisee said, “I used a lot of darker organ sounds. A lot of lo-fi drums. Things that were intentionally imperfect to create something beautiful at the same time.”
If The Beauty in All is Oddisee’s travelogue, then the track “After Thoughts” on the
album is the soundscape of my breakup.
My taste in music before I met D went as far as the Top 40 hits. Back then my attention was fleeting, as is with most pop music. For eight years, D brought music into my life with his turntables, his impressive record collection, and his encyclopedic knowledge of hip hop, funk and soul, rhythm and blues, and jazz. He introduced me to some of my favorite musicians and songs, including Oddisee’s “After Thoughts.”
In our relationship, D sampled music and made beats, while I read and wrote. His records. My books. It was a solid foundation. Whenever we moved, and I was reminded of how heavy his crates of records and my boxes of books were, I use to joke that in a flood or a tsunami, we’d be the first couple to drown.
When he moved out, I was surprised at how fast it happened. It took just a day for all 800+ of his records, his clothes, his music equipment, his sports gear, his beer-stained house slippers, his desk, his brewing kit, his record shelves, the futon, his heirloom poker table, his bee toothbrush holder, his speakers, his dominoes, his flat screen TV, his backpacking gear...all of it gone, and my books left where they had always been. I realize now that the essence of being with someone is rarely entangled in stuff or things (unless you have assets). It’s the rest of it that’s difficult. It’s the rest of it that can last days, months, maybe even years to process. It's what makes the end of a relationship feel like death. Grief has no fixed timeline, nor does it care to schedule when it wants to visit.
The last time D and I were in San Francisco, we were driving over the hills leaving the city. I was reclined in the passenger seat with the window down, my fingers reaching at the warm breeze, plucking the intermittent streams of sunlight. I had had too much alcohol the night before. Blurry-eyed I watched the pastel Victorians blink by, everything saturated. I replayed “After Thoughts” over and over because the tempo made me feel less ill – a rising organ, a gospel emanating from the electronic ether, holograms of blue whales swimming slowly in the oceanic sky, then the piano and the lo-fi drums, simple and guiding – like the hangover was the only and worst thing that was happening. “After Thoughts,” the song on repeat, would be the last piece of music D and I would ever listen to together.
In creating the album, Oddisee said “…like most of my records, I try to theme them around something I’m observing in life. The theme of this record was paying attention to the things that we take for granted. The ugly things that make the beautiful things.”
The first time I heard “After Thoughts” D and I were moving through another landscape in another car, probably driving to Mount Bachelor with his skis and my snowboard clamped onto the roof rack. The title of the track had seemed appropriate then playing in the background of a world muffled in snow. It was the halcyon sound of nothing coming after.
Now, on the other side of “After Thoughts” are just more memories, like a Monday coming upon an evening in March, a train passing through the Central Coast of California, the hills dimming until they disappeared to reveal my warped reflection in the window, the cords to my ear buds running alongside my cheeks, and my hand discreetly wiping the tears away.
“The Beauty in All," Oddisee says, "is about the flaws and mistakes that give life its character and worth – how even ignorance can give light to knowledge.”