Oddisee started his show Monday night with a simple proclamation. “I’m from P.G. County, Maryland,” he told a room of fans and peers at Liv Nightclub in Northwest Washington. That’s when the Largo native unpacked a volatile rendition of “Ready to Rock,” from his 2012 album, “People Hear What They See.” Majestic horns blared throughout the modest U Street venue. Drummer Jon Laine tapped an intricate drum pattern over which Oddisee supplied a rich, double-time flow.
The rapper — clad in red low-top Nikes, straight-legged jeans and a brown, long-sleeved shirt — had a simple question: “Is y’all ready to rock?” “Yep! We ready to roll!” the audience responded on cue, finishing the line.
His performance felt like a homecoming. Before he moved to Brooklyn in 2010, Oddisee was a go-to producer for D.C. area rappers, his distinctive drums and soul samples reminiscent of Detroit producer J Dilla. Then in 2011, Oddisee made strides with “Rock Creek Park,” a mostly instrumental album that brought wider national attention to his genre-blending production techniques.
At Liv, Odd’s agility was on full display. His quintet breezed through expansive funk versions of “That Real” and “Let It Go,” the latter a “Shaft”-influenced blaxploitation jam with rolling guitar chords and floating strings. Even a couple of new rhymes found the mark; at certain times during the set, Oddisee spit a cappella verses from a forthcoming “Tangible Dream” mix tape that’s in progress. (He said he wrote at least one of the rhymes during the bus ride to Washington on Monday.) That night, the crowd seemed to embrace everything thrown its way. The volume was deafening, but Oddisee remained above it all, his unique Maryland drawl cutting through the volcanic clatter.
Midway through his performance, Oddisee truly came alive. “American Greed,” his sociopolitical jab at war and politics, had special resonance in the nation’s capital. “When George Bush took the oil from the soil, I was in front of the counter buying some milk from the Arabs,” Odd yelled atop military-style marching drums. “In the land of honey, I order fries from Chinese surviving off of what’s in the foil.”
He brought up yU and Uptown XO, fellow members of trio Diamond District, for energetic, yet chaotic renditions of “Do It All” and “I Mean Business.” Toine of local rap duo DTMD joined the headliner for “Different Now,” their collaborative ode to maturity.
Oddisee treated his final song, the laid-back “Think of Things,” as a victory lap. He reminded the crowd that while he lives elsewhere and travels abroad, he’s still a local dude at heart: “Peace out to P.G. County, MoCo, V.A., and all the surrounding / Areas of D.C. I rep that proudly.”
He was glad to be home, but now it’s back to the road.
Moore is a freelance writer.