dubai by Chorouk Akik May 28, 2020
We all know that discovering a new favorite artist can be one of the most exhilarating experiences. It’s even better when you get to expand your music repertoire. sobhhï is the chart-topping R&B artist you should know. I got a chance to interview the elusive sobhhï who has otherwise done very little press in the past, embracing his mysterious, faceless persona.
With a blend of dreamy R&B, bedroom soul, and rugged hip-hop, sobhhï’s sound is essential “music for late nights.” He’s also a multi-faceted artist, producing all of his own music, handling all his business himself-no management, and even directing his own videos.
As the NO. 1 streamed R&B artist in the UAE and one of the top artists generally in the Middle East, sobhhï is a Dubai-based R&B artist who was born in the States but moved around growing up.
“Moving around and integrating with different communities made me feel that there are more similarities than differences in this world.”
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new music video: “worldwide (ft. @nsfnivo)” link in my bio… . . . this is the @nuitsansfin extended family. filmed in new york, LA, and dubai. s/o to @nsfbadawi and @nsfpope for working their magic behind the camera, wouldn’t be possible without them. and shouts out everyone who flew in, flew out, or pulled up to make this happen. directed by @sobhhi camera crew @nsfbadawi @nsfpope @sobhhi cast @9nhyn @lei_smokahontas @nsfnivo @nsfpope @nsfbadawi @nsfro_ @meeshint @nardeendawood @kaplanventure
sobhhï attended UC Berkeley for undergrad and was studying for a Ph.D. in applied mathematics at the University of Chicago before taking time off to pursue a career in music.
I asked the artist what led him to a career in music. sobhhï’s story begins with a heartwarming anecdote of him as a young child being exposed to the piano at school. sobhhï recalls being tasked with performing at a recital.
“There was a song book with three or four songs that we had to choose from to perform in the recital. I had a hunger for a greater sense of originality. So that night I wrote my own song. It sucked, but it was original.”
He asked his teacher after class if he could perform his own original song instead and the teacher agreed. That small act of encouragement was where it all started.
sobhhï explained that his namesake is one passed down from his grandfather. The root word “sobh” means “morning” in Arabic.
“I hope I can honor my gramps, he was the only grandparent I got to know.”
The name “sobhhï” means “of the morning. This is in contrast with the record label/ collective sobhhï started ‘NUIT SANS FIN,’ which means “night without end” in French.
sobhhï’s sound is distinct in it’s euphoric and mysterious mood. Knowing how the artist is solely responsible for much of the music it was intriguing to learn how he went about creating that sound.
“It depends on the song. Some start with the voice notes app on my phone, some start on an acoustic guitar, and some just start in the studio. I think that’s the least critical part of the process.”
What sobhhï considers the most critical part of the process is far deeper than any technical or practical procedure. It’s far more conceptual and profound than writing lyrics and then a melody or vice versa.
“What is for me absolutely critical, on the other hand, is that inspiration comes first. For music to be meaningful and intentional, I feel that it has to be about something. I’ve gone months without writing or recording and other times, full albums come together in the matter of four or five weeks.”
That inspiration can come from any portion of sobhhï’s art. It’s not surprising to learn about his attention to the visuals that accompany the music.
“For me, this isn’t just about audio, it’s visceral. The final product may be auditory, but the experiences themselves that end up in the songs were full body. And that’s why creating the visuals to go with the music feels natural.”
sobhhï goes further to explain that the experience could very well go higher by moving beyond the audio-visual. Perhaps we should stay on the lookout for full sensory projects spearheaded by the R&B artist.
“If I had to extend that to smell, taste, and feel (the other senses), it would be just as natural too.”
sobhhï’s latest track is timely titled “Quarantine & Chill.” With the world on pause and going through a slew of emotions while social distancing, it’s no surprise that SOBHHÏ is able to channel that emotion into his art.
The lyrics are relatable with an emphasis on lost time, connection, and a yearning for a partner during a difficult time. The melody grips you like a never arriving base drop.
“The whole lockdown situation has me feeling a way; feeling trapped, desolate, uninspired. But at the same time, we got a chance to slow down and think about where we’re really at right now.”
The track is accompanied by visuals in deeply calming yet powerful in black & white. The greys of the visuals compliment the track with empty space, singular subjects, and larger than life backgrounds with varying focus.
The visuals, lyrics, and melody all come together to tap into our collective consciousness of loneliness, lax anticipation for this all to come to a head.
“The track, just like many others, is a journal entry. I’m bottling up the moment for later.”
This expertise in dreamy R&B is apparent in sobhhï’s other popular tracks including “pull up on you” and “imagine that” with over 1million streams each. sobhhï even occasionally blends Arabic lyrics, switching from English to Arabic seamlessly on his song: facts up. His other notable music videos include “4am in riyadh” and “2019 freestyle.”
sobhhï captures easily an alluring and deep R&B sound of what can be compared to that of The Weeknd’s legendary “Wicked Games.” In fact, he’s created his own version of the song leaning into it’s “baby-making” potential. Other notable influences include Drake, J. Cole, and overall 90s hip hop.
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sobhhï’s racked up quite a few projects with growing success. I asked him what advice he would’ve shared with his younger self who hadn’t yet started his musical journey. His response was simple, firm, and applicable to all those who are tiptoeing around their passion.
“Stop planning, start moving.”