Odd Mojo
Odd Mojo; Credit: Moody Blu

We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

On March 20, Capitol Heights MC Odd Mojo will host her third annual One Very Odd Show at Songbyrd’s new Union Market location. She’s been organizing the yearly showcase since 2018, but had to delay the event for two years due to COVID lockdowns. Over drinks with City Paper, the 27-year-old artist discussed the details for her upcoming show, and how the isolation of the pandemic pushed her to new heights within her artistry. 

Odd Mojo, aka Mahogany Pearson, entered the rap game as a teen in 2011. While binge-watching interviews with professional models on YouTube, she came across a Drake instrumental. “I don’t know what came over me,” she says, “but I just started writing.” She received positive feedback from her friends and family on her Drake remix, and decided to further explore her rapping capabilities. 

After graduating high school in 2012, Odd Mojo continued to work on her craft. She wasn’t proclaiming herself a rapper yet, but she spent her free time writing and free-styling at different open-mic events. But it was another side project—photography—that ended up connecting her to Keyari, a member of the impactful DMV rap collective Kool Klux Klan, who asked her to photograph one of his shows in 2014. Mojo continued shooting for Keyari, and eventually told him that she was a rapper too.

Keyari responded by inviting her to a show where she met local rap pioneers Cal Rips and Sir E.U. In addition to growing her musical network, Mojo also witnessed a performance that night by Felixia (aka Sugg Savage) and Sloane Amelia under their Akoko moniker. She notes that seeing the two women perform inspired her to pursue her own music career: “When I saw these women rapping in Maryland, with a crowd, and music out, I was like, ‘I’m about to do this too.’” 

Two years later, Mojo released her debut EP, 94, followed by a series of singles leading up to her breakout project Channel Yo Mojo in 2018. Her sample-heavy production, reminiscent of ’90s boom-bap, accompanied by her relatable lyricism on topics ranging from anxiety and depression to self-love and positive affirmations, quickly cemented Mojo as one of the most exciting up-and-coming artists in the District.

But since Channel Yo Mojo’s release, she has significantly slowed down her musical output, only releasing a handful of singles in the past four years. Yet, each of her releases, such as “555,” has received critical acclaim from local magazines and newspapers: In May 2021, the Washington Post called the track one of the “most essential rap and R&B music” projects of the season. Mojo attributes part of this noticeable drop-off in content to the awful timing of the pandemic. For her, it seemed like the stars had finally aligned at the beginning of 2020. She was gaining traction both locally and online, and had a plethora of shows lined up for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, the pandemic took hold a couple months later—practically halting Mojo’s momentum as all of her shows were simultaneously canceled. 

This year’s One Very Odd Show at Songbyrd will take place nearly two years to the day after the D.C. government ordered people to stay home. The resilient MC has regrouped and returned, headlining an eclectic lineup of rappers, singers, DJs, and musicians. 

The Odd Show’s origins stem from Mojo’s struggles to establish a name for herself early in her career. She was often turned away from local promoters and venues, who she says preferred to book their friends, or artists they already had relationships with. Mojo says it’s an ongoing issue that still affects the local music community and can make shows seem exclusionary.

“That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to create One Very Odd Show,” she explains. “I want to put together acts that you don’t normally see. I want you to see different people you don’t expect me to work with, or you haven’t seen me work with yet.”

This show will feature a joint set of Mojo rapping, Sir E.U DJing, and FootsXColes providing live instrumentation. When Mojo held her first Odd Show in 2018, DJ Tomiyeyo mixed her live set while FootsXColes played the drums and pianos. “This year [FootsXColes and I] are working with Sir E.U. I’ve been watching his journey, and really admire how he’s getting into more things with his artistry,” she says.  

KyleOnTheMic will host the event, which will also feature sets from local rap collective 20NVR, Brooklyn singer-MC RillyRil, and other special guests. “I’m giving you a new experience,” says Mojo. “I want to give you an odd experience.” 

Like the Odd Shows before this, aliens remain an ongoing theme, which Mojo credits to Pearl Rose, a graphic designer who made the flier for the inaugural event. “I just connected with the cover art on the flier, and I was like, ‘alright imma go with this.’” Since making aliens the motif of her first showcase, she’s gravitated even closer to them, incorporating extraterrestrials into her recent promotional videos and photo shoots. When asked about this consistent branding, Mojo admits she’s working on an album centered around aliens titled Something Odd Is Coming.

“After we had the last Very Odd Show [in December 2019], I started having visions [about aliens], which led to me creating the album,” says Mojo. She was studying screenwriting at the time, and began developing a script around the concept. The COVID lockdowns forced her to stay at home and reflect, not only on her career, which was abruptly halted, but on all the relationships in her life, good and bad. The unending confinement pushed Mojo to find an outlet to express herself, so she decided to fully explore the alien idea. “When I was in my room, isolated, while everything was shut down, this story came about,” she says.

Mojo’s narrative details a solo trip into the woods, where the protagonist intends to reflect on life, but instead is abducted by aliens in the middle of the night. It’s within this solitude, however, that Mojo finds herself. Her album, which she’s currently finishing mixing and hopes to release by summer, functions as the soundtrack to this story. 

Despite the alien-centered storyline, the general message of the project revolves around Mojo’s struggles with self-doubt and her tendency to negatively overanalyze herself and those around her. She uses the alien abduction as a way to confront these issues. While “Earth To Mojo” explicitly describes her interactions with aliens, other songs such as “Inception” and “Runnin’” touch on deeper issues, as she reflects on past decisions and addresses her bad habits, such as being overcritical of herself, making false assumptions, and escaping her problems through marijuana and alcohol. Though a few songs, including “555” and “Action,” were recorded before the alien concept was fully developed, all 11 tracks on the album fit within her intricate narrative. 

Something Odd Is Coming has two meanings. It’s saying something odd—me, Odd Mojo—is coming,” she says. “I know people say I don’t drop enough music, but I plan on releasing content a lot more consistently after this album.” The second meaning is more spiritual. “I believe a higher power is coming back,” Mojo explains. “It’s gonna be very odd for us because we’ve never seen anything like this. Like, we’re gonna see something in the sky.”

She wants her upcoming album to function as a wake-up call to prepare for a world-changing event. Mojo believes the only way to prepare for this is through finding peace within yourself. “Y’all have to get closer to yourselves because once you get closer to yourself, you can get closer to God,” she says. “Know that whatever happens, if you have yourself, you won’t feel lost or scared.”

Something Odd Is Coming has a fairly small list of contributors with 7G, Dejuan Cooks, John Tyler, and Owen Gomory handling production on the album. Southeast rapper Ankhlejohn will be featured on the project alongside Odd Show performers RillyRil and 20NVR.

Odd Mojo will premiere a couple tracks from the album at the March 20 event. In addition, One Very Odd Show will feature an open-mic rap cypher, and Mojo guarantees some spontaneous go-go music. “[Playing go-go at my shows] is such a freeing and unifying experience. And that’s what I want to do. I want to bring odd artists together and I want to unify us all to create a loving energy.”  

One Very Odd Show takes place March 20 at Songbyrd Music House. $12–$15. songbyrddc.com.