In times like these, smothered by so much cultural discord, the United States often resembles a tragic oxymoron. That irony isn't lost on Oddisee, whose keen observational eye fuels his latest LP, The Iceberg. In his latest video from the album, he distills America's ills by critiquing how society socializes all of us into darker versions of ourselves.
"You Grew Up," premiering today on NPR Music, captures the loss of innocence that occurs from adolescence to adulthood. Throughout the song, Oddisee raps about the xenophobia that makes a moderate, loving Muslim ripe for radicalism, the harsh realities that turn a young idealist into an old cynic and the fear passed down from one generation to the next that turns childhood friends of different races into inherent enemies as adults.
It's a story inspired in part by his own, growing up in the diverse Silver Spring community of Montgomery County, Maryland. "One of my closest friends at the time was a white male," Oddisee tells NPR. "As a child, I observed our differences as personal and not cultural. It wasn't until my family relocated to the predominantly African-American community of Prince George's County that I understood where our differences stemmed from. As police brutality became a serious issue in recent times, along with America confronting it's deep-rooted racism, I wondered where my childhood friend now stood."
For the video, Oddisee chose animation — designed and directed by Eugene and Louise, a Belgium-based creative studio founded by husband and wife team Glenn D'Hondt and Sylvia Meert — to "convey the gradual transition from optimism to pessimism, idealism to reality and happiness to anger," he says. "It seemed to be the best way to display how our attitudes change from adolescence to adulthood."
Though he believes society is resigned to the negative effects of learned prejudice and inequality, he approached the song with a level of empathy rarely shown in a society quick to demonize views and cultures it doesn't understand.
"I've always attempted to see polarizing issues from both sides," he says. "Being angry at the end result of a problem is the easiest thing to do. Having an understanding for why things are they way they are requires a level of sympathy I wish society possessed. If we tackle issues from the root, perhaps we as a people can be more effective in solving them. Giving context to how an officer would shoot an innocent person and showing how we're indoctrinated into our beliefs and bias[es] could possibly inspire new methods to deal with them."