We the Music: Oddisee

Born Amir Mohamed el Khalifa he’s better known as Oddisee which he goes by on stage. Oddisee grew up in Maryland close to Washington D.C. but lately works out of Brooklyn. As a Sudanese American Muslim who is also the son of an immigrant he has a unique perspective and voice that he expresses in his music, most recently with his new album The Iceberg.

Listen to Oddisee and you’ll be reminded of groups like A Tribe Called Quest with lyrics that examine identity, race, and politics. Oddisee has talked about growing up in one of the most affluent black neighborhoods which borders parts of town that aren’t so great. He loved hip-hop and rap but couldn’t relate to any of the gangster rap. Instead, he examines human nature and commentates on his experiences and social and political issues.

image

The Iceberg is a thought provoking masterpiece but one of the tracks that stands out with its powerful lyrics is “You Grew Up”. He raps about his best friend who was white “While I was trying to keep my Nikes clean/He was trying to scuff his Chucks up,” a small observation but it speaks to a bigger cultural divide. Think about these two music movements; Hip-Hop born out of the inner city in Brooklyn during the drug war and grunge born out of Seattle and teens from the suburbs. It’s a luxury to be able have new things and if you’re middle/upper middle class you come to take that as granted.

The song then goes on; “He blamed my father for the loss of his job/He said immigrants robbed citizens jobs”. This story and song begins to take on a different meaning especially with the rhetoric which our head of state has been spewing about immigrants. It goes on to describe how this friend became a police officer and the next time he saw him it was on the news for shooting a black man in his car by the park where they used to shoot hoops. The hook of this song is simple: “You grew up/No you didn’t change/You were made the same/As those before you came/You grew up/All our growing pains/Were given like our names/You just bought the blame/You grew up”. It touches on how much of who we are and how we act are based in social norms and how we are raised.

The next part of the song manages to capture yet another huge issue in America, terrorism. Oddisee explains that this part of the song was inspired by a story of a Sudanese man in Britain who became linked to ISIS. Rather than describing the terror this man he humanizes the ‘terrorist’. He paints the picture of a normal boy with two parents who were professors but was ostracized in school for the way he looked and the way he acted, for being who he is. Oddisee raps, “People of the present had faces of the past, make it easier to blast them if he feel they did him wrong”. It’s not excusing the behavior but instead trying to get people to understand where this hatred comes from.

“You Grew Up” is a meditation on what it means to be a person of color in America today. There’s police brutality, immigration, racism, and even more prevalent the subtle everyday reminders that you are different. Another standout track is “Like Really” which focuses on racial injustice, Oddisee asks “How you gonna make us great, when we were never really that amazing” and “How you saying all lives matter when the stats say we are not adjacent”. It’s a questioning of America asking how it can be so cold and cruel to people who call themselves Americans but aren’t white when they are just as American as the next person.

Lastly, the song “NNGE” or “Never Not Getting Enough”. If you’re looking for a new song to get you inspired for the latest protest you’re attending this is the song to listen to. Oddisee witnessed countless protests and movements exercise their right to assemble growing up right by the nation’s capitol which contributed to this song. “NNGE” is a call to be positive in these times, the line: “If you’re new to disrespect by your elected puppeteers/Well let me show you how to persevere,” sums it up pretty well. Other tracks to note: “Things”, “Rain Dance”, and “Rights and Wrongs”.

This album captures today’s issues; the unrest and anxiousness about the future. It touches on almost every issue you can think of that people are out marching and protesting for everyday which is what makes this album so great. Not only that but it’s nuanced; he struggles with how we can be of the same kind but have all this conflict because of meaningless differences. It’s a call to action even if it’s not directly so and a reminder that we all come from the same place. It’s an album defining a movement. The people’s movement.

Oddisee plays Neumos May 11th, buy tickets here.

-Grace Madigan

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

 

Best Releases of the Week

This past Friday saw a hefty number of releases. Rather than attempt to write five or six album reviews this week and promptly self-combust, here are some mini-reviews of my favorite releases from last week.

