Odie was born in Toronto to Nigerian parents before moving to the West Coast when he was 12. Now 21, the artist has seen enough of the world to understand the value of all the different vantage points, and he's putting out the music to prove it.
Aside from a pair of SoundCloud cuts that gained traction two years ago, Odie's catalog is largely restricted to the past 12 months. He attributes his refined mix of ocean-crossing rhythms and melodic poise to four years of practice. It's working—you'd be forgiven for thinking "Little Lies," his 2018 release, was the work of an artist deep into their career.
Usher, Michael Jackson, and Nigerian classics—“Sweet Mother” by Prince Nico Mbarga among them—ruled the Saturday mornings and car rides of childhood, though it was teenage discovery that really pushed Odie toward a music career. Kid Cudi and Odie share a similar low-end vocal quality, both artists crooning through space and time. Odie’s sonic lineage is traceable, but the end result is distinctly unique: Not many twenty-somethings can rival his range, which encompasses everything from stunts and flexes to heavenly melodies.
Listen to "Little Lies" now and continue below to read our interview with Odie. Look out for his project Analogue, expected out at the end of March.
In what period of your life were you exposed to the songs that really inspired or influenced you the most?
The first period would have been when I was 7 or 8. That's the first time you really start to think about music and—not necessarily analyze it but understand it’s importance. My mom would make us clean the house and she would just play a lot of African music. Sunny Ade, everybody. And then Michael Jackson, my mom loves Michael Jackson.
My older sister, she used to have Usher’s Confessions album. That was the first time I really was like, "Oh whoa I really love music." The second time was when I began to choose my own type of music. That was my sophomore year in high school. I have an old computer in my house, and I think I have 700 or 800 songs on there I would download and listen to over and over.
What songs shaped you most?
There's this Fela Kuti song, "Shakara." My dad used to play that a lot. And "Sweet Mother." Every Mothers Day. Every Nigerian knows that song.
In high school I would say it’d be between Coldplay’s “Talk”— just the guitar and the fact that it was able to take me… I felt like I was in a different planet when I heard the song. And then there’s the Dan Black and Kid Cudi song? "Symphonies!" When I heard that song I was like, "Oh shit, I fucking love Kid Cudi." When I was a kid that really did it for me.
Your public record is somewhat new, only a handful of songs online, but when did practice start?
I was 10 when my mom enrolled me in piano classes, and that only lasted two years because I hated playing classical music, but I started composing my own songs on the piano. I’d spend half the practice time on YouTube learning how to play [Sings] “It’s too late to apologize.”
In high school, a friend was writing music our sophomore year. He needed help with a song, I helped, and he’s like, “Come over and record it." That was when I started downloading YouTube beats, started writing my own music. One of my good friends, Chris, heard a song I recorded and he was like, “Yo, this is really good,” and I was like, “Oh, thank you,” but he was like “No, this is really good, you should release this.” Me, Chris and Ya’qob have spent the last four years just working to create a new sound.
So Unité is a representation of you and your team?
Ideally, Ya'qob and I want to be the next Outkast, the next duo that has really contrasting styles, Ya'Qob is an artist himself. I’m an African-Canadian, Chris is British—our circle of friends is from around the world. Despite us all coming from these different backgrounds, we’re still able to come together and mesh together to make this new sound. Unité.
You just released a wonderful song called “Little Lies.” You kind of allude to an existential fiction, do you think we're living in VR?
Everyone has their own specific reality. If we pretend nothing is real, you just start to say fuck it and do things.
What if all my friends that I met are God? If there really is no reason to anything and there really is no purpose for anything in life then the only purpose for me to live really is for me to have a purpose to live. And the only purpose that I can find for me to live is to just do things. Let me jump and take a leap at things.
"Little Lies" was actually me speaking directly about a girl, but relationships are really just analogies to everything else in life. It was about taking a step forward.
On that same song, you ask if you can trade all your lows for a little high. Was that part of the relationship narrative? Or addressing what you've overcome to reach today?
I haven’t had the easiest life, my parents are first generation immigrants from Nigeria and my dad had to go through a ton of shit to get to this country. He train-hopped all through Europe to get to this country. We are the definition of the American dream, being able to come from Nigeria, and my parents being able to work hard enough to have me in Canada. There were troubles, struggles, but I've been through them and now I'm just being Odie, trying to have one point in time I can actually feel happy, feel like I've earned something.
Have you ever been able to go back to Nigeria with your family?
Once when I was a kid, then a couple years ago for a funeral, but both times were amazing experiences. When you go back you understand that our Western standard of living is not really a standard, it’s a blessing.
Apparently 60 years from now, Africa is going to have 25 percent of the world’s population. So, it’s funny to think that a quarter of the people in the world are going to be from Africa, and yet everybody outside of Africa has this perception of Africa as a whole that is just very tainted…. It’s skewed. There’s so much beauty. People in Africa live regular lives just like we do.
How old were you when you made your transition from Canada to the Bay area?
I was about 12 years old. I used to hear [Sings] "We are going to San Francisco!" It was a commercial on the radio. Because I’m black, that was also very interesting, moving from a very multicultural area—luckily I live in California... it wasn’t the biggest shock, but just understanding the roles that race played was very interesting growing up. I think the biggest thing for me is learning the amount of entitlement that's here. The Constitution guarantees some degree of entitlement. Learning how to carry myself like that was the biggest thing for me. I was so accommodating growing up.
Do you feel responsibility for your art to hold some sort of political weight? Is that expectation unfair?
The only responsibility anybody has as an artist is to be true to yourself. If I lived in Alabama or if I lived on a farm and I want to talk about my farm animals, I mean… you’re not doing your job as an artist if you're not being true. If you feel like talking about women and drugs and crime and shit like that, and that’s who you are, you have the responsibility to talk about that.
On your song "Crescendo," you say you fear the lonely mind. Can you speak to that?
I’m talking about myself. I fear being in my head too much. You just start to overthink things, rational becomes irrational to a point in that it just ruins your life. What scares me most is uncertainty.
The cover art for that song, it looks like you're falling. What role do you play in your visual presentation?
We do pretty much everything ourselves. I don’t always do it by myself, I usually have a feeling or idea and then my manager Chris will help me portray it. And we work with another artist, his name is Dustin, he does photography and graphic design and stuff like that. We work with him and we pretty much all sit together, do something random. I did start working on my own little short stories and scripts, though. I'd love to create a feature film one day. I'm just learning. There's a world in my head and I need more than music to communicate it.