Amir Obe Interview at NXNE

Photo by Katrina Lat

Detroit-born hip-hop artist, Amir Obe just released a killer EP, NOTCW (None Of The Clocks Work) this past March and graced the Canal Stage to kick off the three-day Festival at NXNE Portlands. He took the time to chat with me earlier in the day and discuss pushing creative boundaries and remaining authentic with his music.

Your new EP, NOTCW was released this past March and has proven to be a growing success. How have you found the process of this project to be different than the past?

            It was really the way I approached it. The process was still laid back, it was my first commercial release through a major label, so the fact that we just kept the same aspects of me and my producer working on it, and building and being organic with everything, I think that was the charm of the project. It was super organic, authentic and fore thinking.”


You recorded this project with producer, NYLZ, and have mentioned in the past that he is your go-to producer. What is it that allows you two to work so well together and continue to collaborate?

            “I think from day one we’ve shared very similar philosophies on what we want to put out as far as quality control. He was there alongside my whole learning process. Referring back to how we started things, it’s always been a collaborative process and even when labels come along and stuff, I need to reach back to keeping things organic, and super ‘Amir Obe in the house’.”


This is your first project with Def Jam, what brought you to make the decision to sign with them?

            Well, ‘authentic’ is the key word today, but they pride themselves on being authentic in the way they came into the situation. A lot of labels were there early, but Def Jam, when they came in, there was full commitment to enhancing the growth and partnering up more than just coming in and cutting a check. They love what we’re doing, and we were at the height of where we could go independently, so when they came in it was enhancing the process and collaborating with us.”


“WISH YOU WELL” is the first stand out record on this project. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration behind this track specifically?

            There was a lot of tension leading up to this song. I worked cohesively as a project, so this song felt necessary because it was like the final release based off of the previous tracks. It was kind of the climax of the whole project, None Of The Clocks Work. And that was like, where I can just be free on music, and it wasn’t so relationship-driven. It was very like, ‘Imma rebel, Imma lash out a little bit, Imma just talk my shit’.”


Is there anyone you’d really like to collaborate with in the future?

“A lot of my influences are old, 90’s pop. I love Sting, I love Phil Collins, and I also love James Blake. I definitely love the Kanye’s and the Pharrell’s of the world, when I first started making music those were my inspirations at the time. Just anybody pushing creative boundaries is who I’d love to collaborate with…and Frank Ocean as well.”


Stemming off of those artists, what was it that initially inspired you to start making music?

            I loved writing. I was a big-time writer, even as a kid having it as a creative outlet. I wouldn’t say I was musically gifted as a child, everything has always been experimental. But, writing was always a passion of mine and when it segued into music it was a fun way to incorporate writing and having a rhythm to it. I grew up in a musical family, my mom was teaching piano lessons, my sister was singing, my dad has an art background, he was an art teacher at school.”


You started gaining a lot of recognition during a time where MySpace was a huge platform for music discovery, what would you say is your go-to now for finding new artists and new music?  

            My go-to music discovery platform is word of mouth. I love that because I feel like if somebody is bringing it to my attention then they’re passionate about it and they love it. Aside from that, digitally I would say twitter.”


With the growing success of this project, where do you see yourself moving forward?

            I just want to continue pushing boundaries and challenging myself to do so and discovering new things. I like thinking that project to project I take certain leaps, even if it’s not a comfortable thing to do I want to challenge myself where it’s still interesting and fun. I like being in the studio and not really knowing what’s going to happen next. Really it’s just continuing to progress musically and creatively. Maybe segue into fashion and design, really whatever ways I can express myself creatively.”

Obe played a laid-back set on Friday evening as the crowd started rolling in for the headliner of the night, Post Malone. His performance, backed by ambient and minimalistic chords fit the atmosphere effortlessly and the entire audience seemed to really enjoy it. If you haven’t listened to NOTCW you should definitely check it here.


About author

Erin is a recent Communications graduate living outside of Toronto. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast with a particular passion for music.