Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, more commonly known by his stage name, Oddisee, almost disappeared into the crowd before his performance Thursday night. He casually hung by the side of the stage, ogling at Good Compny’s jam session along with everyone else at the New Parish theater. He seemed relatively ordinary in a simple T-shirt and jeans, until he finally joined the band a few minutes later, greeted by the roar of his fans who patiently waited through openers for an hour and a half.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the audience were longtime loyal fans who trekked to the theater after work. Despite the concert being after a workday, the crowd was still willing to stay up and dance until midnight. Though the communities addressed in many of Oddisee’s raps weren’t as visible that night, the audience still showed just as much enthusiasm for the topics covered. The artist may not have felt comfortable enough to stress the theme of his music, but his messages addressing racial and religious discrimination were still crystal clear in the lyrics and performance. While he didn’t pause to discuss what influenced “Like Really” or “Rights and Wrongs”, his delivery commanded attention.
The social justice-oriented rapper spit every bar with a force that made it seem like the verses were freshly written. His passion never wavered, and his power was infectious. The energetic, expressive rapping pushed away all sleepiness for both the audience and the East Coast-residing, jet-lagged musicians themselves. Both Oddisee and Good Compny were dynamic enough to keep the momentum afloat.
It was obvious that the musicians touring together were artists in every sense of the word, capable of making new beats on the spot and turning pop-esque songs into trap remixes without a moment’s hesitation. It was apparent that Oddisee and Good Compny weren’t scripted performers. Their passion-driven spontaneity proved their skill as actual musicians. They didn’t have a practiced routine — they just had talent and chemistry.
The musicians riffed off of each other playfully, giving the concert a comforting sitcom-esque feel. It felt wholesome. It was important. And it was powerful.
Good Compny members Olivier St. Louis and Ralph Real challenged each other’s funky vocals, creating a friendly competition that kept spirits high and the music crisp. Their interaction with one another was so organic that it could have been the setting of a “behind-the-scenes” shoot. They were just a group of guys doing what they love, with an audience to chime in.
Aware that it was later in the night, Oddisee made it a point to keep the audience engaged, joking with them and asking them to chant certain parts of the song. Despite how normal and comfortable the band seemed on stage, they never forgot about their fan base.
“Oakland, are you happy?” Oddisee asked the crowd before erupting into another song. He constantly checked in and kept the audience engaged, thanking them for their support. His raw talent paired with his humble demeanor turned the concert into a sociable event. Oddisee’s recollections of his rocky performance at Boston University and his touching shoutout to his daughter, Zaynab, gave the audience a look into his life. He was human. The intimate venue coupled with the intimate nature of the band made the artists seem approachable, though their talent was worthy of the awestruck groupies in the crowd. The ever-loving fans swooned throughout the entire show, from their opening with “Things” to their closing with “Rights and Wrongs”.
It may be a while before you hear these musicians break through the top-40 haze on the radio, but their talent and message deserves everyone’s attention.
Contact Ilaf Esuf at [email protected].