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How An Iceberg Becomes An Oasis - Chris "Preach" Smith

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“I was born with small access to big dreams…”

That line opens up “Built By Pictures”, the third track from
the latest album by the prodigious producer and MC from 
Washington D.C., Oddisee. The album, and the artist, stand
poised to be another triumph of heart against and over the
vulgarities of the current administration of the United States.
The very name of the album, The Iceberg, holds a meaning
that the late Ralph Ellison would’ve chuckled at in appreciation
of it. It fits very well with Oddisee, who’s made a strong 
career due to carefully crafted atmospheric beats and lyricism
that provoke a great deal of emotions. The Iceberg dropped
last Friday, and the rapper is gearing up for another world
tour. This go-round, he’s gotten sponsorship from Carhartt
and another level of fans’ interest due to his message that
touches upon the Black American experience in the post-Obama
era as well as his own experience being Muslim in America
coupled with facing the xenophobia of the Trump travel ban
that affected seven nations including Sudan, where his father
hails from. 

Pushing all the talk of the latest rap beef aside for a moment,
I got a chance to truly listen to this album last night in lieu
of listening to the presidential address that had some elements
of the media and others rapturous because the president
barely managed to restrain his bombastic and narcissistic
tendencies. Hearing the album of someone who has literally
dealt with xenophobia masked as national security and patriotism
every time he’s traveled even though he was born here has
an entirely different note of truth to it. The Iceberg clocks in
at less than an hour overall, and it makes an ideal companion
to a walk in the city or as a backdrop to anything you’re working
on. Make no mistake though, Oddisee doesn’t create music that
lets you forget or even puts you in a place to cast aside thoughts.
“You Grew Up” is a perfect example. He speaks about both the
racism he experienced growing up in Prince Georges County in
Maryland and how such ire can lead to those choosing a life of
extremism no matter the place. This ability to express insight
into both sides of a contentious debate without sugarcoating
is something politicos and others could learn a great deal from.
This same introspection also shines through in tracks regarding
his own viewpoint on the current state of the rap game as well
as relationships and one’s own maturity.

Perhaps the best indicator of how impactful Oddisee is becoming
lies in one scene from a cold and crisp weekend afternoon out
on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. I passed by a bodega with a sign
that simply said, “Our families are American families like yours.”
The door swung open, and what was playing? “Like Really”, from
the album. Sometimes the best message is one with more
feeling and heart than empty words. The Iceberg brings that
ideal home to anyone who has a true appreciation for what that
means in these troubled days. 


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