Stormzy, Gang Signs and Prayer

image

I came late to the grime scene, but so far it has been merely decent. For those who don’t know, grime is a combination of electronic and hip-hop characterized by hard-hitting English MCs. Skepta’s Konnichiwa was the first full-length grime album I listened, leaving me slightly disappointed but curious about the genre. Stormzy’s new album, Gang Signs and Prayer, has proved that grime is a legitimate genre in the music industry and that it should not be meddled with. Stormzy delivers ruthless lyrics over raw, machine-like instrumentals, never wasting a breath. This album, unlike other grime projects, carefully balances the line dividing typical aggressive grime tracks and soft, stripped-back vocal tracks. Stormzy lends his singing voice on multiple tracks and impresses. Overall, a strong debut for Stormzy that puts an unconventional yet refreshing twist on traditional grime. Listen to Gang Signs and Prayer here.

Steve Lacy, Steve Lacy’s Demo

image

Two and a half months into 2017 and The Internet has already become very busy. They kicked off a tour last week and have already released three solo projects this year. Steve Lacy is the latest of the band to drop a project, following Syd and Matt Martians. Recorded entirely on his iPhone, Steve Lacy’s Demo sits at six tracks long (or short), and Lacy clarified on Twitter that the project is neither an EP or album, but a song series. Nonetheless, it’s lackadaisical style and lo-fi vibes provide a relaxing listen. Lacy’s guitar leads most of the songs, usually settling for a pairing with the drums or bass and not much else. The lack of variety seems daunting at first, but Lacy makes due with the tools at hand. Steve Lacy’s Demo is a short, sweet intro to The Internet’s youngest member, highlighted by his melodic vocals and lo-fi atmosphere. Listen to Steve Lacy’s Demo here.

Oddisee, The Iceberg

image

Oddisee continues to strengten his discography with his latest release, The Iceberg. His eleventh studio album tackles poverty, racism, and more ethical issues. He spits lyrics with sincerity and depth, quite possibly taking multiple listens to decipher. The instrumentals include bright horn sections; each song sounds like a crisp live rendition. The climax of the album occurs on “Like Really”, a low-key banger where Oddisee addresses everyday problems minorities face. The Iceberg proves to be another strong release in Oddisee’s ever-expanding discography. Listen to The Iceberg here.

Thundercat, Drunk

image

Thundercat finally returns with what will most likely be an album of the year contender, Drunk. At 23 tracks long (only 53 minutes total), Thundercat croons about losing friends, anime, masturbating, cats, and everything in between. He takes what made Apocalypse great (increased use of singing) and what made The Golden Age of Apocalypse great (bass solos and instrumentation) and combines them on Drunk, effectively creating an explosion of clever production and sweet, delicious vocals. Most tracks, unfortunately, are short, but each is still strong enough to stand up on its own. There are a lot of features, too, each which contribute to the song exactly as expected (even Wiz Khalifa, which isn’t really a good thing). Thundercat’s eccentric, unique style plays to his favor again on Drunk, coming through with the best release of the year thus far. Listen to Drunk here.   

Archie O’Dell                  

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Artist Rediscovery: Sir Sly

Check THIS to start listening while you read

             Anyone
remember the song “Gold”? You know, released in 2013 – popular over the summer
that next year? No, well, unfortunately not many people I’ve talked to seem to
remember it. Clicking this might jog your memory, if
you’ve heard it before at least. The song was off the album You Haunt Me by Sir Sly, and it was a magnificent album. Sir Sly focuses on an
ambient, electronic “chill” pop sound mixed with some interesting vocals. The
band is a three-piece formed in California just back in 2012, so relatively new
to the music scene. You Haunt Me is
their debut, with 12 tracks, was released in 2014. I’ve been patiently awaiting
the release of a second album; but, it’s been three years and all I’ve gotten
is one single, “Expectations”, in 2016 and nothing since. I figure maybe if
they get more support they’ll be more apt to release some new music, so here’s
an artist rediscovery of Sir Sly.

image

             If you’ve
heard Sir Sly, it because you found them through their most popular song,
“Gold”, which admittedly is a pretty sick track. A lot of the tracks on You Haunt Me feel very much like “Gold”,
with a sort of accusatory lyrical composition and an ambient electronic feel.
It’s the sort of music you listen to on a cloudy day (so pretty much everyday
here..). Like any angsty new band, the songs focus mainly on the destructive
end of a relationship, and the hindsight that comes with it. From tracks that
focus on self-doubt like ”Leave You, to tracks that blame the other person,
like “Found You Out”, we journey through every part of a relationship as it
ends. This album has it all; from fast paced and anger filled, to melancholy
and down-tempo.

