In a 2007 experiment conducted by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell, incognito in a baseball cap, was planted in Washington, D.C.’s L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station to see how much money he could generate from playing his violin for passers-by. The night prior, Bell performed for a sold-out crowd in Boston; in the Metro Station, however, he could barely get people to listen or pay him any mind as he stood and played for more than 45 minutes. Bell was only able to collect a little over $32. The Bell Experiment helped DMV-raised producer/MC Oddisee develop the concept behind his latest musical installment, People Hear What They See.
During SXSW this past March, Oddisee spoke with SoulCulture and described the concept:
It’s basically to sum up that people don’t really hear what they hear unless they’re sold on something visually. We live in a very, very visual time in our history and everything needs some kind of visual representation for people really grasp what it is that they’re saying — that’s how you get sold a lot of bullshit at the same time. Every song that I wrote was written outside. I was observing everything that I looked at when I wrote it, so it’s not my reality, but it’s a reality. There will be a lot of visual representation for every song as well. It’s really an album concept that ties in audio and visual and how important they are and how connected they are.
Despite working for years as a solo artist on projects like Traveling Man, Odd Seasons and Rock Creek Park, as well as being a member of Diamond District alongside MCs yU and X.O., this is Oddisee’s first LP.
Even though the key concept of People Hear What They See was to create an introspective album based on the things that were heard during the creation process, the album flows almost like the coming-of-age story of a minority in America who is a little jaded by the “American Dream.” The album is drenched with social commentary as well as relatable subjects like relationships and the economy. More than any other project in his discography, this album gives listeners an honest portrayal of who Oddisee is, speaking to his intellect and proving that he’s more than just a “rap cat.”