If the name Roddy Rod rings a bell, you’re either a long-time fan of The Price Is Right (though that would actually be Rod Roddy) or a long-time Maspyke listener. His best known successes as a producer have been with this underground Massachusetts hip-hop favorite, though quiet as kept he’s also created beats for everybody from Q-Tip to Planet Asia. He might also be an ideal example of the “big in Japan” concept, where the previous volume of “Oakwood Grain” was available exclusively – until now that is.
Buyers of the physical version of “Oakwood Grain II” are in for a special bonus, and that’s a copy of “Oakwood Grain I” stuck inside one of the sleeves. At first it might seem like this would make a huge difference in writing this review, but having listened to both albums individually and collectively, I can say that it really doesn’t thanks to this being a largely instrumental project. The key here is to experience Roddy Rod’s production techniques. It’s all about how he chops up samples, layers instrumentals, works in different percussive sounds and mixes down the whole thing to result in a harmonious melody. To keep things simple this review will comment only on the second disc.
Experentially one could compare “Oakwood Grain II” favorably to the late great J Dilla’s “Donuts,” although the average length of instrumental would be a bit longer, and Rod does occasionally allow an emcee to bless the beat – though the frequency is few and far enough between we can easily name all of the examples here. Finale, Muhsinah and Bilal Salaam are all on “Keep Transit,” you’ll hear Cynthia Hawkes on “Truly 1Derful” and the day to day financial struggles of an emcee are detailed by Choppy Choppe on the song “Lookin4StevieJ.”
“One mornin feelin fine with my toothbrush shine
I skipped the CNN, I’ll read the papers on the 9’s
Call my folks back home, I see how momma doin
Quick bite to eat and then I’m on top of these beats
of the job pursuin, I’m searchin for a gig
I’m tryin to find a way, and a modest pay to live
Workin nothin but a nerve tryin to earn an honest dollar
by either cotton white, or workin the blue collar
At first it was the resume what looked a little rigid
At first it was the credit score was in the double digits
I can’t even get a break – nowadays I’m off the humble
They askin for experience, my mouth a little mumble”
At the end of the day though it’s all about the melodies, and there are 21 different flavors to sample. “Red Scheme” will make you want to break out the “Red Stripe” and take a few sips of the brew. “Servinem’ (PONG)” is quite literal, down to the sound of the ball skipping across the table. “Grupos” is choppy synthesizer funk that periodically merges into a warm brassy note. “Rudolf” might create Christmas expectations, but but I don’t hear any bells jingling – just fingers noodling with the keys until cymbals crash the party. “Lightly Anxious” does have a frantic sound to it though, and “Slow Oscillator” is a warm inviting sound with a vaguely 1970’s feel. There are many different textures to this “Oakwood Grain” and the key to Roddy Rod is using the right polishes to make each one feel unique – and one can say he largely succeeds in doing so.