1 / 1

Oddisee

Nov 29/2016
WORDS by Leslie Ken Chu PHOTOGRAPHY by Eric Tavares

Sudanese-American hip hop artist Oddisee is transparent about the intentions behind his EP, Alwasta, which he released online for free last March. “You give something to get something.” Alwasta complements his even more recent instrumental release, The Odd Tape (which followed in May), adding repertoire and hype to his current 30-date North American/European tour.

Alwasta derives its title from the Arabic term “wasat.” The colloquialized form, “wasta,” loosely translates to “middleman” or a figure who possesses great social currency and who uses that wealth to connect members of their community. “A person has achieved social currency by being an influencer or someone who can come to the aid of others,” Oddisee explains. “It’s almost like a credit system. I’ve definitely been there for a lot of people, and I’m a person that everyone knows they can count on.”

Oddisee can’t overstate the importance of wasta in funding the EP’s creation. “The whole album wouldn’t have come together without having wasta.” Vital personnel including his graphic designer, keyboard player Ralph Real, and friend who is an Arabic-English language teacher all returned his requests for services – album art, musical tracks, and translation – within 48 hours.

“Social currency is something that I have an abundance of,” Oddisee says, aware of his stock. “It’s something I’m very proud of. It’s something that I’m very happy to have – , the ability to essentially do what I want, when I want, not based on how much money I have in my account but by how much respect I have from people.”

Wasta has taken Oddisee far in his career, and he’s certain wasta can take him far around the globe. “If right now I wanted to fly halfway around the world, I can’t think of a single place where I don’t know someone who would give me a room or a bed. If I was hungry, I can’t think of a single state or country that I wouldn’t know someone who would feed me.”

Oddisee is particular – and blunt – in distinguishing wasta from karma. “I know it’s ideal to think of it as a karma system, where you give without thinking of returning, but it’s not that. It’s the cold, hard truth.”

Like social currency, soul flows through Alwasta. Whether Oddisee maintains an approachable, positive vibe or gets political recounting his Muslim experience in post-9/11 America, his authenticity cannot be denied at any point on the EP. “Soul is as core to my music as it is to humanity…. I think all music has a soul.” Oddisee admits he’s unsure what soul is as a genre anymore, but he does know that soul is a feeling. “My music’s definitely based on feeling and emotion, and I think that that’s something you can hear and feel in my music.”

Oddisee acknowledges the subjective nature of music numerous times throughout our conversation, but there’s one detail he doesn’t leave open for interpretation. Alwasta’s closing tracker, “Slow Groove”, recalls Eddie Kendricks’s widely sampled “Intimate Friends” (Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Drake, and Common have all put their own spins on the classic), but Oddisee immediately clarifies that “Slow Groove” does not sample a single part. “Rob Real replayed everything, and we added a vinyl crackle in the background to make it sound like a sample. But there’s no samples in it whatsoever.”

With the release of Alwasta and The Odd Tape, Oddisee keeps busy but perhaps not as busy as one might think. The trick is in how he balances his schedule: by spending as much time off of the road as he spends on it. When he’s not touring, he says, “I work prolifically on a lot of music, and then over the course of the year, that music will release itself.” This routine creates the illusion that he writes all year round.

Despite Oddisee’s work rate, and despite his bustling mind and making himself available to his communities, he manages to find time to enjoy simple pleasures, like most everyone else. For him, there truly is no place like home, where he can just be Amir Mohamed el Khalifa. “I wanna be there more than anywhere else at any given time no matter where I’m at in the world. I’d rather be in my apartment, on the couch, watching Game of Thrones with my wife than anywhere else.”

Starley’s path to platinum status has been filled with starts and stops. After years spent trying to launch her career in her hometown of Sydney, Australia, and later in London and the United States, the popstar hopeful grew depressed. Her anxieties heightened. She was ready to quit. But before she decided to shift her focus onto her next passion – fitness – she made one final attempt at music. Telling herself that God works in mysterious ways but to remain faithful in his process, Starley penned the personal salve, “Call on Me”. The song caught the attention of Australia’s Central Station Records. Since then, everything changed for Starley. Central Station’s subsidiary, Tinted Records, released “Call on Me” as her debut single last July. Epic Records re-released the track later in October. To date, the song has peaked at number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its remixed version by Aussie producer Ryan Riback has garnered over 338 million Spotify streams. Starley is currently touring North America for the first time supporting British electronic group Clean Bandit. Georgie got some time with the budding singer to talk about her mainstream ascent, dealing with mental health, and the importance of fitness

MORE

Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch first met in the 11th grade, when they started performing together in a jazz quartet known as the Flown Tones. Although the band later disbanded, Rehbein and Dausch stuck together, and the pair went on to experiment with folk, reggae and electronica sound combinations. Eventually, this led to the formation of Milky Chance and the 2014 release of their debut album, Sadnessecary, which later went on to become a multi-platinum success. Now, three and a half years later, Milky Chance is ready to embark on a new adventure with the release of Blossom. The album’s first single, “Cocoon”, continues to climb the charts as the Blossom Tour makes its way across North America. Lead vocalist Rehbein spoke to Georgie about touring, writing and how being close friends with Dausch has benefited the band. G—It’s been about 3 ½ years since the release of Sadnecessary. How has your approach changed between your first and second albums? Clemens Rehbein—I wouldn’t say it’s changed in the way I write songs, but rather how we’ve developed as musicians. The songs are made of the same foundation, but they’re influenced by our experiences on the road and playing on stage. G—Was it

MORE

Jacob Sartorius

Jacob Sartorius’s path to fame has become an increasingly familiar story: teenaged internet sensation breaks out into mainstream pop stardom. But what sets the 14-year-old Virginian singer apart is his self-awareness and early career savvy. In 2014, Sartorius began uploading clips of himself singing and dancing to Vine. After amassing around 500,000 followers, he switched to musical.ly, where he began uploading videos of himself lip-synching to his own songs. Whereas Vine allowed him to show off his musical theatre background, musical.ly allowed him to show off even more of his lighthearted side. Musical.ly became a new way for him to promote his music and connect with his fans. Sartorius’s fan base has grown so large that he is currently touring internationally for the first time, across seven countries, in support of his debut EP, The Last Text. Georgie caught up with him by phone in London, England a day before he performed in front of 2,500 fans at the O2 Arena. In preparing for The Last Text World Tour, Sartorius has already started developing the work ethic necessary to endure major pop stardom. For 15 to 20 days leading up to the tour, he worked with his voice and movement coaches for up to ten

MORE