PIGEONS AND PLANES: DETROIT RAPPER AMIR OBE IS FINALLY DOING THINGS ON HIS OWN TERMS
After learning through trial-and-error, Detroit rapper Amir Obe has figured out exactly what he wants. His new EP 'NØTÇW' is out now.
Amir Obe has seen many sides of the music industry. From coming up during the MySpace era to getting a Drake co-sign and being signed to two different major labels, he's been in positions that many up-and-coming artists dream of. But the 27-year-old rapper prefers to keep things low-key, in a lot of ways. He works in private, with people he's close to, and he's more productive in his hometown of Detroit than in music hubs like New York or Los Angeles.
Instead of crafting some long-term takeover plan, Obe—now signed with Def Jam—just wants to figure things out as he goes. He's finally got the creative control he's always wanted, and he's using that control to live in the moment. Ahead of the release of his project NØTÇW (NØNĘ ØF THĘ ÇLØÇKŚ WØRK ), which is out now, we talked to Amir Obe about his new music, what he's learned from his music industry experience, and his plans for the future.
I want to open up with this new joint you got called “Wish You Well.” What’s the idea behind that?
A lot of the music on my project was really heavy, conversational. This one was just a fun record, me and my producer just wanted to do something uptempo, something melodic with a bounce. So it’s kind of our escape from the deep records we were doing. I wanted that balance between all of the darker stuff, the relationship records. I wanted one where I felt I could just do whatever I wanted on it.
I think sonically it has that bounce but there’s still elements of it that feel relationship-based, like, “You did some fucked up shit, fuck you, but I wish you well.” Is that a real feeling?
That was the response, the hook was like, “Know your place.” At end it’s like, “I still wish you well.” I’m not that fucked up. [Laughs]
How did you first come in contact with Mike Dean and how is he getting involved?
Me and my A&R were looking for a good mastering engineer who could really push the music sonically. Noah suggested Mike Dean and he hopped on board for the masters.
What do you think he brings to a project?
I think he just has a very good track record on who he’s worked with and he knows the depths of sounds and music. Me and him had conversations on how wide it should be and loud it should be. I know he’s really good with loudness, and 100% of the masters he’s done are perfect. He did all of the mastering for the songs on this project.
Who else are you working with?
This project was all done by one producer and his name is NYLZ, he’s from Detroit. That’s like my go-to, also my engineer.
When you go about selecting people you want to work with, engineers or production and collaborators, what are you looking for?
I’m just looking for free collaborative process, I don’t like forcing shit, I don’t like being in big studios, I like a home environment. I feel like if I click with you in that environment and we can just vibe and create the best product possible, that’s all I’m going for. Doesn’t matter what we’re trying to do. It’s just let’s get in this moment, let’s create for this moment, and let’s do whatever happens naturally.
I’M JUST LOOKING FOR FREE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS, I DON’T LIKE FORCING SHIT.
When you arrived when were saying that you just flew in from Detroit. Why do you choose to stay in Detroit? With music, a lot of it is happening on the coasts, and like you said there’s a lot of big studios, a lot of names you can run into. Why keep it Detroit? Why keep it home-grown?
One reason is because my producer doesn’t leave Detroit at all. We grew up in that home environment so when we do get placed in a studio with a whole bunch of opinions it’s like we just like making shit that we can vibe with. It’s a very private process. Him improvising off of my lyrics and me improvising off his beats. It’s always been that way and I intend to keep it that way.
Is that something you learned in this industry? I know you were previously signed, and that was a different career path. You had a different name and aesthetic and now you’ve signed with Def Jam. Is the decision to stay home-grown is response to that?
It’s definitely in response to that. I feel like in that situation, I was too young to really grow into my own and I was dealing with a label that really wanted to go for singles and hits. They didn’t care for the story at the time, they had this vision for me and what they wanted me to be. I felt like, growing through that process I’m just like, “This is not what the fuck I want to do.” So after that, I took a year or two for self-discovery and experimentation. I knew the music I’ve always wanted to make so I’ve just been refining that music and that’s where we are today.
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