8th May | Fleece
Photos: Kristina Kimlickova
DJ Unknown opened the set with the gentle instrumental of ‘After Thoughts’, setting the mood with tantalising notions. The crowd swayed expectantly. Oddisee confidently bounced onto the stage with an appreciative sparkle in his eyes and continued to manifest modesty throughout the rest of his set, whether through his movements, conversation with the crowd or, of course, his lyrical content.
Oddisee has a tangible honesty about him, explaining his Sudanese heritage on his father’s side and asking the fan who shouted, “You’re a genius,” to email his dad and let him know that. There’s a common misconception that if you’re on stage then you’re living a perfect life of glitz and glamour, but Oddisee puts his listeners straight in a vulnerable yet self-assured and intellectual commentary.
He performed ‘Own Appeal’ from 2013’s Tangible Dream with the lyrics, “I’m still all about the music, I don’t monitor plays, I don’t monitor hits and I don’t monitor clicks.” To then question DJ Unknown, “Yo, do you ever listen back to your lyrics and realise the hypocrisy of them? It’s relative to time I guess, please listen to my music on Spotify!” He pleaded with the crowd innocently, recognising the livelihood-giving revenue online streaming provides, but also his aversion to a system that previously didn’t serve him.
The pair had an easy-going energy. DJ Unknown vibed along to the tunes, fluttering his fingers and echoing choruses. You’d think a hyped-up hype man is a given at hip-hop gigs, but so often there’s a disconnect between rapper and DJ; that didn’t appear here at all. At one point, DJ Unknown came to the front of the stage to rap too, a satisfying break in the set. The crowd cheered at his inviting American old-school style.
Oddisee effortlessly engaged us in chanting lyrics to several tunes. Occasionally, he comically mimicked the crowd’s murmur, laughing at our disarray which only spurred us on to impress with Bristol’s audience participation abilities more. But who wouldn’t want to be a part of the positive mantras ‘That’s Love’, ‘Never Not Getting Enough’, and ‘I Just Wanna Be Happy, I Just Wanna Be Free, I Just Wanna Be Left Alone”?
When he migrated into his fast flow, I was impressed by his unmatchable clarity, maintaining his soft but meaty tones and allowing his trust in his message to glide through each punctual beat. Politically charged perhaps, but we weren’t left drained by the state of the system. This perhaps was helped by him poking fun at the worst probability about Trump’s wall being an increase in the price of avocados to $40 and how after Brexit all we will have left at a decent price is apples.
There seemed to be plenty of energy floating around The Fleece, with a respectful, diligent crowd. The dancey grooves of tunes like ‘Things’ made it difficult to resist letting your body flow and full props go to the teenage boy next to me who flung his hands to every tune and mouthed nearly every lyric. Seeing him and the gig in general reinstated my faith in people and our ability to fight the good fight. If only we could have a few more role models like Oddisee.
See the video to NNGE (feat. Toine) here: