The Break Presents: Amir Obe
Not many artists get a second chance to make a first impression but that's not the case for Amir Obe. After getting signed to Atlantic Records under the moniker Phreshy Duzit in 2009, and making a name for himself with songs like "Good Mourning" and "Good Night," he parted ways with the label and revamped his style. A new name, a new sound and new vibe was the result of what he refers to as "the bullshit of major labels and stuff."
A listen to his fresh, improved catalog finds Obe, a star basketball player, going for substance over selling out. His early work on the 2014 effort Detrooklyn (named for his Detroit stomping grounds and current Brooklyn abode) features a nod to the greats on "Jay Z, Kanye, Esco" and an ode to dying rich with "Detroit Cartier."
Then after the release of last year's Happening in the Grey Area, he proved his worth as a solid songwriter and vocalist scoring a slam dunk with his sing-song rap style. Obe teamed up with PartyNextDoor on the mood-inducing tracks "I'm Good" and "Truth For You" while "The Only" featured his sharp pen game ("You don't love yourself/You don't trust yourself/You not the only one") and a soaring soundscape thanks to Detroit-bred producer and the rapper's longtime collaborator NYLZ.
He's come a long way since ditching the major label machine and opting to travel the independent road to stardom. Life as an unsigned artist isn't too bad when Drake is collaborating with him on the If You're Reading This It's Too Late track "Star67" and shouting him out at shows. The 26-year-old isn't an OVO Sound artist but he's certainly appreciative of the love the Toronto rapper has shown him thus far. "It’s a mutual respect," Obe shares. "We just build, we talk and we share ideas and stuff."
More of Obe's own ideas are displayed on his latest release, Won't Find Love in the Hills, which features the self-proclaimed private person stepping out of his shell more. The three-track effort is replete with the rattling, moody soundscapes fans have become familiar with when letting an Amir Obe project knock in their speakers. Experimental is the keyword for the rapper these days. Text messages inspire him, sometimes it's a beat. Overall, when he hits the studio, he's just trying to catch a vibe.
Read on as Amir Obe opens up about the artists that served as the soundtrack to his youth, his days shooting hoops and goals for 2016.
Name: Amir Obe
Hometown: Detroit-bred, Brooklyn-living
I grew up listening to: "I grew up listening to a lot. Actually my mom is Polish, she is White and my dad is Black. So, I grew up on like Bee Gees from my mom’s side and disco, Abba. My dad was soulful, listened to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder. Stuff like that. And I was like a big Michael Jackson fan when I was a kid. I think everyone was.
I think I grew up on the Kanye-Pharrell era. I just like their style, musically and visually. Kanye was dope on the production. That’s what I was probably inspired by as a kid."
Most people don’t know: "Probably that I am really good at basketball. I played one and two, point guard and short guard [in high school]. I played AAU also, but in high school I was best offensive player my junior year and senior year, I was MVP."
My style has been compared to: "I get like a lot. So, it’s hard to pick one. I would say like Kanye, on my last album. There is a lot of comparisons on Detrooklyn. Now it's more like a lot of Canadian artists like Drake, PartyNextDoor."
Standout moment to date: "My standout moment would probably be just going on a world tour and being in Europe. Yeah, it went real fast. 'Cause before then I wasn't doing much shows so to be thrown into a world tour that was sold out -- it was like 10 in the U.S. and seven or eight in Europe.
There were two moments on tour, actually one in Paris. Paris was probably my best show to date; the fans were dope. And I would say the last show. Me and Party[NextDoor] kinda shared the stage for a while. I just say the fans there [in Paris], the people like hearing new shit. They’re real receptive... they don’t question somebody when they're on the stage, they just went with the vibe; they just like the vibe of all the records.
In New York, they go there to watch the shows for other reasons. They're not there to really like to enjoy the experience. That's like the sense I get. From going to shows, even as a spectator, I see the vibes of people watching the shows. There’s only been a few cases where I see them really turn up for something."
Standout song: "I would say the song called 'The Only.' I think it is experimental, more like a rocky vibe. That was the funnest to make for me. I think I just want to push myself outside of what I used to make. So that was the standout one for me. The process."
My goal in hip-hop is to: "Continue on with the legacy that I’m building right now. Leave a mark and possibly soon, have a label I can put other people on. [This year] definitely another tour. Possibly a label situation and a few projects, we’re going to put out a lot of projects this year."
I’m going to be the next: "I don’t think I’ll be the next anybody, especially with the new music we’re making is a little more experimental. I just think we’re going to have our own space in music. I'm going to be the first Amir Obe."
Won't Find Love in the Hills
Happening in the Grey Area
"Truth For You" Featuring PartyNextDoor
See 40 Hip-Hop Albums Turning 20 in 2016