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Twin Town High (vol. 8)
Oddjobs - Local Hip Hop group makes good in Brooklyn
Wednesday 21 May @ 12:43:08
by Deuce Cities Styles
all photos by Nick George
Duece Cities Styles recently spoke with members of Oddjobs, who are currently pushin’ their new release Shopkeeper’s Wife with a national tour. About to rock a show in Tallahassee, Fla., Crescent Moon, Nomi, Advizor and DJs Deetalx and Anatomy gave us the word over the phone. From both sides of the Duece Cities, Oddjobs have made quite a name for themselves over the last few years. They have now relocated to Brooklyn, N.Y., last year representing Midwest Hip Hop. They’ve been holding it down ever since. We had a question or two for them and here’s how it went down:
Duece Cities Styles: Hello?
DJ Deetalx: Ello?
DCS: Hey, what’s up?
Deetalx: What’s goin’ on Man?
DCS: So did you guys get all set up?
Deetalx: Yeah, We’re in Tallahassee.
DCS: What’s it like down there?
Deetalx: Fuckin’ Hot man! It’s like Minneapolis in mid-July or some shit…town doesn’t look too interesting. There’s a lot of wack graffiti everywhere!
DCS: It’s all wack?!
Deetalx: Yeah, (Haha)…I dunno, that’s how it goes, though.
DCS: So, what’s been the big reaction to your shows so far?
Deetalx: It’s been good, man. We’ve been out and around for like three weeks so far, and we’re doing some markets that we’ve never played before. So yeah, as a whole it’s been very good. They’ve got a lot of people, especially on this tour. It’s been good for us; we’re getting a lot of new fans.
DCS: So are you guys headlining a lot of shows?
Deetalx: We headlined for a couple of weeks in April, and since we made our way out to California we’ve been touring with Zion I, Lyrics Born (from Latyrx,) Lifesavas and Diverse. We’re playing in the middle of the lineup.
DCS: That’s not bad at all then!
Deetalx: It’s good man! We’re really enjoying it!
DCS: What’s going on with your label?
Deetalx: Third-Earth Music has been our label for the last year, which basically just helps get our album out there.
DCS: It’s just for distribution?
Deetalx: It’s for catalog distribution through Caroline distro, kinda like Def Jux and other independent labels. We just work with them on a project-by-project basis. We’re not committed to them for any set periods of time or anything.
DCS: So you have total creative freedom over what you do?
Deetalx: Oh yeah definitely, 100 percent. They still tell us if they like a song or cover design or anything like that, but we still have control over it.
Anatomy and Deetalx use turntables and an Akai MPC2000 to create beats live on stage. Oddjobs have incorporated a short DJ set into the middle of their performances. The set features Deetalx scratching and juggling on his turntables while Anatomy works his MPC 2000 and one turntable. Their five-minute showcase drew a loud response in Columbia, MO when Crescent Moon asked the crowd to say, "God damn, that DJ made my day."
DCS: Do you do the music production and write lyrics?
Deetalx: Both myself and DJ Anatomy (the other DJ on Oddjobs), do all the production and scratches and all the music. We pretty much take care of the overall production of the entire album. We leave the lyrics to the emcees though.
DCS: Do you use a drum machine?
Deetalx: It’s a combination of a lot of stuff. We use samplers, keyboards, turntables, pro-tools and live musicians.
DCS: We were listening to the album and were pretty surprised by how live your sound is.
Deetalx: I think we’re able to keep the essence and still utilize the benefits of live musicians. Our whole thing has been adding what we feel a song needs, not just having a live musician to have one, or only using samples for a song. We’ve been just doing our own thing and blending the two together. I think its dope because we get a live feel and still have a real organic Hip Hop sound at the same time.
DCS: Could you give a description of what you guys do from a musician’s perspective that would let some of the Hip Hop heads out there that haven’t heard your stuff get an idea of what they’re buying or what they’ll see at a show.
Deetalx: I think it’s more organic Hip Hop music that’s different but doesn’t stray away from a traditional Hip Hop sense. At the same time it doesn’t hold on to all the rules all the time, but I think it’s kinda experimental but more organic, interesting, never repetitive, and we like to have a lot of changes in the music and throughout the song, and high quality lyricism is not based around the same concept that a hundred other groups are on.
DCS: There’s a lot of Hip Hop out there but the mass majority of people don’t get a lot of different Hip Hop. What sets you apart from most groups that are out there?
