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Chicago, IL | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | INDIE | AFM

Chicago, IL | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2016
DJ R&B Cajun




"Pitchfork Review"

REVIEW: 7.2/10

Over the last few years Chicago has been one of hip-hop’s most conspicuous artistic incubators. This year alone, the hip-hop and R&B artists Jamila Woods, Joey Purp, Saba, and Kweku Collins have enjoyed breakout attention as indie auteurs with respective solo projects. All of them have worked with Chance the Rapper and others in the same scene, and two are signed to the same label, Closed Sessions. Now, that label’s house producer, oddCouple, is getting his turn with a new record called Liberation, which gathers up a bunch of this familiar Chicago talent for a showcase compilation.

Born in Milwaukee but long based in Chicago, Zach Henderson adopted oddCouple as a solo act several years ago after initially sharing the name as half a duo. Henderson played bass and cello earlier in his life, and he now folds live instruments into his beats, which are warm and muffled and frequently meander towards breakdowns instead of looping back on themselves.

Liberation follows 2015’s Chatterbox, which oscillated between a soulful instrumental beat tape and a rappers' roll call. This new one is more fleshed-out and timely, and finds oddCouple doubling down on the recent success of his counterparts and elevating his own craft at once. There isn’t an outright misstep, but since many of the featured artists on Liberation have recently released their own singular statements, a few performances feel second-rate or less than vital. Still, nothing here screens like a called-in favor, and Henderson is a smart matchmaker.

Joey Purp stands out on “Visions,” a twinkling chipmunk soul loop that gets the producer’s characteristic build-it-up-to-break-it-down treatment. Purp is a casual, confident rapper with the rare knack to boil things down to palatability while avoiding cliche. “It’s the places we live in that they refuse to go/So when we speak about struggles they can refuse to know,” he raps. The woozy and feverish “Love Above” is set compellingly against a chorus that is upbeat and whimsical. The song switches up several times, back and forth between Kweku Collins and Jamila Woods, but its Woods’ wonky chorus that sticks.

Several songs on Liberation feature strings, but none feel as big as those near the end of the album. On “Hereditary” oddCouple rolls out the red carpet for GLC, a veteran Chicago rapper who quietly helped pave the way for the city’s current relentless indie bent. (“Why you ain’t signed?/Wasn’t my time,” he rapped triumphantly on Kanye West’s first album.) The emcee hasn’t lost a step or the slur in his voice, never a flashy rapper but always a commanding presence. The Cleveland artist and Closed Session signee Kipp Stone gets a deserved look here too, making the best of a thoughtful hook with his raspy baritone, shouting “Just listen at me" and "Hands up, don’t shoot!” before the elder statesman launches into a gorgeous pair of verses.

Musically, the most interesting moments on the album come at the end of songs, when Henderson redirects and then turns away from the vocalist he’s holding up, usually stripping back elements from the beat. He has a nimble way with transitions within a song, and is never abrupt about switching gears into sparse, live-played trail-offs; these moments feel like carefully placed and immediately recognizable fingerprints. Some of that effect is missing on the lone instrumental, a sleepy track that swells towards the dance floor but never commits fully. Still, a solitary send-off is a smart maneuver on a wider scale as well, and Henderson has done more than enough to stamp out his identity as a producer throughout. - Pitchfork

"How Producer oddCouple Found Himself and Tapped into a New Chicago Sound in the Process"

In Chicago producer oddCouple opens the door at Soundscape Studios, his smile is bright. After he gestures for me to come inside, he tinkers around in the kitchen and pours himself a drink, energetically singing under his breath. oddCouple—née Zach Henderson—has a presence that is immediately felt, largely because of his height: Standing at 6'6", he towers over most people in a room. When we sit down, he eases back in a barbershop-style chair, his long legs sitting on the sill of a nearby window. He's just gotten off from his day job at the startup SpotHero; though it's been a long work week, his attitude is still upbeat, especially as he talks about music.

You might be familiar with oddCouple through his recent collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Jamila Woods, and Joey Purp—and most recently, through his star-studded mixtape Liberation. Though he might be a new face to some, he's actually been involved in Chicago hip-hop for years.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, oddCouple had multiple entry points into music. After he began playing the upright bass in his middle school's orchestra, his 19-year-old brother started giving him music to listen to. "In seventh grade, I'm the only like 12-year-old who knows every word to every song on The Blueprint," oddCouple says.

But around the same age, his dad passed away from cirrhosis of the liver; music became something oddCouple clung to, to fill the void. He soon discovered that Kanye West had a huge hand in producing The Blueprint and was hooked on the Chicago producer's sound. Then, in ninth grade, a classmate asked him to listen to a beat he made, and put oddCouple onto FL Studio. "Once I dug in, the next thing I know is like, damn, I've been making a beat every day after school for three months."

