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Oddisee Asks For Introspection and Understanding On His Stellar New Album ‘The Iceberg’

Rapper and producer Oddisee has released his latest studio album 'The Iceberg.'

Rapper and producer Oddisee has released his latest studio album The Iceberg.


Oddisee, who was born Amir Mohamed el Khalifa in Washington D.C., dropped the project towards the end of last month. Running 12 tracks long and just over 45 minutes, Iceberg is a sonically cohesive body of work that manages to neatly pack powerful and important overarching themes.

The album is political, as much of Oddisee’s previous work has been, touching on economic inequality, consumerism, race, xenophobia, and sexism. Searing stories, many of them personal, are told to illustrate larger social forces and their often disastrous psychological toll, particularly on black people, people of color, and immigrants.

Oddisee’s mother is African-American while his father is Sudanese. Growing up the rapper spent summers in the North African country. The Trump regime’s Muslim Ban, both of them, list Sudan as one of the seven, and then six countries whose citizens are being barred from entry into the United States.

The Iceberg is big and expansive, its multi-layered sounds, brought to life with the help of a live band, compliment Oddisee’s vocals and reflective essayistic lyrics. Pulsating beats and beautiful arrangements can be found throughout. Much of Iceberg feels like an outstretched a hand, one offering understanding, a call for reflection and critical thinking.

The album opening “Digging Deep” does just this, swelling into a grove, setting the stage for the remaining 11 tracks. Oddisee’s message is a pertinent one, particularly considering our current political milieu, the anger and resentment felt by many, the stark division that plagues the world. “Things,” the second track and the album’s first single, samples Stevie Wonder‘s 1972 track “Superwoman” transforming it into a gorgeous and bouncy song that asks us to look both outward and inward.

Making music or art that honestly analyzes and criticizes the world does have its price. In an interview with Noisey, Oddisee spoke about being billed to perform at President Barack Obama's farewell party back in January with rappers Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, J. Cole, and others. But as the performance date neared, Oddisee was informed that he was being pulled from the bill for his controversial music. The DMV rapper hypothesized it was his track "Lifting Shadows," a song from last year’s EP Alwasta that addressed Obama’s devastating drone war, that made the White House change their mind.

In that interview Oddisee also remarked, “No one really wants to do the hard work of understanding why things are the way they are.” He continued, "My message is to try to bring everyone together to realize that we're not all that different.” It’s a message that rings clearly throughout Iceberg.

“Built By Pictures” tackles Black people’s relationship to money, economic access, inequality and the influence of consumerism as exacerbated by the forces of capital and their tools of propaganda. He raps, “Why do my people spend more and have less than/ No seat to eat the meal that I'm responsible for cheffing.” On “You Grew Up” Oddisee tells two stories of two different boys, and the effect hate can have on an individual and the extremes it can draw them to.

Protest songs like “Nnge” (Never Not Getting Enough) featuring Toine articulate that Black people have been struggling prior to the election of Trump while also paying homage to D.C.’s go-go scene. He raps "I'm from black America this is just another year/ If you're new to disrespect by your elected puppeteers/ Well let me show you how to persevere.” Though there is hope for a better future, there are moments of doubt as expressed on the album’s soulful closer “Rights & Wrongs” featuring Olivier St. Louis.

Making music that touches on social issues and politics runs the risk of turning didactic, preachy, a sacrifice of fitting in a crucial point or theme at the expense of cadence or flow. Iceberg is an important musical statement in an uncertain time, one that is able to find its balance in the chaos, a graceful dance that swells and resides at the right moments.

It’s a project that manages to constantly and diligently say something that means something, a collection of songs that smoothly flow into each other, songs that relay a snapshot of the human experience, simultaneously straddling below the water and above it, partially frozen and partially liquid, music that somehow is able to soaringly sing about understanding and love in a sea of confusion and insularity.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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