If I told you that the best rapper right now wasn’t from SoCal or New York, or even Atlanta, you might be a little surprised. If I said that you probably haven’t even heard of him yet, I expect you’d be even more incredulous. Enter Washington DC’s Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, better known as Oddisee.
The product of an atypical upbringing as far as hip hop culture goes, Amir grew up in one of the wealthiest African American counties in the country. An emcee’s formative years are usually where much of their lyrical ammunition is derived, and this is certainly true with Oddisee. While he did spend much of his youth in an affluent area, his community was bordered by some of the most impoverished of DC projects.
Growing up with the means for opportunity while having dire poverty in such close proximity profoundly impacted the rapper’s earliest music. Oddisee says that “he watched more news than cartoons as a kid” and it shines through the keen observations he uses as the foundation for his lyrics.
More lyrically dexterous over his beats than most rappers today, his music tackles a litany of issues ranging from the gentrification that he witnessed first hand to the social inequality that drives gentrification in the first place.
Sonically, Oddisee cites East Coast groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul as influencing his music. He says that he connected on a deeper level with their lyrics because they stood out from a crowd of rappers boasting of drugs and murder. The braggadocious parts of hip hop didn’t appeal to his lyrical sensibilities.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Oddisee is that he has been consistently releasing music since 2005. Over the past 12 years, he’s kept busy refining his relentless flow and live-band production style that would certainly appeal to fans of To Pimp a Butterfly-era Kendrick Lamar. While the rapper has developed a dedicated cult following, he has never seen the breakthrough success that other artists have found.
His most recent album, The Iceberg, was released this past February. It’s a jazz and soul soaked affair with a political tinge that feels especially relevant today. On the standout track “Like Really,” he cuts down Trump’s America in one fell swoop with the line “How you gonna make us great, when we were never really that amazing?”
Oddisee is currently wrapping up his Beneath the Surface Tour. Get the remaining dates for that here starting with his next show in Baltimore.
Oddisee & Good Compny with Oliver St. Louis
Date & Time:
June 20th, 2017 | 8 PM
124 Market Place
Baltimore, MD 21202
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