He moved to Chicago in 2007 to attend DePaul University and was still making beats. While in school, he met a handful of people who are now elemental to the city's rap scene, including Chance the Rapper and his manager Pat Corcoran. oddCouple's first incarnation was as a duo; together, Henderson and his musical partner Tony Roche released the project Separated at Birth. Among other highlights, the project includes the Chance-featuring "Burn This City," which Henderson solely produced. oddCouple split up in 2012, and Henderson kept the name. But he felt a sense of loss after he parted ways with his partner.

"I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my career, even if I was going to have a career," he recalls. "Maybe I'm not meant to be the star of the show, maybe I'm just meant to be helping someone else." Still, he kept working with musicians and releasing music as oddCouple. Then, in 2013, while working on his next release Chatterbox the Chicago-based indie label Closed Sessions gave him a call. It became a partnership that gave him a definitive boost and showed him that he has a stake in hip-hop.

2016 has been a big year for oddCouple. He released some of his biggest songs this year—Joey Purp's "Morning Sex," Jamila and Chance the Rapper's "LSD," Jamila and Noname's "VRY BLK"—and dropped his biggest project yet, Liberation, which features a bevy of Chicago and Milwaukee musicians, including Kweku Collins, Mick Jenkins, Purp, Jamila, and GLC.

Sonically, each track is just as varied as each guest verse, more pop-laden beats, like "Slept On," paired with straightforward rap songs like "Visions" and ethereal, ghostly cuts like "Palms." Still, each song easily melds with the next, and that's because there's a shared message of liberation—of freedom.

Noisey: What was it like being in Chicago when the city's rap renaissance started?
oddCouple: Everything was exciting. I really felt like part of it even if I wasn't part of it, just because I knew how much work went into it—I knew how much care went into it. There are so many Acid Rap demos of my tracks that were gonna go on there until the album dropped on April 30. Up until March, I was on that. I didn't make the cut, but I know looking back on it that those songs had to have influenced other tracks because they're demos for the album. It was just cool being a part of that process and knowing that you had something to do with it.

Moving forward, Chance the Rapper opening up the bubble and the whole bubble just really creating off what he was doing, what Vic Mensa was doing, what Mick Jenkins was doing. It was really dope to have somebody else carry that torch and you really see how much you can get done, how much you can really accomplish without having to move to LA or New York.

Q: So this was in 2013?
A: Yeah. You could feel people were starting to rebrand the city. Like drill had just popped off here the year before, too, so it's really all about violence. Everyone was like, "Oh, people in Chicago, all they do is shoot and kill each other." You could really feel people were rallying around a different identity for the city.

Q: And you connected with Closed Sessions that year?
A: Toward the end of that year, maybe September. I was like, "I don't know if putting all these hours into making beats and them not even getting heard most of the time is worth it." I was like, "Fuck it, I'm gonna try one more time. I'm working on this beat tape, and I'm gonna make it as hot as I possibly can, and this is going to be everything I got." Then around the same time, when I got about halfway done, Closed Sessions hit me up.

We started talking and working out of the studio. At this point, I had nothing to lose. I remember, when I first got in the studio, like my first real session was with Joey Purp, and that's when we made "Morning Sex." That was my first legitimate session with any artist.

Q: It's kind of an old song then.
A: It is. It was gonna be the intro on my project. We started rapping and recording, and he was like, "Nah bro, I gotta keep this." I was just like, "Dude I'm just happy to be in the studio with you. Take it."

"Morning Sex" is exactly what I envisioned when I made the beat, and that was just like, for me, ahead of its time because I wasn't that dope yet. That was a breakthrough. Like shit, I can make beats like that. Even now, talking to Joey, he's like, "Man, I found my sound with that song." And for me, I learned how to be a producer—not just a beatmaker, but a producer with that song.

I was going through like the hardest time as a musician in late 2013. It's crazy because all of the hottest tracks, my biggest shit that came out this year, they got started then. Literally, these beats were my last chance. "LSD," pretty much 75 to 80 percent of that beat was made in late 2013. "Morning Sex," same thing. "Way Up" off Jamila's Heavn, same thing. I think I made that in early 2014. So I think the breakthrough was just having those pipedream beats that I made—and the gratifying thing is for that to work out after two years, three years of trying.

Q: I remember you tweeting once about how important producing Jamila's song "VRY BLK" was to you.
A: I know firsthand, being with my mom and her holding me up through the hardest time in my life, that I didn't even know was the hardest time in my life—my mom is just like holding it down. To work on a song called "VRY BLK" with two of the strongest female musicians in Chicago, message-wise and just Jamila's conviction—she believes in what is right. I don't really know anybody else who's carrying the mantle like that, in a way that Jamila does. Being able to make a song like that, that's just a war cry when we're literally getting killed out in the streets without people even being questioned more than once about it—being able to make a song that people can rally around, it's surreal.

Q:The name Liberation feels like an extension of Jamila's album, in some ways.
A:I explain it to people like this: I had gone through moderate success from my first project. People started to know who I was—it really was a reintroduction of who I am and really got artists to pay attention. All I wanted to get out of it was to see if I had another chance in this game.

After that, I put Chatterbox out, and I got reception. I got little things that really made me feel like, okay I have a place in this. I'm gonna be a producer for a while at least. But at the same time, I wasn't happy. There's a difference between being happy and content. I wasn't content with anything.

