Nitish Pahwa has never seen The Titanic.

 Throughout his career, Oddisee has used his pensive, clarion voice to comment on this country’s ever-morphing sociopolitical climate, whether in songs like “American Greed” from People Hear What They See, or “Lifting Shadows” from last year’s Alwasta. The Sudanese-American rapper/producer is an incisive songwriter, crafting music that’s often austere and aware, but never bleak. With “Like Really,” a single from his upcoming album The Iceberg (out February 24th on Mello Music Group), Oddisee has created another thoughtful commentary on the world of today. Over a mellow, serene beat, he bemoans a widespread absence of empathy and tolerance, but still strives for a positive future.

In the song’s first verse, Oddisee repeatedly asks a somber three-word question, using it to bookend the steady interrogation of his oppressors: “How you gonna make us great when we were never really that amazing? (nah, like really?) / Take it back to what, I don’t find hanging black lives entertaining (nah, like really?)” As ostensibly promised since its foundation, America should be the land of milk and honey, not the land of strange fruit. Still, like many others, Oddisee finds himself engaged in constant struggle.

In the second verse, Oddisee flips the phrase into a reinforcement of his resilience and his hope: “If you ain’t never cry about loss, don’t speak about the situation you’re in (nah, like really) / I ain’t got a big deal but I’m still a big deal & I feel important (nah, like really).” Despite his trials, despite his constant fights, Oddisee doesn’t give up; he grinds on, contributing to the movement, continually seeking that deeper message. “Like Really” may be a scathing appraisal of the modern world, but it is also a declaration of Oddisee’s fortitude.

On a recent Facebook post, Oddisee celebrated the America he knew: a place that would allow someone of his nationality and faith to perform his music in an inclusive environment. When a stray commenter questioned his conviction, Oddisee thoughtfully replied, “I can’t fix everything. I do what I can & what I must. This administration is not my first time I’m expressing my feelings & unfortunately it won’t be the last.” In these times, we need people of principle to speak through whatever possible means they have. Let us celebrate those who create spirited art and continually stand with and for others in the face of targeted bigotry.

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