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Turn it Down: ‘Culture Clash’ brings hip-hop to The Avenue Café


Culture Clash with Oddisee

Saturday, Sept. 21 @ The Avenue Café, 2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. 

Free, 6 p.m., All ages until 10 p.m., 21+ after 10 p.m.

Over the last decade, Brooklyn-based emcee Oddisee has remained both prolific and relevant thanks to a tall stack of albums, EPs, singles and mixtapes. While he started his career as solely a producer, the acclaimed rapper made a name for himself as a lyricist, creating a style that Pitchfork calls a “focused beam of live-band and hip-hop soul that rattles loudly in our present political moment.” Since 2008, he’s been signed with Mello Music Group, which is also home to the likes of Kool Keith and Open Mike Eagle.

As the closing set for the Below the Stacks Festival, Oddisee’s dynamic set hits the stage Saturday at The Avenue Café. Openers for the show are Finale from Detroit and Ozay Moore from Lansing. Local DJs will also spin tracks throughout the evening, including Ruckus, Etta, Omni, EssBe & Yz Council. While doors are at 6 p.m. and the event goes until 2 a.m., the live music runs from 7-10 p.m. Since Below the Stacks is Lansing’s inaugural mural festival, this closing ceremony will also feature images of the murals from the seven-day arts and culture celebration.

Raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, by Sudanese and American parents, Oddisee (real name Amir Mohamed el Khalifa), 34, grew up listening to East Coast hip-hop artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. & Rakim and De La Soul. By chance, his neighbor was the late Garry Shider, aka “Diaper Man,” the band leader and guitarist for Parliament Funkadelic. It was in Shider’s analog home-studio that he first delved into hip-hop production, and Oddisee was born. In 2005, after relocating to Washington, D.C., he dropped his first instrumental mixtape and never looked back. By 2010, his “Odd Spring” release was included on The Washington Post’s “Best Local Hip-Hop Mixtapes” list.

Since then, he’s grown an international fan base through his solo releases, as well as produced tracks for legends like DJ Jazzy Jeff and De La Soul. Along the way, he’s performed with The Roots and formed rap outfits like the Low Budget Crew and The Diamond District — which features fellow Washingtonians X.O. and yU.

Aside from scoring press in Time Magazine, USA Today and Rolling Stone, his work was featured on Facebook’s “Humans of New York” series and a Google product unveiling.

In 2017, he performed more than 100 shows around the globe with his band Good Compny in support of his album “The Iceberg.”  The sharp album goes deep, according to the HipHopDX music blog, suggesting the 45-minute album “might just be too smart for a mainstream audience, who seemingly prefer hollow, bubblegum rap to intelligently constructed social commentary.”

As for Oddisee’s overall message, in 2017, he broke it down in a VICE interview. “No one really wants to do the hard work of understanding why things are the way they are,” he said. “My message is to try to bring everyone together to realize that we're not all that different.”



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