(AllHipHop Features) While the federal government in the nation’s capital is trying to resolve a shutdown, the Washington, D.C. Hip Hop scene is wide open. The District of Columbia is quickly becoming the next big locale in rap music with several artists shining a light on the immense talent emanating from the Mid-Atlantic region. One of the leading voices in the DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) rap movement is Hip Hop artist Oddisee.
“Growing up in D.C. influenced me in so many different ways,” says Oddisee. “That perfect blend between northern and southern culture a lot of times finds itself into my flow. I care about riding the beat the way a southern emcee would. I also care about lyrical potency like a traditional East Coast emcee would with metaphors and similes and wordplay. I come from both schools of rhyming.”
Oddisee was born Amir Mohamed in Washington, D.C. and later raised in the adjacent Maryland county of Prince George’s. He dove into music around the turn of the millennium, and eventually released over a dozen projects including 2011’s Rock Creek Park and 2012’s People Hear What They See. The current Brooklyn resident dropped his latest instrumental album The Beauty In All and the complimentary Tangible Dreams mixtape package in September.
“Every release I’ve done I’ve kind of jumped back-and-forth between instrumental projects and vocal releases starting with Rock Creek Park, and then after that People Here What They See,” explains Oddisee. “I kind of wanted to put them together instead of releasing them one after the other so I could display all of my abilities at one time.”
Oddisee makes it a point to emphasize that his gifts as a writer, performer, and producer are all equally valuable and essential. He understands the tendency for the media and the public to categorize performers as either a “producer-who-raps” or a “rapper-who-produces,” but for Oddisee those boxes cannot accurately contain the extent of who he is. He sees himself as an artist first, and an emcee/producer second.
“I really want my listeners to view me as a Hip Hop artist, because that’s a rarity,” says Oddisee. “A lot of people who make beats don’t rhyme that well. There a lot of people who rhyme well who don’t make beats that well. There are a lot of people who do neither exceptional well. I feel as though I’m one of those people who do both of them exceptional well.”
The Mello Music Group artist has managed to maintain that level of excellence, build a supportive fan base, and book international tours without the backing of a major record label. At one point in the not too distant past, it would have been hard (if not impossible) for an independent performer to reach audiences all around the globe.
In what is rapidly becoming the “Age of the Indie”, majors are now looking to smaller labels as the models of effective, economical promotion and artist development. According to Oddisee, the big companies are even masking as independents to build underground attention for their artists.
“There’s lots of artists who release free promo material and mixtapes and appear to be grassroots, but they completely have a backing by a larger entity,” shares Oddisee. “A lot of artists who release something and it gains some sort of buzz are immediately courted by a larger entity who kind of takes over. It still allows them to organically grow, but they’re being watched and observed and assisted.”
The idea of achieving success in the rap game without the financial support of music corporations was part of the inspiration for the Tangible Dreams mixtape. Throughout his career Oddisee has routinely been labeled “underrated” by his supporters who sometimes find it difficult to believe that an artist can sustain a comfortable livelihood without being constantly showcased in the mainstream media.
“I come across people who are surprised you can make a living from being a Hip Hop artist and not be on the radio or on MTV or BET or all over the major publications. It made me realize how unrealistic people think it is to be an artist or do anything you really want to do that’s off the beaten path,” says Oddisee. “Subject wise [Tangible Dreams] really talks about how things are feasible, how you can go about living a life of value and worth and excitement without being extravagant at the same time.”
While Tangible Dreams addresses the reality of reaching what some may think are unattainable goals, The Beauty In All allows the listener to reflect on those little, unnoticeable aspects of life that ultimately help push you to your eventual destination.
“The Beauty In All is a project about how the imperfections of things really add to the beauty of the world. How certain conditions that make people struggle actually give birth to some of the greatest ideas in Hip Hop,” explains Oddisee. “For instance, Hip Hop comes from struggle. It comes from poverty. It comes from people reflecting on what they go through in life and making art out of it. Making art out of what they have whether that be back in the day plugging up a turntable into a street light for electricity or just taking what you have and making the best of it. That’s something that people in urban culture have done for so long. There’s a beauty that comes out of that.”
Oddisee continues, “That’s really what the record is about. Paying attention to those things that we find unattractive or imperfect and understanding just how important they are to contributing to the things that we do appreciate. This is just a musical interpretation of that.”
Oddisee reached out to other performers he calls “more popular than myself” to provide collaborations for his latest work but did not receive any answers back, so he stuck to his family of artists like Ralph Real, Olivier St Louis, Paolo Escobard, Toine & Trek Life, and Diamond District. Even without big name features, Oddisee knows his extensive discography has the potential to appeal to the lovers of many brands of Hip Hop.
“I’ll make more an upbeat oriented material or thought-provoking material or braggadocious rap or emotionally based music. I do my best to cover all the things I like and experience in life myself, and I leave it up to the listener to pick which one they want to subscribe to.”
With the musical combination of The Beauty In All and Tangible Dreams, the DMV’s multi-talented Hip Hop representative is offering varying soundscapes that will hopefully catch the ear of music fans who truly appreciate the artistry of the culture. Only a true artist like Oddisee could even recognize the beauty in exploring distinct styles and embrace the tangible ability to see them all flourish.
Follow Oddisee on Twitter @ODDISEE
Stream/Purchase Oddisee’s The Beauty In All/Tangible Dreams below.