A lot of times, people just think they'll get over things, or they'll just let things go. Or it'll go away, and it doesn't—it manifests itself in other ways. I just really started to look at things and why I was acting the way I was acting, and why I was feeling the way I was feeling. Just found out I needed closure on a lot of shit. You lose your dad at 12 and everybody asks you if you're okay and you just say "yeah" every time. You don't ever really dive into why you're not okay. I haven't been okay.

I started piecing things together within myself. A lot of things that I can talk about now, I could still talk about freely back then, but I'd be hiding how I truly felt about it. But I don't feel that way anymore. I feel really free, real happy.

Q: Liberation.
A: Exactly. So like I started to really look at myself and look at shit that I had fucked up in my own life. I really started to forgive myself. When you start to forgive yourself, you can forgive other people for things that they didn't even know they did. I had animosity towards my own family, my own mom, my own brother.

I really started to think outside of myself, but also within myself, if that makes sense. Look at you and analyse you, and once you can do that, you can really start to understand this shit don't revolve around you. You can't control everything. Accept it, move on. In doing that, you really do embrace you, truly. At the same time, all this shit is going on: Bombings in Paris, black lives getting slaughtered in the streets. I'm finding personal freedom, but my people are not.

Q: Liberation is a pretty heavy word. When you hear it, it pushes you to think what liberation or freedom means to you.
A: It is very subjective. Liberation means so many different things to so many different people. To us, it's equality. To some people, it's literal freedom. But for me, it means being free as a person but also understanding that we need real freedom—that everyone needs to have some sort of real liberation. - Noisey

"New Music: oddCouple - Liberation"

The next man up from Chicago’s parade of burgeoning talent is Milwaukee-born producer oddCouple, whose work incorporates the Windy City’s soul and jazz legacies. After landing credits on fellow Chicagoans Jamila Woods, Kweku Collins, and Joey Purp’s projects, oddCouple has released his own album entitled Liberation.

Liberation manages to pack an exceptional list of guests despite its short, nine-song runtime. Mick Jenkins, GLC, WebsterX, Collins, Woods, and Purp are a few of the key features in a project that came after a period of self-discovery.

“Throughout my life I developed a lot of patterns, ways of thinking, emotional baggage, demons, and all that – we all do though, don’t we?” oddCouple told SPIN through an email. “For me, I reached a point where I wasn’t as happy as I thought I’d be, so I just started to examine myself, and really evaluate what makes me tick – you know, why I am the way I am. Once I did that I faced a lot of that bullshit and those demons head on, really accepting myself from the inside out, and moved past a lot of those setbacks and mental blocks I subconsciously set up.

“I don’t have the answers to the inequalities, injustice, and hatred that permeates in our society, but learning everything I can about myself allows for me to others, and do my part to help break down these walls, the same way I had to break down the walls and barriers I set up for myself. To me, you have to get to know yourself, and love yourself honestly and truthfully, first and foremost, because you can’t truly love someone else if you don’t.” - Spin Magazine


  • Jamila Woods - “LSD” feat. Chance The Rapper (prod. oddCouple) 

  • oddCouple - “BurnTheCity” feat. Chance The Rapper

  • Joey Purp’s  “Morning Sex” (prod. oddCouple) 

  • Jamila Woods - “VRY BLK” feat. Noname (prod. oddCouple) 

  • Jamila Woods -  “BreadCrumbs” feat. Donnie Trumpet (prod. oddCouple) 

  • Jamila Woods - “Way Up” (prod. oddCouple) 

  • Kweku Collins' album, Nat Love - "Death of A Salesman" (prod. oddCouple) 


Feeling a bit camera shy


oddCouple (or oC for short) is all-around producer, both live and in-studio, striving to push the boundaries of what you've seen and experienced, and redefine the idea of expectations. . Since 2013, oC has been building a name for himself in Chicago’s music community and beyond. His 2015 LP, Chatterbox, was hailed by press and fans alike featuring emerging artists such as Saba, Taylor Bennett, Michael Christmas, Allan Kingdom, and more. 

In 2016, oddCouple played a big role in defining the sound of Chicago with collaborations with the city’s brightest talent including, Chance The Rapper, Jamila Woods, Mick Jenkins, Noname, Joey Purp, Donnie Trumpet (Social Experiment), and Kweku Collins. He also served as executive producer for Jamila Woods' heavily hailed debut album, HEAVN. In November, he released his recent project, LIBERATION, that Pitchfork gave an outstanding 7.2/10 review. On this project he also demonstrated his wide range of production styles and inspirations that Stereogum described as, “If you’ve listened to any of the abundance of good music coming out of Chicago’s renaissance right now, then you’ve probably heard some beats from oddCouple. It’s a wonderfully varied affair with jazz, gospel, neo-soul, trap, boom-bap, traditional R&B, and blues oscillating in energy."

oddCouple's live set includes himself performing w/ various drum kits while DJ'ing, along with two live musicians (a trumpet player and guitarist).

Band Members