Richmond rapper Noah-O (Photo by Jody Stvrk)
Richmond rapper Noah Oddo is bursting out all over, with a fresh new album, a web video series and a new way of working. The man known as Noah-O says he's just getting started.
"After my last album, 'Monument Avenue,' I hadn't been recording," says the 30-something performer, who won national attention with his song "I Got It" in 2011. "I went on hiatus, trying to figure some things out. I worked on a show for RVAMag.com, went into the studio with all of these different producers and got 50 songs done. Now I'm taking those songs and dividing them up into different projects, recording here and there to make them complete."
The first of these projects, "The Rain," a collaboration with producer DJ Mentos (aka Zak Young), was released on Thanksgiving. It's a 30-minute maelstrom of inventive beats and wordplay – something of a continuation, Oddo says, from previous work. The duo will come together to perform the album live at Black Iris Gallery on Dec. 2.
Noah-O's album with DJ Mentos, "The Rain," was released on Thanksgiving 2016. (Photo courtesy Charged Up Entertainment)
Oddo was originally planning a trilogy called Trillipino, soliciting beats and soundscapes from all over. "It was conceived to show my range and tell stories. I recorded and recorded and recorded, and when I put the songs together, it was the ones I did with Mentos that they just fit."
Originally DJ Mentos had approached Oddo about doing a standalone collaboration, similar to what Oddo had done with producer Taylor Whitelow on 2014's ambitious and autobiographical "Monument Avenue."
"We have a real chemistry, musically," says Mentos, the man who made "flute funk" a thing when he concocted a now-famous breakbeat mix for the influential Wax Poetics magazine. "Noah and I have a similar taste in hip-hop, so we want to make the same kind of music, and that's what makes us compatible,"
Like "Monument Avenue," with its tales of Richmond and its people, there is an overall concept to "The Rain," but Oddo is shy about revealing details. "I don't want to paint it too much for people and tell them what it's about," he says. "I wrote down for a friend what it was about, and he was shocked. I want people to interpret it. I don't want to tell the plot."
His hiatus gave him the chance to deal with the past, and to reassess his working methods. Oddo released an EP last year of music that he cut in 2012 with his producer and mentor, Kleph Dollaz (Petersburg's Darrell K. Durant), who passed away soon after the recordings. "I didn't want to release it right after he passed, I wanted to give it some time," Oddo reflects. He's also been working with rapper and producer Michael Millions. "He's very laid back," Oddo says of Millions. "Being an artist himself, he knows what's going on. And his home studio was a good environment to get back into the swing of recording, no pressure."
Oddo is already planning his next release after "The Rain," a five-song EP called "Culture Shock" slated for February of 2017 that will find him collaborating with J.L. Hodges of the Richmond rock band Avers. "J.L. produces hip-hop; a lot of people don't know that," Oddo says. "It's going to be a total departure from my usual sound."
When he's not recording, the rapper is busy filming episodes of his new web series for RVA Magazine called "The Evolution of Noah-O." But, beyond the first introductory episode, the show isn't really about him; it's about Virginia – and Richmond – culture. One episode features Oddo visiting the College of William and Mary's little-known hip-hop archive; another sees him spending time with the legendary Mad Skillz, still the only Richmond rap artist to get signed to a major label.
"It's something similar to what VICE does," Oddo says. "I watch a lot of documentaries and the news, and this is my opportunity to tell these stories that aren't being told. The first episode is about me, what's going on in my life. And I did an episode with GWAR. Our music is nothing alike, but I want to emulate their success and their independence, and I have another episode about this artist I know named Del, from Hillside Court. If you see a news story about Hillside, it's usually because there's a murder or something. He grew up around there and was addicted to drugs, and now he's clean and works as an artist. I want to use the show as a place for stories like his that don't normally get told."
It has taken some adjusting to feel natural in front of the camera, he admits. "It's different from rapping, and performing. It's sort of like being a standup comedian. When this thing is on, you've got to be on. I can't hide behind the music."
Noah-O and DJ Mentos will perform "The Rain" at the Tiny Bar in Black Iris, 321 W. Broad St., on Friday, Dec. 2. "The Rain" pop-up performance is at 10 p.m. $5