Hitting The Iceberg
“I remember when I discovered purpose.”
Apollo Brown, L’ Orange, Mr. Lif, and Kool Keith; These are some of the artists that belong to Mello Music Group, a label that “sounds beautiful like the truth”. Stacked alongside their cast of artists stands the rapper/producer known as Oddisee, whose brand of wordplay paints a canvas of topics that are controversial in today’s heated social and political realms. Oddisee crafts intelligent hip-hop without getting lost behind modern-day production techniques. His music is simple but also progressive in multiple ways. Over the past 12 months, Oddisee has been paving a trail of album releases infused with luscious instrumentation. On February 24th, his new album The Iceberg will follow alongside the Oddisee & Good Company world tour.
Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, better known as Oddisee, is a rapper and producer currently residing in New York. During his youth, he became absorbed with open-mic rap while living in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Since then, he’s managed to weave a rap career with the threads of critically-acclaimed album releases. He ties together elements of pop culture, lifestyle, social unrest using a style of delivery that shadows the classics. The tracks are purely organic and have layers of vibe, but don’t let the throwback undertones fool you. Oddisee is a very forward-minded artist who is seemingly unstoppable with every move he makes.
At the moment, Oddisee is on tour with his band, Good Company and plans to release his new album later this February. The tour takes place over the next 3 months at venues big and small throughout Europe and the U.S. The band has a funky synergy that reminds me of a cross between The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest. They’re a tight group that gives Oddisee the perfect backdrop to rap over. If you dig smooth R&B, buy your tickets and prepare to hear the grooves unravel. Visit oddisee.co/tour for a detailed list of show dates.
There’s more under the hood. “Like Really” has been released as a single from his new album, and it’s definitely worth taking a listen. Oddisee effortlessly delivers quick-draw verses over a spacey backdrop. The track itself is full of stuttering hi-hats and layered vocal runs. Overall, it’s the perfect song to get lost in. He is also planning on releasing all of his previous titles on limited edition vinyl. Each album will be re-released on a limited run of unique colored vinyl designs. So, if you’re a vinyl-head, it might be worth strolling into the record shop as well.
Hip-Hop is a recurring style in our culture that has been repackaged and re-branded too many times to count. It’s cut from a past studded with 808s and dressed with dust from thousands of records that line shelves of big-name producers and followers alike. It’s refreshing to follow artists like Oddisee who produce music that compliments the roots of the genre without straying far from the path.
Oddisee is a rapper who knows how to twist hip-hop on its side with every release. Every album comes in a completely different flavor with undertones from past releases. For the past couple of months, he’s been leaving breadcrumbs for his followers; videos, song snippets, and the honest truth. His album The Iceberg has dropped, and a little of his down-to-earth mentality came with it. The Iceberg is good bottle to pop open, and it’s a burn that runs smooth. After you pull back the production, we’re left with an honest album that stays true to Oddisee’s clever lyricism.
The “classic” badge is reserved for albums that capture everything a musician stands for. Every album is a little different, but this album is classic Oddisee. That’s impressive for a rapper who’s still scratching the surface of his career. He’s managed to build a hard-hitting discography in a short few years, and it’s only the beginning. Oddisee hasn’t started rubbing shoulders with Grammy winners, but he’s already established strong roots in the playlists of thousands. By the sound of it, he’s here to stay.
The songs on this album embrace his jazzy side, which is always nice to hear. In previous releases, small pieces of jazz slip through the corners, and The Iceberg is laced with plenty of it. I feel that the road is ignored too often, and brings it back alive. Of course, his music always has that strong R&B feel, and this album doesn’t shy away from that either. This album brings together a trifecta of rap, jazz, and R&B with a modernized twist and plenty clever hooks to go around.
The best thing about this album is the instrumentation. Some tracks are quick-versed rap with jazzy backdrops. Other tracks are more in-tune with modern R&B. Several songs were recorded with a live band, and it’s really a nice testament to modern rap. Hip-hop today has adopted an electronic flare and a strong influence from the current EDM scene. Despite some electronic characteristics, this album still feels somewhat like a traditional R&B record.
“How you say all lives matter if the status says we ain’t adjacent?”
The Iceberg tackles the stories behind the life he lives, the places he travels, and the people apart of it. This album really sheds light on his past and the potential future. He’s about the bigger picture and the pieces involved. It’s a difficult ground to explore, and he spits honest fire at real-world problems on the horizon.
Stacked background vocals, clustered drum breaks, and mellow keys are all wrapped in a crisp package. I’m pretty sure there is a Stevie Wonder sample stitched in there too…
In terms of production, this record has a lot going on. This record really shows off his talent as a producer and arranger. The band sounds fantastic on every track they are featured on. It’s mixed well and is sonically robust; however, I think that some tracks are weaker than others, and the album flows in a weird order.
Every release has imperfections. For a hip-hop album, this record may be a bit much. Oddisee is a talented writer, but his phrasing seems busy on this record. It’s a little overwhelming. Nevertheless, I think that it’s important to try and pick up on his messages. Oddisee doesn’t make mindless rap music. He’s a thinker who puts a lot of thought behind his work.
This isn’t a bad record, but I don’t think this is his greatest album. Some of the songs seem overly complex. This is a cool album that brings some important topics to the table, but this isn’t a record for everybody. There’s a lot to dissect and digest. This album goes beyond a kick and snare with its in-depth take on today’s social and political atmosphere. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I still believe in his artistry and encourage people to explore it. I promise, you’ll always find more beneath the surface.