Oddisee, real name Amir Mohamed El Khalifa, is a triple threat in modern hip hop. He’s rapper, a lyricist and a beatsmith rolled into one, and he’s here to change the game with his politically charged tracks.
Churning out message-driven rap songs that center on themes like Islamophobia and police brutality, Oddisee contrasts his impactful verses with silky neo-soul and funk-driven beats. We clue you in on this eloquent rapper.
He’s the hardest working rapper in the scene
Currently based in Brooklyn, the rapper has been spitting rhymes for over a decade now. And he’s got a pretty impressive discography, too, having released a bevy of studio releases, live albums, mixtapes and EPs.
But his breakthrough record only came in the form of his 2015 album, The Good Fight, and since then, he’s put out an instrumental project and another LP. “I work on two albums a year; usually it’s one instrumental album and one vocal album,” he mentioned in an interview with 303 Magazine.
Aside from producing originals, he’s also had guest spots on plenty of tracks including DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “Musik Lounge” and 20syl’s “Ongoing Thing.”
He’s the voice of our generation
Oddisee identifies as a Muslim and a conscious rapper in the mold of Talib Kweli. Born to an African-American mother and Sudanese father, the 33-year-old has always used his music as a platform for his “social observations,” dissecting politics, religion and relationships from his very personal point of view.
Through his fearless lyrics, Oddisee paints the hard truths of being a Muslim and black man in present-day America. “All in the name—I got a name that’ll scare all the brave in the land of the free / All in the name of protecting a country that’s shooting its citizens dead in the streets,” he raps on “Lifting Shadows” off his 2016 EP, Alwasta.
Music runs in his blood
Growing up, the emcee had always been surrounded by music. He’s stayed in an area where go-go music was prevalent, his mother was a singer, and his father played the oud, or Arabic lute.
And when his cousin introduced him to hip hop, it was pretty much love at first beat. Obsessed with the genre, Oddisee learned how to create rhymes and produce beats of his own. He even passed up on an opportunity to study at the Art Institute of Philadelphia to pursue his music career. Lucky us.
He doesn’t just rap alone
He wasn’t always a solo act. Back in his salad days, Oddisee teamed up with fellow DC rappers Uptown XO and yU to form Diamond District. The hip hop trio, inspired by the work of Gang Starr and De La Soul, brought grimy ’90s East Coast strains and boom bap to the streets of DMV (or DC, Maryland and Virginia).
Critics hailed their 2009 debut, In the Ruff, as one of the best urban hip hop albums to emerge from DC’s underground rap scene at the time. And five years later, Diamond District came through again with a fiery sophomore effort, March on Washington.
A J Cole and Oddisee record is out there somewhere
The Grammy-nominated 4 Your Eyez Only rapper had reached out to Oddisee for a chance to collaborate. The pair spent months cobbling together ideas and half-tracks for a full project—Kendrick Lamar was even slated to drop in with a few verses.
Sadly, none of those tracks have seen the light of day. But we’re sure there are a few gems still languishing in Oddisee’s hard drive that we’d jump at the chance to hear.