Oddisee, born Amir Mohamed, is a multi-talented and influential underground producer/MC from DC, now a resident of Brooklyn, NYC. The music maker recently released his impressive four-track remix EP, 'Odd Renditions', which contains songs by Bon Iver, Marvin Gaye, Metronomy and K-Os, and sees him spitting a verse over every track. If the EP is anything to go by, then Oddisse's debut album, 'People Hear What They See' - which is due for release on June 12 via Mello Music Group - is set to place him alongside some of hip-hop's greats.
For those new to Oddisee, who is also one third of the Diamond District crew, believe us when we say that he is worth a very close listen. The lyricist has been creating well-produced hip-hop and soul music since his early teens and has worked alongside the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff, DTMD, J-Live,Talib Kweli and Uptown XO, to name but a few. Oddisee is a growing name on the hip-hop scene and he is gifted for creating throwback tracks, whilst being so sonically forward-thinking. The Wrap Up's Line Rindvig sat down with the rising star on his recent trip to London to find out more.
The Wrap Up: The title of your new upcoming solo debut album is ‘People Hear What They See’. More and more producers see visuals when they create a new beat, a new track or a new sound. So, do you see what you hear?
Oddisee: That’s a good question! I definitely see a storyline. I might not see a single image, but I can feel the mood or see the story that leads to the creation of the track. I usually create the beat before writing the lyrics. All of my beats have a story; all of them have a subject. There are five subjects. There’s a headphone beat, which is an intense beat that you want to listen to while strolling around with your headphones on. There’s a driving beat, which is a beat that you want to listen and think to when you are driving around. There’s a party beat, well, we all like a party beat. There’s an emotional beat, all of my beats are made with emotions but some more than others, and there’s a cleaning beat, which is the beat that you’d want to clean your house or car to (laughs).
TWU: Music is so much more than just a sound; it’s a way of describing our emotions through a rhythm. Speaking of rhythm, what’s the status of the underground scene these days? Has the underground still got the same rhythm and sound as it had back in the 80s/90s?
Oddisee: I believe music is a circle, it goes round and round. The sound you hear a lot of at the moment is going back to the 70s/80s. People are sampling old stuff. They’re taking the sound from back then and making it into new songs with the same sound. Hip-hop has many sounds, not just one. People like to narrow music, put it in boxes, surround it with walls, but music is always evolving. It’s a cliché to put restrictions on hip-hop. When I make music, I want to fit it into as many boxes as possible because that will open up for a bigger group of fans. I want to make songs where my fans can recognize me, but that doesn’t mean I can only be in one box.
TWU: Are there any barriers that keep hip-hop from being ‘real’ nowadays?
Oddisee: When it comes to hip-hop, you have to be real to your fans. You can’t write one song saying one thing, and then having another song on the same album saying something completely different. Take Beyoncé for an example, on the same album she can have a song saying, ‘I miss you, I need you’ and then she could have another one saying, ‘I don’t need you and I don’t care.’ I do my best to write songs that my fans can relate to and understand – songs about my dreams and how to turn those dreams into reality. However, I also write about my accomplishments. You’ve just got to have that fine balance. I like to use old hip-hop beats, but I also like to use instrumental music. Like, I went to Berklee College in Boston the other day to record some brass and strings with some of the students. I just like to move around in the different genres. I listen to a lot of different music. I’m listening to Bon Iver at the moment.
TWU: How do you write your lyrics?
Oddisee: Whenever I think of a new line, I write it down on my phone. I have a lot of one-liners written in my phone and when I do write, I do it somewhere outside of my home. I love my place, but I get writer’s block when I am at home. I’ll sit in a park and write, or something like that. If it is winter, I’ll walk around making up the lyrics, stop by a cafe and write them down before continuing my walk.
TWU: You teach classes sometimes, don’t you? A lot of young people look up to you – particularly in the DC area – through the classes that you sometimes teach. How do you manage to inspire, motivate and keep them sane?
Oddisee: Don’t fall victim to under development or over exposure. That’s what I always like to tell my students. I like to guide them and make sure that they have focus on the right place – I even do that with my fans through social media.
TWU: You like to spend time in London, and you’ve actually been here quite a lot over the years. What’s the fascination?
Oddisee: I love the time difference. Because there is a five-hour time difference, it means that I can start my day in a relaxing way – start off slowly with work, catching up with things before any emails from the States begin to fill up my inbox. London is also my base when I am on tour in Europe; it’s easier instead of having to go back and forth between Europe and the States. Besides, I like to travel. I’m a minimalist, so I like just to have few things with me. The roots of my family are desert people, they traveled light too. I’m lucky that I can travel around while I’m working, thanks to technology. A few weeks back, I sat on the beach in Croatia producing a beat. I sent it off via SoundCloud and got paid directly via PayPal, all while I sat on the beach! Now, isn’t that just wonderful? (Laughs)
Stay up to date with Oddisee on Twitter - www.twitter.com/Oddisee
Words: Line Rindvig (@Rindvig)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)