There is a kindness that refuses to be mistaken as weakness. There is a compassion that refuses to be mistaken as passivity. There is an artistry that refuses to be mistaken as fluff. There is an emcee who refuses to be mistaken as a flat caricature of a rapper. His name is Odessa Kane. He is a lot of things, but weak, passive, fluffy, and flat are not among the adjectives likely to precede his name in a sentence. The Southeast San Diego native has earned the respect of SD’s hip hop community over the past two decades, a respect that has been garnered behind the mic for sure, but also as a husband, father, organizer and more. It is with extreme joy that I am able to present to you an interview I had hoped would be among the first three #WestCoastWednesdays, but as it was worth the day late wait this week, it was more than worth the wait for the interview in general. While I have been so blessed by each and every interview, I am exceptionally grateful to share this interview, as it is the realization of my full vision for this interview series. Please take time to unplug from everything else, and sit down with SDLovesHipHop and enjoy this small piece of Odessa Kane’s story.
Who is Odessa Kane?
Odessa Kane: I am a work in progress. I am a working class Filipino-Mexican Muslim, a Father, a husband, and an organizer. Each of which contributes to who I am as an artist/MC. I believe in using Hip Hop as it was intended from its inception, which is to unite and empower our youth while displaying skill and honoring the tradition of the MC. I believe it is the obligation of the MC to empower and elevate, to constantly refine and commit oneself to the art, all while knowing how to move the crowd with her or his own unique style. I also believe in commitment to the struggle against social injustices near and abroad. I pride myself on being a man of God, and on being a servant of the Community.
Can you tell SDLHH a story about how hip hop has changed your life?
Odessa Kane: It was on the late bus from Mission Bay HS heading home when a group of my friends started to talk about Rap and my big brother Forrest, who went by KB from House Klan (we were all B-Boys primarily), out of nowhere, asked me to freestyle. Mind you, I had never freestyled ever up to that point. I wrote a rap with my cousin Andy back in the day, but never showcased it or revealed my skill or lack thereof – just a bunch of rapping alongside old tapes of the greats thinking I was them. All I know is at that moment the words spilled out and they came out pretty fluid! It didn’t sound forced and I was actually rhyming unpremeditated words! Most importantly though from that little display was that it sounded nice to KB (who I looked up to greatly, and that alone had me on a high)! The next day at school, no lie, KB took the steering wheel and started a group called DNA aka Devil Needs An Afro. It was him, Atom 12, and Gonzo aka Sean McCormick RIP, and myself, Expoes! In the grand scheme of this divine connection, DNA was an integral part of the mighty Masters of the Universe Crew (Orko, Eklipse, Zombie, Bassment, Define, etc.) and from there it’s history; here I am now. Still rhyming and still pushing that pen forward. Life changing indeed. Thank the Most High for Hip Hop.
One cannot listen to an Odessa Kane album without being exposed to a wide range of social commentary on race relations in America. Given the current state of issues surrounding race in America, what have you been thinking about lately?
Odessa Kane: While I find it discouraging and disheartening to see that race relations are still tense and that the economic and psychological wounds between Black, Brown and White America were never really tended to – at least now we get to see this country clearly for what it is, a divided and oppressed landscape that only looks out for the wealthy and corrupt. People are still under this impression that White Supremacy and white privilege are not real things, that imperialism and capitalism are not bad things. It’s quite telling when even our white allies, our white brothers and sisters see it, but others fail to see it. I even find my own people who are racist and really apathetic to the struggles of immigrants, as if that is not where they came from themselves. I used to try to argue with them and try to find that place in their heart, but it seems some are just stuck in their ways. Now I find myself no longer engaging in the back and forth who those who hold hate in their hearts. I no longer wish to engage with those who believe I should just shut up and be grateful for living here. Instead, I am prepping myself for the bigger fight which is going for the heads of those that keep us subjugated, under a hypocrisy disguised as “liberty and justice for all”. Race relations may have moved a couple of inches, but damn it we got some miles to go. There is much work ahead of us in that area. For years we have been under this cloud of haze and this impression that had us thinking all is well; it’s no longer a Black/White thing, “Mexicans are cool”, “Muslim are Ok,” but that indeed is not the case. Having a Black or Brown friend is not enough; listening to Hip Hop occasionally is not enough; knowing a couple verses out of the Quran or Bible is not enough; we as a people must stand alongside each other, alongside our oppressed family, and engage in true unification to fight the cowards that be. We must be actively pursuing justice until our hearts and hands bleed…That’s how I’m feeling. That’s what I’m working towards, that’s what I want my music to feel like.
