Posts tagged ‘XO’

What’s the sound of a city? Oddisee has the answer.

(photos by Oddisee)

It is the capital of the USA, but it’s never been the capital of hip-hop.

Washington is famed for White House politics and Martin Luther King’s Million Man March for civil rights. But when it comes to music, the sounds of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and LA forever drowned those from D.C., also known as the Diamond District because of its octagon shape. This multi-faceted area is like a diamond in the rough that has not had a chance to shine – at least not recently.

In the 1970s and 1980s, two sounds were born here that could not be more different from each other: rugged hardcore punk à la Minor Threat and the syncopated go-go jams played by Troublefunk or Chuck Brown & The Soulsearchers. In fact, go-go music has arguably been Washington’s biggest musical export, alongside bluegrass from the 1950s.

But that’s about to change, if you ask homegrown hip-hop beat smith and MC Oddisee. The Sudanese-American wants to secure his city a place in the cultural hall of fame with help from the Low Budget Crew and his group, Diamond District, also consisting of rappers yU and XO.

“We’ve got a lot of stories that need to be told about the district and there are a lot of different perspectives that the masses are not aware of,” says XO.

“We’re a very unique city and now is the time for us to be acknowledged. Back in the day, all the music that we fell in love with came from outside of our region. Now we have something more to be proud of. We’re not only go-go, we’re hip hop too.”

New era?

Diamond District spread the word about their home turf on a recent European tour with dates in Italy, France, Austria and Germany. Among the things they experienced were a drug bust in Berlin, gigs in Italian squats and carnival in Cologne.

Their first album ‘In The Ruff’ is a record that continues in the vein of 1990s Golden Era hip-hop veterans such as Pete Rock or EPMD – of course, with a D.C. edge to it. But tracks such as ‘I Mean Business’ and ‘Make It Clear’ show that the group are after more than just making a retro album.

Oddisee, aka Amir Elkhalifa, explains: “We’re not necessarily against titles like ‘Golden Era’ or ‘BoomBap’. It was a theme record and we designed it to sound like a Golden Era record for the District of Columbia Metropolitan area.

“Because when that sound was popular and dominant in music, we didn’t have one of those records. So it was almost like ‘What if you had a time machine and go back, what would a D.C. Golden Era record sound like?’. That’s why we did one and we’re going to keep it moving.”

The 2006 Red Bull Music Academy participant is multi-talented: he makes beats, writes lyrics and also has a knack for photography. He first blew up in 2002 when friend and fellow Low Budget member Kev Brown passed one of his tapes to DJ Jazzy Jeff in nearby Philadelphia. Jazzy Jeff liked it that much he used one of the beats on his ‘The Magnificent’ album and helped to promote Oddisee’s first longplayer ‘Foot in the Door’.

Collaborations with artists such as Talib Kweli, J-Live, Finale and Parliament  / Funkadelic guitarist Gary Shider are part of his back catalogue.

More recently, the jet-set producer released an instrumental album entitled ‘Traveling Man’ on which he slipped in inspirations from cities including Tokyo, Philadelphia and San Francisco and made his version of the sound from each of these cities.

“I’m a real big fan of regional rap and regional-specific music,” he says “Music that sounds like London, or the way Kardinal sounded like Toronto when he came out. I’m a big fan of putting a song on when I’m in a city while I ride through because the cities make more sense. I love that.

“I’m like a sponge. I just absorb the cities I’m in and do my best to always marry what I see visually with music to try and give the cities a sound.”

He’s definitely succeded in doing just that.

May 11, 2010 at 22:57 Leave a comment

Berlin caling: Diamond District & Trek Life video

Here’s a Spine TV clip that was shot before the Diamond District show in Berlin over the weekend. It was one of the last legs of the European tour this year and from what they told me, it’s been a hell of a trip through France, Italy, Germany and Austria, with support from DJ Quartermaine and Trek Life from L.A.

Beat Bungalow also sat down with the extended Low Budget crew for a chat that night, full interview & podcast will follow soon.

It’s worth the wait, trust.

March 4, 2010 at 21:36 1 comment

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