And a happy Monday to you dearest reader.
It’s been a long while since hip-hop has come across these here posts of swill merchantry. As a matter of fact today is the first of 2012 and truth be told that’s too damn long given the amount of hip-hop I listen too. The ratio just makes no sense. Alas, today we bring you Oddisee. The DC area raised emcee most likely isn’t new to a lot of you as he graced many top 50 lists last year for his very good Rock Creek Park album.
The origin story goes as such; Born Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, Oddisee, was set to attend the Art Institute of Philadelphia to study visual art. However, his love of music grew and drew him to pursue music professionally and in 2002 he caught his first big break by producing the track “Musik Lounge” on DJ Jazzy Jeff’s album Magnificent. In 2006 his relationship with Jeff blossomed into the mixtape Foot In the Door as is was mixed by the former Fresh Prince actor.
Oddisee, born in one of the wealthiest predominantly black counties in the nation sites artists like Rakim and A Tribe Called Quest as influences ” [they] don’t talk about drugs or murder, and I can relate more their lyrics.”
Rock Creek Park was 2011 and a new year brings us a new excellent effort that will most likely pop up on more lists when 2012 is all said and done. People Hear What They See, his debut full length album, features the same type of soul and jazz musicality that seems to have defined Oddisee to this point in his young career. An old school feel, a number of tracks even feature the cracks and pops that are partners in crime with a needle touching rotating vinyl. It’s all very organic and original and subtle textures like this seperate Oddisee from other rappers and hip-hop acts that draw from similar influences. To say this album is original doesn’t quite go far enough as it may be the first rap album I’ve heard in a long time that doesn’t feature a single sample. (Save for the last song.) Aiding Oddisee’s sound, every track on People Hear What They See is recored with live brass and strings from students at the Berklee School of Music. Perhaps the best example of this is “Let it Go”
However, “Know Who You Are” is the standout track to me. The Rashomom of hip-hop songs, it tells a single story from three different points of view. The first verse tells the tale of how someone he thought was on his side in a moment of turmoil turned out to not be the friend he once appeared to be. The second spells out those who were always there for him. And the last dictates that no matter what people say about you, you need to know who you are.
Currently Oddisee splits time between New York, DC and London and if you like what you hear below make sure to check out his entire library available on Spotify.