How does your music help you cope with/deal with some of the difficult realities of life in America, especially for communities of color?
Odessa Kane: I find that when I am approached by a listener or supporter of my music with words of encouragement and love, I don’t feel as weighed down by the struggles that us POC face…Culturally, if I am creating a positive exchange, that really pushes me to continue in creating art for the People. To see some of my songs being studied by college students and high school students and actually appreciated is a feeling that’s hard to describe. The best feeling is right after a show when new faces come up to me and tell me how my music affected them in a positive and uplifting way; that is everything. I am not as discouraged as before when I wrote the song – I feel a sense of completion.
Do you feel a responsibility as an artist, to at least aim for your music also becoming a useful tool in the life of your listener? Why/Why not?
Odessa Kane: Of course, I feel obligated to personally. The same way that Rakim, Public Enemy, and NWA empowered me is the same way that I pray and hope to affect my listeners. How many times have I learned life lessons from the Hip Hop that I grew up on? Too many to count, and it is an ongoing process. I am still a student, which I’m not ashamed to say. Right now amongst us there are many great and informative, enriching and uplifting artists us who are teaching us through their music. Hip Hop is a cultural life tool, has been, and will continue to be. Not everybody [approaches the music this way], but hopefully they learn to dig deeper than the surface of their experience and see that exposing their own vulnerabilities and issues can help others in need.
You have recently used your music as a tool for activism, with lil Frankie in tow. What does it mean to you to have your music viewed as a useful weapon in the fight for both equality and equity? Furthermore, what does it mean to you to have your daughter present at an event like the Justice Can’t Wait march?
Odessa Kane: For Frankie, Khalil, and Javier. I want them exposed at a young age to to the struggles that we face as a people. I want them to see the inequality, I want them to see that not everybody is not getting a fair share. I want them to be active in the struggle as well. My wife and I are inserting them directly into it; we want to raise our children with that conscience that seems to be missing from a lot of kids in this day and age. Every child should be raised to have compassion for those in need, and this is what my wife and I are instilling in our kids.
To have had my daughter with me on that march was the best feeling ever. I want her to remember, for as long as she lives, that she played her part on that day. She was raised with that revolutionary spirit since a young age! Here we had grown ass folks chilling on their sofas, and here we have this 4 year old warrior taking on that march like a straight rider, that is something no one can take away from her. I foresee her continuing that march, it’s in her blood to do so.
Since we are speaking about family, I have noticed through social media that you and your family are close; you all participate in music, jiu-jitsu, activism, and more together. What role does family play in your art/music?
Odessa Kane: Family keeps me balanced. My family is a reminder that I will definitely not be putting anything negative out there. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard other artists talk a gang of disrespectful nonsense as if they don’t have kids that are listening to their music. I want my family to be proud of the material and art that I put out there.
Okay, let’s focus on your music now. Why should readers stop everything they are doing (after they finish reading this, of course) and go listen to Left to Bear Arms?
Odessa Kane: I don’t know if they should drop what they’re doing just to peep out one of the dopest EP’s out there…just kidding. But for real if they do have a chance I think they should give a listen to LTBA. It’s a tight little project that I think covers a lot of ground as to who I am and what I represent. Plus, I think the production is well rounded and each piece is unique. You have production from Orko, Digital Martyrs, V-Rock, and Fatgums. You have everything from the nostalgic but hard 1994 to the more personal Glimpse where I talk about my inner struggles, my jihad. I feel like it’s a real easy listen that a lot of folks can enjoy and relate to.
Now, that was your latest release and your first release as an official member of Beatrock Music, right? How does it feel to be a part of the Beatrock family?