Deetalx: I think especially right now we’ve gained such an array of influences, you know, and after living in both Minneapolis and New York we’re starting to be alienated from any particular cross section of a genre of either Midwest, West Coast, or East Coast Hip Hop. I feel like everything is starting to blend into it. On some of our newer stuff you’ll hear that gritty East Coast influence come through but we’ll have this Midwest notion about the music. I think we’re trying to encompass all of these styles into our style so what sets us apart is the creative depth that goes into our music. There’s a lot of times that we’ll do a couple of beats or songs a day, and other times it takes a week or two just to write one song. We have a vision process that I think is unique, especially—since there’s five of us there’s five different perspectives so we’re able to filter out some things. If it were only one or two of us we could be like “yeah, that’s dope” but now if two of us like something, a few more may be like “No, change that,” so there’s a lot of checks to our music before we finish up. Within the group we’ve got such a wide style that we get to take all those tastes and work it into the music until we all agree on it.
After three shows in Minneapolis, Oddjobs passes through the Boondocks of Iowa on their way into Missouri. Crescent Moon shows off his gas station souveniers while Deetalx fills up their oil-burning minivan.
DCS: When did you guys first start doing things in the Twin Cities?
Deetalx: I’d say 1996.
DCS: ’96? That’s a good amount of time.
Deetalx: That was mostly Bon Apetit and Intermedia Arts shows for a couple years but we released our first tape in ’97 around the time we were juniors in high school, and then Conflict and Compromise when we were seniors, and basically we’ve put out another album close to every year after that.
DCS: So how many altogether then?
Deetalx: We have the CMI Tape, Conflict and Compromise, Absorbing Playtime, The Whereabouts of hidden bridges [a bootleg with Eyedea], Live at the Bryant Lake Bowl [live album with Heiruspecs and Typical Cats], Drums, & Funboy EP that has a Japanese version that’s only available in Japan.
DCS: How did it get to Japan? The Internet?
Deetalx: No, it was just a distributor that got like mad requests from Japan for it. So they did a limited 5,000 presses for it in Japan, then our new EP, Shopkeepers Wife, which just came out about a month ago, which is what we’re touring for now…so that’s the catalog.
DCS: That’s tight. I noticed on Drums it said CMI productions, so what’s the deal with CMI in relation to Oddjobs? Is CMI a Greater crew or a crew within Oddjobs or something?
Deetalx: CMI was the crew that Oddjobs came out of that used to be real thick. It was Graff Writers, B-Boys, emcee’s, DJ’s and all that stuff.
DCS: So you guys still rep that, but it’s a different bigger project basically?
Deetalx: Yeah, I mean, it’s basically just us now, you know what I’m sayin’. It’s filtered down to that so that’s just the business side off Oddjobs is the CMI Productions. You know, what we use as our Moniker for everything we put out.
DCS: I like how that evolved. We’ve talked a little about how you have such a live feel, now, how often do you use live musicians in your songs?
Deetalx: It’s really centered around what Anatomy and I feel is right. We don’t really sit around and co-write songs per se with live musicians, it’s more like we’ll print a beat and we feel it needs a base line or a guitar or something like. That then we’ll go to either Sean McPherson [bass player of Heiruspecs] or Sean Bones, or someone else and try to get a part from them. But as far as the production process, it’s still very much in our grasp You know, there’s not very much that goes on with the beats that we didn’t plan out. Well, I’m gonna switch up the phone to someone else so we get some different perspectives.
DCS: Sounds good, man.
Deetalx: Alright man, thanks.
P.O.S., Nomi and Crescent Moon freestyle at the merchandise booth in the back of Shattered Nightclub.
Phone passed to Crescent Moon
Crescent Moon: Hello? This is Alexi, aka Crescent Moon.
DCS: Hey What’s up?
Crescent: How you doin’?
DCS: Feelin’ alright! I was wondering, have you guys had to overcome any obstacles that may have got in your path just because of the conscious message or just the fact that you’re not going with the mainstream’s nothingness or lack of a message?
Crescent: Not especially, man. I still think we’re just like under a lot of people’s radar, not to say that we’re underrated and bigger than anything we should be, but I think a lot of people just don’t take us seriously in a certain sense. I don’t think our opinion is valid enough, or we don’t have enough status to where our opinion is even a factor.
DCS: Is that more of a question of people not really understanding what really matters with that stuff as far as the media is concerned?
Crescent: I think it’s a strange time for underground Hip Hop in general. I mean, we’re touring the country going around and seeing different scenes and it used to be like there’s a Hip Hop show and just anyone who just remotely liked Hip Hop or was at all interested would show up and now it’s like it’s gotta be a really big deal for people to come. For one, the economic situation. Everyone’s broke. It’s also just kind of a turning point in Hip Hop, it’s going through a transition and so we have to try to regain a lot of Hip Hop heads and try to rejuvenate a lot of fans’ love for Hip Hop, you know. A lot of people haven’t been trying to build Hip Hop when we have a lot of newcomers that come out.