             Sir Sly
takes advantage of metaphor, and employs the technique liberally throughout all
their songs. It kicks ass when coupled with the atmospheric feel of the whole
album. Not only that, but the unique twinge of the vocals completes the
electronic undertones that accent most of the tracks. Beyond the base
metaphors, the lyrics feel destructive and precise, they hit right where they’re
meant to – this band certainly is country but they know how to pull your
heartstrings. I’ve found that they express a lot of things about love that you
won’t find very often in music; the subtle doubts. Sir Sly doesn’t necessarily
focus on huge, glaring, problems that are visible on the surface of a relationship.
Rather, their music emphasizes things like pride or disloyalty (or other
personality traits) that leak into a relationship and poison it. Here are some
of my favorite lyrics:

“A taker and a giver / Oh I made you shiver
/ Couldn’t I deliver?”                    (Found You Out)

“I believed in you and then you feel apart/ You broke my trust, broke
my heart” (Nowhere/Bloodlines, Pt. I)

“I’ll be the bigger man while you act like you’re innocent / No matter
where you go, your lies will follow you” (Found You Out)

“I don’t owe you a single thing, not a God damn thing” (Gold)

If you don’t listen to Sir Sly then you really should. If you’re
ever feeling angry, sad, or just sorta existing, Sir Sly is the band for you.
They are fairly difficult to characterize, but they are similar to The Neighbourhood,
a slowed down David Guetta, or maybe more of a Bad Suns type vibe. As far as
where to start listening, I recommend “Found You Out”, “Inferno”, and “You Haunt Me”.
Thanks for the read! See you next week.


<3 Zach Krieger

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Passing of a Funk Legend: Junie Morrison

image

(From the cover of Morrison’s album Bread Alone)

Funk has lost a legend. Last week, Junie Morrison passed away at the age of 62.

A founding member of Ohio Players and later the musical director for Parliament-Funkadelic, Morrison was a pivotal force behind both 70s funk and modern hip hop movements. Artists like A Tribe Called Quest, J Dilla, De La Soul, and The Roots have all sampled his work. “He was very appreciated,” wrote Solange. “He was the ‘Super Spirit’ indeed.” (You can read Solange’s full post here. Her 2015 song “Junie” was inspired by the late musician.)

Morrison’s mark on music is clear. His contributions on Ohio Players’ “Funky Worm” and Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” helped drive both bands toward later successes. In the heavily-sampled “Funky Worm”, Morrison performs his famous Granny voice and worm synth. The storyline, a conversation between Granny and Clarence, is two and a half minutes of disgusting funk and humorous strangeness. It’s so rad.

In addition to his 80s work with P-Funk, Morrison also produced multiple solo albums under several aliases. He continued to write and perform into the 2000s with his own record label, Juniefunk. In 1997, Junie Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of P-Funk.

Rest in peace, Junie. We’re grooving for you.

“What I mean to say is that the essence of the funk has always had a tendency to speak of bringing people together.”

–Junie Morrison, in a 2015 interview

-Emily Tasaka

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Khalid Releases Title Track to New Album

Khalid continues to build up hype for his debut album American Teen, premiering the title track “American Teen” on Beats 1 Radio early Wednesday. This release comes just two weeks after he dropped “Shot Down”. On “American Teen”, Khalid glides over glossy piano chords and synth-flavored drums, singing about being a youth in America. The song overall is solid, but doesn’t stand out in comparison to singles like “Location” and “Coaster”. 

A week before his album is set to drop, Khalid has already released seven of the fifteen songs on the album. Has he given his audience too much of a preview of his debut album? Will the lack of new songs on American Teen leave it feeling lackluster and disappointing as a complete work? We’ll know by next Friday; until then, check out Khalid’s music here, listen to “American Teen” here, and check out the album cover below.

image

Archie O’Dell

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!