Globetrotting MC recalls vast experiences on solo debut.
Marcus J. Moore 2012
If hip hop was a family gathering, Amir "Oddisee" Mohamed would be the wise uncle from whom you’d seek advice. He may not be an old man, but he’s wise beyond his years, his quiet resolve already crystallised by real-life experiences.
That maturity has always appeared in Oddisee’s music, whether he’s trading rhymes with his Diamond District colleagues or plying others with his genre-hopping blend of instrumentals. If you zig, he zags; if the yin is popular, Oddisee opts for the yang. It’s been that way for years, and it seems to work for the Maryland native.
So it’s no surprise that his proper solo debut, People Hear What They See, took so long to compile. “They say you got your whole life to make your first album,” Oddisee proclaims on opener Ready to Rock.
From there, the album ponders the scattered signposts of his already accomplished career: the struggles of artistic integrity (That Real), the pitfalls of complacency (Let It Go), and lessons learned from past friendships (You Know Who You Are). Elsewhere, Oddisee offers differing perspectives on trendy themes. On Maybes, with its driving rhythm and floating keys, he imagines a couple’s telephone argument.
American Greed is a visceral examination of US capitalism, which Oddisee likens to prostitution. A first-person anecdote connects the war abroad to everyday endurance: “When George Bush took the oil for the soil, I was in front of the counter buying some milk, from the Arabs,” rhymes the Sudanese-American MC. “In the land of honey, I ordered fries from Chinese, surviving off of what’s in the foil.”
Oddisee’s production continues its evolution into something more global. His beats typically carry obscure soul samples, heavy basslines and prominent drums, and are bolstered by live strings and guitars, giving them an orchestral feel. On Way in Way Out, majestic horns make the song seem regal. Set You Free is retrospective funk: between its velvety organ loop and trickling electric keys, Oddisee sounds like he recorded it in a silk smoking jacket and ascot tie.
That fusion leads to a robust listening experience. With this album, Oddisee looks in the mirror and examines his own intricacies, attempting to comprehend his immediate surroundings and society as a whole. Through it all, People Hear What They See is an immense journey toward self-actualisation. He isn’t where he wants to be, but he’s not far away.