Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, or the incisive rapper and elegant producer Oddisee, grew up in two worlds. The son of an African-American mother and a Sudanese father, he spent his weeks in affluent Maryland suburbs, and his weekends in tougher D.C. neighborhoods. To his Sudanese family, he was the exotic western cousin, raised on rap and big-city trappings; to his Washington family, he was the suburban Muslim nerd who watched too much news. That tension has made Oddisee a modern musical visionary, “a focused beam of hip-hop soul that rattles loudly in our present political moment,” as Pitchfork exclaimed.

Oddisee arrives in Durham for Duke Performances’ Building Bridges project and ongoing Hip-Hop Initiative. At Motorco, with an airtight live band, he funnels his perspective as a Muslim Sudanese-American artist into his music. Oddisee’s songs sound joyous, with cascading horns and mellifluous keyboards. But as a lyricist, especially on 2017’s brilliant The Iceberg, he addresses broader questions about the American experiment. A daring thinker and rapper, Oddisee delivers hip-hop that makes us ponder the world’s trials and triumphs — one ebullient beat and breathless rhyme at a time.

Duke Performances has launched Building Bridges: Muslims in America, a new project showcasing the richness and diversity of Muslim culture in this country. Working in partnership with the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC), Duke Performances will host residencies by U.S.-based Muslim artists, including engagement with the Duke and Durham community, visits to nearby high schools, and public concerts. The initiative was launched in the spring of 2018 with Nubian retro-pop band Alsarah & the Nubatones, and continues this season with Baghdadi maqam masters Amir ElSaffar + Hamid Al-Saadi (Thursday, October 4); Sudanese-American MC Oddisee (Thursday, October 18); Muslim convert and MC Brother Ali (Thursday, March 7); and Persian-inflected Brooklyn rock band Habibi (Thursday, April 4). Durham-based filmmaker KidEthnic will provide a behind-the-scenes look at each residency through short films documenting the series.

Tickets: $25 ⋅ $10 Duke Students


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