Oy vey, my lady friends are a puddle of heartbreak and discontent this week. Between the prolonged adolescent fuckery of Tinder and your standard-issue commitment phobia, it’s a wonder anyone bothers looking for love of the lasting variety these days.
I’d been reflecting on the pathetic state of the contemporary dating scene and the complexity of my own relationship to love with a capital “L” when, like a bolt out of the Hype Machine blue, Oddisee hit me where it hurt.
The product of a Prince George’s County union between an African-American mother and Sudanese father, Oddisee (aka Amir Mohamed el Khalifa) has been churning out hip-hop instrumentals and mixtapes worthy of your attention since 2005.
On May 5th, he’ll release The Good Fight on the Mello Music Group label. The lead single, “That’s Love,” had me at the first 60s-drenched organ note. The soundscape is more Dap Kings-adjacent than anything happening in mainstream hip-hop these days, and the lyrics are uniquely straightforward and relatable. In “That’s Love,” Oddisee offers us a picture of love that is expansive, complex, and forgiving:
When you told me the truth, even if it really hurt
‘Cuz you knew a lie was worst (That’s love)
When you let me borrow money that you didn’t really have
‘Cuz you knew what I was worth (That’s love)
When I was at my worst, you would tell me I would blow
When I thought that I would burst (That’s love)
Oddisee stepped in to remind me, during a week that would have otherwise spurred nothing but cynicism, that love is worth fighting for. Whether it’s worth swiping right, swiping right, and swiping right for remains to be seen, but Oddisee’s not talking about the first flush of anyone’s iPhone-driven shenanigans. He’s talking about the real deal.
Born of friendship, parenthood, romance, whatever—take it where you can get it, love is the thing that heals us. It saves us from the most boneheaded version of ourselves. The man gets it, and I, for one, am glad he’s around.
While I have more than a passing familiarity with Spotify’s “Hip Hop Monsters” playlist, it’s nice to take a break from the self-aggrandizement and booty-centricism of it all to hear from a guy who offers advice straight from my therapist’s playbook: “You taught me how to help others, and through that discovered how to put myself first.”
Oddisee has cited his inspirations as including Rakim and A Tribe Called Quest, and well, influences don’t get much better than that.
If you’re new to Oddisee’s sound, get on board. His musical references are far-reaching, and his lyrics might just break you out of your 21st-century dating blues.