Oddisee May Be Hip-Hop’s Most Underrated MC. His New Album Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg (Audio)
If you count collaborative works, Oddisee has released 11 albums since 2008. That does not account for the litany of mixtapes, plethora of compilation work, and four EPs from the Mello Music Group mainstay.
While so many contemporary independent artists can often recklessly release product to see what sticks, the Washington, D.C. MC/producer has carefully cultivated an audience that is eager to hear the sounds and the words of a true Hip-Hop visionary. He is not making albums that appear on the Top 200 (while 2015’s The Good Fight climbed the Hip-Hop and independent charts, respectively), but this double-threat gives peers such as (confirmed collaborator) J. Cole, Blu, and even Kanye West a strong run for the money. This weekend, Oddisee released The Iceberg. Upon listening, this Diamond District veteran may have earned the right to claim his spot as the best MC/producer right now. Even still, that sort of bragging and boasting has never been Oddisee’s style, so leave it to those in the know to debate it.
The 12-track Iceberg has no vocal guests of note. A progression from The Good Fight, this album features keen commentary on the world around him. “You Grew Up” is not yet an official single. However, this record should be looked at first by any skeptics or newcomers to the Oddisee party. With an ambient beat, Amir Mohamed el Khalifa raps about the contrast of his and his childhood best friend growing up. A layoff led to blaming immigrants (such as members of Oddisee’s family) for taking the paying jobs in the region. The kids who treated their clothes differently, used different slang, and liked different kind of music were eventually wedged apart by anger. A thing of beauty became one of pain. The MC explains that the diverging paths sent his friend to become an officer of the law, who eventually killed an unarmed Black man (as Oddisee read in the news years later). The second verse traces the life of a Muslim American, who felt marginalized until he found acceptance with the wrong crowd, who preyed on his faith and alienation.
At just two verses, the song is not out to overdo itself. In fact, Oddisee uses the chorus to let it resonate. He grew up because he had to. These days, we all have to, because innocence is hard to keep. There are mental predators, hate, and dividing lines at every corner.
This song is un-skippable storytelling, with deft MC’ing, and relevant content and context to 2017 America. The Iceberg lives up to its name. Going back to his early 2000s work alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff and Halftooth Records, Oddisee has been putting in work longer than most of his well-heeled, high-profile peers. What the chart-watchers and industry followers think they see is one thing. Oddisee’s visionary albums, deep catalog, and tremendous talent is something that truly stands tall in an ocean of daily music fodder.