Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, or the incisive rapper and elegant producer Oddisee, grew up in two worlds. The son of an African-American mother and a Sudanese father, he spent his weeks in affluent Maryland suburbs, and his weekends in tougher D.C. neighborhoods. To his Sudanese family, he was the exotic western cousin, raised on rap and big-city trappings; to his Washington family, he was the suburban Muslim nerd who watched too much news. That tension has made Oddisee a modern musical visionary, "a focused beam of hip-hop soul that rattles loudly in our present political moment," as Pitchfork exclaimed.
Oddisee arrives in Durham for Duke Performances' Building Bridges project and ongoing Hip-Hop Initiative. At Motorco, with an airtight live band, he funnels his perspective as a Muslim Sudanese-American artist into his music. Oddisee's songs sound joyous, with cascading horns and mellifluous keyboards. But as a lyricist, especially on 2017's brilliant The Iceberg, he addresses broader questions about the American experiment. A daring thinker and rapper, Oddisee delivers hip-hop that makes us ponder the world's trials and triumphs - one ebullient beat and breathless rhyme at a time.