Highly prolific rapper/producer Oddisee favors organic instrumentation and a warm, earthy sound -- even when relying on samples, his music sounds alive and human rather than programmed or canned. When he started touring, he wanted to perform with a live band rather than just rap along to a DJ or backing tracks, so he formed Good Compny around the time he was putting together 2012's People Hear What They See, and the band has been playing gigs ever since. Beneath the Surface is the group's first live album, primarily focusing on Oddisee's 2017 album The Iceberg, in addition to including songs from a few of his preceding releases. Upon hitting play on this recording, it seems obvious that live musicians are necessary for these tracks, as there's a remarkable amount of energy on display here. Songs like "Built by Pictures" have complex, twisted arrangements, and the band is able to navigate through them with ease, all while sounding natural and relaxed. Oddisee hails from Washington, D.C. and his work reflects the musical landscape of his upbringing, particularly the sounds of go-go, gospel, funk, and jazz. There's a heavy amount of audience participation and call-and-response vocals here, with "Hold It Back" ending with a particularly knotty, energetic routine, after which Oddisee exclaims "Bobby McFerrin would be proud!" The amount of crowd participation might be a bit too excessive for home listeners, but it's hard to fault the energy level, as well as the overwhelmingly positive, inclusive vibe. Oddisee's lyrics can be serious and scathing, but whether he's criticizing the political system or reflecting on personal struggles, he never loses sight of his role as a performer and entertainer, and he encourages the crowd to feel good and enjoy themselves.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson