It’s another Saturday night at San Francisco Bath House. Many gigs have been at Bodega of late, and it’s nice to be back at San Fran on Cuba Street. Local DJs Jay Knight and Dam G have warmed up the crowd nicely. Raiza Biza’s on next — he’s bringing the heat for the main man tonight, Washington DC—Mello Music Group artist, Oddisee.
Delivering a set that was laid back, smooth, jazzy. Raiza, despite all these slow-type adjectives orchestrated a slow, controlled crescendo that peaked with his song ‘Sleepless City’ — a chill track with the ability to amp you up at the same time — it’s an infectious juxtaposition. When Jay Knight drops Raiza’s ‘Girl With No Name’, we’re left sailing the night on an ocean of lyrical jazz whispers where the stars litter the sky and the black horizon has no end. Raiza became my new favourite conductor that night. “I can’t stop staring at him” I tell my friend Hari.
Not nearly as entranced as I was, she replies, “He’s real good girl — definitely a good rapper.” Then something clicks in her thinking and it’s like she just discovered an inner truth about me that I’ve always been secretly aware of. Pointing and laughing with delight she’s just snapped me out; she’s inside my inside space, grinning with her Scarlett Johansson mouth. She turns and looks back at Raiza. I’ve been caught. Luckily, someone with love for me done it. As the whole audience stand nestled in the palm of Raiza’s hand I wonder, when did he get this good? He was only down here for Kev Brown a few months ago, but he’s way more relaxed this show around, and he has this kind of grace as he paces the stage with his six-foot-something stature. Stalking it like a lion in a cage we paid to see, I marvel at the animal. Hariata’s smiling at me again. I can’t help it. Wait didn’t he call an album Caged Lion a few years back? I’ll check when I get home — as anti-social as it is to be staring at my phone in the club, I have to write this all down now. The writer in me refuses to forget a single moment. If I don’t write it now, the moment will pass. I’ll be sober. It wont be the same.
“Does he have CD’s?” asked my friend we call the Nanna Gangsta. “Yeah man all his music is online.”
Dam G comes on and plays an old school track that can’t match the heights Raiza set, it’s dull in comparison and so is the next one….. Until it isn’t, G Unit’s Hate It Or Love It creeps in, Mary J backing in first, suddenly you’re jamming. Then, Let’s Stay Together by Al Green. The DJ’s got you where he wants you. Dam G is the kind of conductor that lets the music speak for him where he wont. He is that DJ you’re not entirely sure where to place, until he’s deep into a set, dropping evocative 90’s bangers, reminding you of a much freer time in life.
As Oddisee walks on stage without any fuss. He’s tall, graceful, non-assuming. A muslim man, whose father is from Sudan; his stature embodies the elements of what I know Arabic to be — an elegant language written in the Quaran. What I know of Islam is that it’s a philosophical way of existing — all these elements comes out in his verses. When he opens his mouth he is clearly American but where he isn’t stereotypically American, exudes from is body language. He is graceful, majestic, his aura is warm. There’s something about Oddisee that is royal.
He’d been given the highest-level welcome our home crowd had to give. We the audience were warmed up and ready. Special effects smoke surrounds him. ‘RESPECT,’ he says. As the bass dropped, it vibrated through bones with a staunch feeling akin to a soul-clap.
Oddisee: ‘Wellington, what’s good?’
Audience: “Rawwrrr, yeaahhhh [whistles]”. We’re good to go.
Oddisee: “Oohh, ohhoohoo, oh, oh, ohhhhh…. Is y’all ready to rock?”. This guy is a rockstar. His shine illuminates San Fran.
Deep into his set, featuring songs from his new joint Tangible Dream and last year’s epic release People Hear What They See, he’s got the whole club at church, and as he sails through his tracks, no one wants him to leave. He drops a personal favourite, ‘You Know Who You Are’ off People Hear What They See. Now we’re in the belly of the beast… Rocking and rolling with the rockstar.
“In any event just make sure that you know who you are”.
Then he spits an acapella, which in one blow, assassinates any other I’ve heard done live to date. It involves the crowd, bounces us — commands us up, then smooths us back down. It goes for bars. We begin to realise he’s letting us down gently. He’s going to leave soon, he indicates as nicely as he can.
There’s an encore. “Oddisee! Oddisee! Oddisee!”
He comes back — but just like everything, there will be an end. And just as we’re absolutely marveled, he thanks us and leaves just as quietly as he came. The whole show hosted by Hadyn Middleton of Madcap Touring was one of the biggest waves I have seen all year; it came crashing down from such a height, rolled on the stage, broke and then dissolved back into the night.