By Thomas Johnson, October 15 2018 —
This past Thursday at Commonwealth Bar & Stage, rapper/producer/all-around-good-guy Oddisee brought the same workmanlike attitude to his live show that has defined his career. Though the first handful of songs he had to work through some sound issues, Oddisee, who introduced himself by his birth name Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, quickly found his rhythm. From the jump, he made a point of involving the crowd, manipulating call-and-responses and offering some witty and truly hilarious commentary in between tracks. “Don’t have low standards just ‘cause it’s a hip-hop show,” he said at one point.
Though Evidence was also scheduled to perform, he was absent for unknown reason. Oddisee, who could not have been more at ease, informed the crowd perfectly:
“Evidence couldn’t be here, so I’ll be your substitute rapper. But don’t treat me like a substitute or I’ll kill y’all.”
There’s no love for the consistent MC. In rap, exceptionality is often easier to herald in erratic flashes than over the course of an even-keeled career. It’s why a flash-in-the-pan artist is more likely to hop onto a major tour after a smash single than a reliable veteran. It’s why an artist like Oddisee, the platonic ideal of a working-class rapper— who has quietly dropped a stellar album each year for a decade — is relegated to quaint stages like Commonwealth.
The setlist evenly distributed songs from throughout Oddisee’s catalogue, which revolves around his penchant for chunky soul samples and change-of-pace rapping. At one point he even cut a song short, just so he could restart it, slow it down and essentially turn traditional boom-bap into trap.
In a just world, Oddisee would perform at a sold-out coliseum. He would have a crew doing his soundcheck before he hits the stage and his tour rider would be garnished with shaved flakes of gold that he’s probably too nice to ask for. Alas, we don’t live in a just world. But Oddisee, a professional in the truest sense of the word, continues to make the best of it.