Oddisee Explains Why He’s NOT Underrated Or Underground
Oddisee has spent the 2010s making some of the most cohesive and thoughtful albums in Hip-Hop. 2012’s People Hear What They See, 2015’s The Good Fight, and 2017’s The Iceberg are a three-album run as formidable as any in Rap. Meanwhile, the artist born Amir Mohamed el Khalifa has showered his fans with handfuls of other releases, including group work, instrumental records, and a live LP.
In a recent interview with Micro Chop, Gino Sorcinelli spoke with Oddisee to talk about the artist’s career thus far. Oddisee, the 34-year-old Washington, D.C. native with over 20 projects under his belt, spoke candidly about his early upbringing and successes so far and wants everyone to know: “I’m genuinely happy in my life, and in my music. I’m not ‘slept on, underrated, and struggling.'”
The interview begins with Oddisee recalling growing up down the road from Parliament-Funkadelic bassist, Gary Shider, and learning music from the legendary musician. After befriending his two sons, Marshall and Garret, Oddisee found himself jamming alongside the Funkadelic superstar inside of his analog studio. There, he learned how to hand play drums and keyboards under Shider’s supervision.
It was in high school, however, that Oddisee sharpened his production skills by way of learning how to sample. Producer (and fellow Mello Music Group artist) Sean Born is responsible for showing Oddisee how to find and sample music. He told Micro Chop, Born was the “First person to record me, first person to show me how to make beats, first person to show me how to dig, first person to show me what a breakbeat was in the sample — looking for openings and how to read grooves in a record.” He recalls marathon beat-making sessions on the ASR-X, sometimes working all day and up to “14 hours a day sometimes.”
Oddisee’s career began taking shape after he received his first check for appearing on DJ Jazzy Jeff’s album, The Magnificent, in 2002 with his featured track, “Musik Lounge.” Most interestingly, the rapper stressed his disappointment further down his career path after his 2017 album, The Iceberg, failed to uncover Oddisee as something other than an “underground” or “struggling” rapper.
He tells Micro Chop, “The Iceberg failed to me in a couple of aspects. Not musically, but I was trying to take control of my narrative. I’ve been trying to take control of my narrative for years, and it has been the most difficult part of my battle. No matter what I talk about, NPR or Noisey, or anyone else, when they come out with the review — it’s from the perspective of an underground rapper who’s struggling, who wants attention. Even though I haven’t dedicated a single song to that.”
The Iceberg is Oddisee’s 11th studio LP and showcases the rapper addressing black America’s depression, Donald Trump, racism and Islamaphobia. Despite this, music journalists and critics still ran with their respective angles deeming Oddisee’s album as a record of someone who is just trying to make it to the top.
Played out take aside, Oddisee explained to DJ Booth‘s Lucas Garrison back in 2015 how his music is his career, and not just an artistic avenue for expression. “The only thing I’m working towards is the main thing when I decided I wanted to do music. I want to make a living from music and nothing else. There’s so many avenues to do that right now before moving on. Meaning, like today alone, I just got two messages for two separate licensing opportunities: one from ESPN and one from a premiere [soccer] league in Ireland. That sounds super random, I’ll license a song to them and nobody will ever hear it, but the money I make from that is someone’s salary. Everyone thinks I’m underrated, but I just made someone’s salary from one song. People think I need to be on the radio. People think I need to win a Grammy.”
After his disappointment with some of The Iceberg‘s press response, Oddisee admits that he called a few journalists himself to set the record straight, but was underwhelmed in their responses: “Everyone said to me, ‘I have to write about so much bullsh*t that comes across my table and I wish I could write more about artists like you. So when I got the opportunity to write about you, I painted it from the perspective of more people need to know who you are.’”
His Micro Chop interview wraps up with some parting words of wisdom: “I’m trying to show people a tangible way to success and that there’s not one definition. I’m genuinely happy in my life and in my music. I’m not ‘slept-on, underrated, and struggling.'”