Phone passed to Nomi
DCS: You guys are living in Brooklyn now. What’s the neighborhood like?
Nomi: The Neighborhood’s called 4-Green. It’s pretty diverse. There’s a few projects in the area, but it’s mostly working-class.
DCS: Does it have a different feel from Minnesota?
Nomi: Definitely. It’s a big wake up call to see how big the world is and how different it can be.
DCS: So do you do a lot of shows there?
Nomi: Not really. We’ve done a few shows in Brooklyn but not in our exact neighborhood. I’d say a lot of times it’s because we’re out so much [on tour].
DCS: Have the different influences in Brooklyn had any effect on your songs or lyrics?
Nomi: Yeah, definitely, especially with ‘Shopkeepers Wife.’ We kinda took a more open eye angle towards things and decided to step away from talking about how dope of lyricists we were and get away from arrogance and more into personal intelligence and things like that.
DCS: We been listening pretty intensely to your stuff and wanted to ask you about the “Murder Plot Twist” track. Were you involved in writing that song?
Nomi: Yeah, I was the cop in that riff. It’s kind of a joke song.
Anatomy brushes his teeth while P.O.S. talks to Crescent Moon outside of Shattered Nightclub in Columbia, Mo. Anatomy's mom gave him the automatic toothbrush for Easter. "I never used to brush my teeth before this thing," Anatomy said.
Phone passes to Advizor
Advizor: Hey, this is Adam.
DCS: Hey. Who writes most of the lyrics for Oddjobs?
Advizor: The emceeing is split completely 33 percent apiece between Advizor (myself), Nomi and Crescent Moon.
DCS: Now, some of the songs have a kind of “Minnesota nice” feeling but others feel more like New York.
Advizor: I think it’s one of the only ways that we can survive in New York as emcees—because everyone and their mom is an emcee in New York—is to really flaunt whatever Minnesota style we have, and I think our Midwestern influence is going to remain at the core of what we do always. Whether we’re living in Brooklyn, New York or San Francisco or wherever, I definitely agree with the strong East Coast influence that you notice, but I think there’s also a West Coast influence, you know, growing up on people like Souls of Mischief and Ice Cube and, more recently, people like Latyrx influencing our style. At the core, I would like to be categorized as Midwestern Hip Hop because I think the Midwest has made itself a bigger market a little later in the game and taken the best elements from all over and twisted it with it’s own independent sense of style.
DCS: So how does the more straight Minnesota-based stuff go over with the New York City Audience?
Advizor: I think it goes over well. I mean the beautiful thing about living in New York is that people are open minded, so I don’t think they want to hear Gang Starr clones 20 times a day, they don’t want to hear the same Boom-Bap Braggadocio. Obviously that New York sound is gonna remain at the core of whatever we’re doing because that sound is the essence of Hip Hop, but people look at it as a fresh departure from the traditional styles.
DCS: How do you guys feel things are going with media coverage as far as TV, radio, and even The Pulse doing this interview?
Advizor: Honestly, this type of thing and these kinds of interviews are the kinds of things that help us out—to grasp the people with a free paper that everyone is going to read is what really helps to get a name out. What’s amazing about radio is that we never even submitted anything to radio before moving to New York and the first single that we just threw out there to like 90 people hit #6 on the Hip Hop CMJ chart. We try to work those independent angles as far as getting media attention, independent magazines, college radio and independent record stores because there’s this whole tightly knit Hip Hop community around the country with different promoters, DJs and record store owners that all know each other and are interested in getting the word out about good music.
Crescent Moon carries the new Oddjobs EP, The Shopkeeper's Wife into the 7th Street Entry. Oddjobs is used to selling their own merchandise but have been receiving more and more retail sales after signing with Third Earth Music. Deetalx believes that Oddjobs have sold nearly 25,000 units.
Phone passed to DJ Anatomy
DCS: What’s Up? So do you and Deetalx work on the beats together collaboratively?
Anatomy: It’s a complete free-for-all. We’ll both play around with different stuff and then one of us will take it and work with it, and as we develop it usually one person takes over the song so their vision can play out.
DCS: Do you think that this new album is going towards something, or that there’s an ultimate goal that you’re after?
Anatomy: With “Absorbing Playtime” what we were doing had more of a free-for-all of sounds and fun project to throw together with an alternative twist. Then with “Drums” we were really….Hey, the phone battery is dying so I think we’re about to be cut off…
DCS: Then, is there anything you’d like say to wrap this up?
Anatomy: Shout outs to Heiruspecs, Test Type Trio and Doom Tree. They’ve all been a lot of fun to work with, and also…[click].
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