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Oddisee: taking the alternative route to the top

Let’s face it, underrated US rapper, Oddisee, is the best artist you’ve never heard of.

While it is true that any real hip hop head would know the name Oddisee, to a mainstream audience, the man behind some of hip hop’s most forward thinking beats is relatively unknown.
Yet based on his own mantra, it seems that its just the way he likes it. Thriving on an alternative path, Odissee is a shining light for independent artists, proving that mainstream success isn’t the only route to stardom.

Recognised primarily as a producer, with credits on the most recent Danny Brown and Joey Bada$$ releases, Oddisse (real name, Amir Mohamed el Khalifa) is also a talented emcee and songwriter. After signing to renowned independent label, Mello Music Group, in 2008, emceeing has become as much of his focus as production, epitomised in this year’s combination of the two; purchase Odissee’s instrumental album ‘Beauty in All‘ and get the rhyme-filled mixtape, ‘Tangible Dream’, free of charge. In Oddisee’s own words, he’s all about the beats and the rhymes, not just one or the other.

Attached to the releases was a brief word from the man himself. He said:

‘I realized that although the masses may not know of my body of work, it doesn’t take the whole world to have the world I want…Perhaps the world may never know of my accomplishments but accomplishments they are nonetheless’.

What sets Oddisee apart is the way he goes about his business. Unlike many underground producers who shun the spotlight, and those up and coming rappers over eager for the limelight, Oddisee represents the balance. Speaking in a recent interview with RCxMCC, Oddisee said that while artists are by their nature introverts, artistry today demands you more of a public figure. And the Washington rapper is very much so, touring and showing both sides to that rapper / producer combination.

Remarkably consistent in quality of output, Oddisee signed a multi-album deal with Mello Music Group in 2008, and released a series of projects over the years, on which he either rhymed or produced, such as ‘101‘, ‘Mental Liberation’, ‘Everything Changed Nothing‘, ‘Odd Seasons‘, and ‘Traveling Man‘. Each project shows a level of consistency unrivalled by most rappers, underground or mainstream, with each posessing it’s own unique tone. In fact, in that same interview with RCxMCC, Oddisee was asked to name his favourite of his own projects. He answered:
‘I don’t think I can honestly pick one. My records are kind of like memories. They all hold equal value to me.’ His latest instrumental album, ‘Beauty in All’, embodies this, forming an experience around a listener rather than narrating one.

Oddisee also points to Canadian superstar Drake as one of his favourite current emcees and it is not difficult to hear the influence, especially on mixtape, ‘Tangible Dream‘. Both rappers are known for the blunt honesty in their music and share a mixed heritage. Oddisee was raised by his African American mother and Sudanese father and speaking to SoulCulture earlier this year, during their OKnotobeOK campaign, he claimed that mental illness and personal issues were largely ignored by both cultures. The rapper noticeably addresses this on his latest releases, more open than even 2012’s particularly frank album, ‘People Hear What They See’. But Oddisee’s unique, almost minimalist production is what separates him from almost every emcee around at the moment.

Oddisee is an inspiration for any independent musician, having stayed true to what he has always known but, crucially, without being afraid to experiment. It is even more impressive considering that he has been in hip hop for more than a a decade.

So, for those who know Oddisee, keep up the support and spread the word. But if you never have, check him out as you are in for a real treat. The foreword attached to his latest releases ended with:

‘All I want to do is make music for a living so that I can live to make music.’

If a gem like that doesn’t pique your musical curiosity, nothing will.

Written by Jack O’Neill

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