Odessa Kane: I feel at home with Beatrock Music. It really is a blessing to be with folks who push the same line and all have their own unique approach that I truly respect. Shout out to Bambu, Prometheus Brown, Rocky Rivera, Dj Roza, Otayo Dubb, Power Struggle, Ruby Ibarra, Bwan, OJ The Producer, Dj Nphared, and Fatgums. I’m a kill it for Beatrock.
How did the marriage of Beatrock Music and Odessa Kane come to pass?
Odessa Kane: My wife introduced me to Bambu back when her and I first started dating. It turns out they had been organizing with KmB Pro People Youth in the past and it was natural for her to link him and I up. He was working on a mixtape and invited me on a track and was feeling what I did on it. It’s a super dope track that will probably never see the light of day! LOL. Anyhow around that time I began working on Cuetes and Balisongs with Infinity Gauntlet. After hearing a couple of the first tracks Bam and Beatrock actually wanted to put it out but I wanted to stand on my own so I didn’t join just then. Cuetes and Balisongs came out and I hit the ground running, folks were really feeling it. It wasn’t til after rocking mad shows with Bam and doing a tour with him that I started working on LTBA and around that time is when the conversation opened again about joining the roster; I was hyped! It was when he heard GPT that he got at me. At that point I felt like I was ready, so I signed! Here we are now. Odessa Kane and Beatrock Music, it has been the perfect match. Word up. Alhamdulillah.
Can you tell us a story that will give us a feel for the essence of Beatrock? Perhaps a story about a small moment/interaction/conversation on your tour last summer.
Odessa Kane: Ha! This is a cool little story when we were chilling at Waimea Bay in Hawaii. There we were, just posted in the water – it was Bam, Rocky, Nphared and some homies from the Island, relaxing and chilling tough. I noticed to the right was this high ass cliff (high to me anyways lol) that everybody was jumping off of. I kept staring at the folks jumping and my brotha Bam noticed how I kept peeping folks out and was like, “yo you wanna go up? Let’s go!” Super low key we dipped…my brotha guided me up that cliff and boom, there we were looking at that drop. Shit felt mad sketchy but I jumped! I always knew he had my back but at that moment I realized he truly supported me with my aspirations and vision, he always has! That’s how it is at Beatrock Music, that’s how it is with my manager C-Knowledge, my family believes in me.
What are you currently working on?
Odessa Kane: I’m working on a full length album right now, yet to be titled. It’s sounding really dope. Production from OJ the Producer, Dj Nphared, Abid, and of course Digital Martyrs. I’m still accepting production too if anybody is interested in contributing! I’m taking my time with it and it’s been paying off sonically and creatively. Everything I’ve come up with so far is sounding beautiful. I’m super hyped on its release. Stay tuned.
What’s something you’d like to share with San Diego Hip Hop?
One emphasis of SDLHH is to see a heightened level of unity in the San Diego Hip Hop community. Can you point to some other artists who you see as comrades and who you also see as helping to progress the scene?
Odessa Kane: Shout out to my brothas Rossi, Ryan Anthony, Big June, Tiny Doo, Cricet, Real J Wallace, Parker Edison, Savior Self, King Choosey, Johaz, Gonja Sufi, Orko, Steez76d, Ric Scales, Dezzy Hollow, Mitchy Slick, Domi Young, Cali Cam, Leon St. Heron (aka Bam Circa 86) and a host of others who push the line. Even though some of these cats aren’t in Dago anymore they’re still putting on for the city in their own way. In doing that outside of Dago it definitely progresses the scene at the same time exposes the rest of the country and world to the talent that is here.
Finally, where should readers go to connect with you?
Odessa Kane: First off I want to Thank you for this opportunity, to all the folks reading this y’all can find me on FB, IG, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify, ITunes, and Beatrock Music…tune in y’all. I got more to come, Peace and Blessings.
Peace, Love & Hip Hop,
#SDLovesHipHop exists to carry on a conversation about hip hop music and culture as a catalyst to effect change in individuals’ lives and communities. If any of the artists above, or this article has struck a chord in you, then please leave a comment.