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New American Songbook

The Vast Voyage Of Oddisee

Oddisee_2015.jpg
Drew Yorke-Slader / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license / Wikimedia Commons
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Producer and emcee Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, who goes by the name Oddisee, writes music that lives up to his name.

Hailing from the DC-Maryland-Virginia triangle, he developed as an artist in a kind of geographic and political ambiguity. And if place truly informs who we are as people, it will be no surprise that Oddisee is a musician who has an uncanny ability to flow, navigating both space and rhyme with ease.

This ranging perspective—his focus on both physical and mental horizons—is Oddisee’s specialty. Ironically, he accomplishes this framing by bringing the viewpoint in from the Olympian splendor of more mainstream rap, and focusing on the technicalities of music, race and his inner life. You won’t hear the more familiar indulgences of capitalist fantasy in Oddisee’s music that rap has become, somewhat unfairly, known for. This is more like a public journal, or even a travelogue infused with hints of deToqueville and Melville.

Because Oddisee’s explorations are scored by sampled soul and R&B, the listener always has a familiar foothold even when Oddisee himself is pushing into unknown environments. This is music as a verb—where the process of self is the progress from one waystation to the next, and Oddisee has proven himself more than capable of the journey.