Daily Discovery is a feature that will highlight a new or recently discovered artist that we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.
It is undoubtedly more appropriate to call D.C. rapper Obii Say a “rediscovery” than a true “Daily Discovery,” but his new video for “Whose World?” (which he co-directed) feels like a proper introduction to after a musical journey marked by fits and starts. In lyrics and visuals, it is the work of a young artist whose vision has been forged by the constant back and forth between tragedy and small triumph, a life lived in the confines of an odd internet bubble and simultaneously in a real world completely divorced from the web.
Of course, much of this struggle is only suggested in “Whose World?”–a song that feels positively packed in spite of its runtime (just north of two minutes). It’s a showcase for Obii’s able rapping, a style that emphasizes every bar, deliberateness and clarity just as impressive as many young rappers’ attempts to pack each bar with syllables.
Watch the video for “Whose World?” and read an interview with Obii Say below.
At 12:01am on my 21st birthday, I remember sitting on my friend Colin’s couch in Manhattan and the very first thing I did was say a prayer. My head was clear enough to think at that point.
A quick Google search shows that you’ve released a bunch of music over the past 4 years, but your Facebook page doesn’t provide much context and your Twitter timeline has a scant 69 tweets dating back to 10/23/2013. Is your online presence deliberately limited?
It is a little. The internet is addictive, but social media is bittersweet. A lot of the memes and vines are funny. I favorite a lot of them on Twitter. The downside of it is seeing people complain about stupid shit. One minute someone will tweet about how “great” life is and literally the next minute tweet a complaint about not having any “real” friends. Get off Twitter and make better friends then. Rappers and singers ask for a certain amount of retweets for something that they’ll release whether they get the retweets or not. Everything is an event online. It takes away from the art. If you’re going to do something then do it, you know? I don’t need confirmation from anyone.
What was the last song you released?
A song called “Plastic” back in November of 2012. It was actually featured on P&P too.
Is there a larger story behind the inactivity?
Life. Living day-to-day. Losing friends and family and figuring out how to deal with it all. I was depressed for a good portion of 2012. I went from performing at S.O.B’s in March to everything around me pretty much collapsing from April forward. I spent 2013 trying to correct the mistakes I made the year before. Even though I didn’t release any music, I found myself spending a lot of time in New York recording and getting high to pass the time. At 12:01am on my 21st birthday, I remember sitting on my friend Colin’s couch in Manhattan and the very first thing I did was say a prayer. My head was clear enough to think at that point. From that point on I came back home and got a job at Starbucks. The checks were ok at the time, but I wasn’t happy. I would come to work thinking of everything except my job. After several months I quit and started recording again.
Musically, what have you been up to over the past two years?
Aside from writing, producing has really grown on me as of late. I treat it just as I treat my writing. You can go wherever you want to go with it. It’s fun. I’ve been recording a lot of music over the past few months and bringing ideas to fruition. That’s been a priority. I’m even finishing up work that I started nearly two years ago. I guess I should take this time to plug a future release date for something, but people will hear it when it’s ready. I’m bad with definite dates haha.
How would you describe your style?
It depends on the day. I’m human. By nature, I’ll change whether I want to or not. Everything about me will change accordingly. My art, my approach, my execution etc.
What’s your approach to writing rhymes?
If I feel it, I say it.
What was the concept behind the video for “Whose World?”
It was inspired by a few things. We shot it to look cool whether the song is being played out loud or on mute. That’s what the mask is for. If it’s turned down, someone might see the mask and wonder what is that I’m saying, turn it up and end up liking the song…or not. That aspect of it was inspired by Harmony Korine. Going back to me being in New York, I saw that movie Spring Breakers while I was there and noticed that If I were to pause that movie at any given moment, the frame would make for a good poster on a wall. Even with the movie Gummo, a lot of scenes from that movie just looked really good. I wanted to give that same feeling with some of the frames in the video. We kept that in mind while shooting. As with most music, If you were to hear the song before hearing the video, you would create a setting of your own according to the words. If it was what you expected, it’d be boring so we did what we felt was right for it.
Is it the first you’ve ever directed?
Yeah. Up until shooting this video, I would always give whoever was shooting the video almost complete creative control. I would just accept the treatments that were brought to me because at the time, I didn’t trust the ideas that I had enough. They were great ideas nonetheless, but I had never directed anything so I felt as if they weren’t important enough to put forward. This time around, Ibrahim [Keita] and I worked closely and bounced ideas back and forth until everything started to pan out the way we saw it prior to shooting. This is the first music video he’s ever shot as well.
What inspired you to want to jump into directing?
It’s been a thought in the back of my mind for as long as I’ve been writing songs. In this case, on January 1st of this year, I was sitting in a basement with Ibrahim and 2 other friends. We bought some cheap champagne and some tree and chilled for about 30 minutes after the ball dropped. I literally jumped up and said “let’s shoot a video,” and it started from there. I just wanted to start the year off doing something that I hadn’t done before. It was a little out on a limb but it started to mold itself after a while. I’ve always wanted to see the things that I see in my head when I write come to life. I feel like whatever you see or feel as you create is more than likely the best way to go. Whether it makes complete sense or not, put it out there. There is always something for someone to take from watching or hearing it.
Do you feel like the DMV is approaching a “moment” or is it still a collection of talent that hasn’t been unified yet?
At this point, I think it’s up to the individual person or collective. I’m from southeast, D.C. and from this part of the city alone, Shy Glizzy and Lightshow have both come a long way. To add to that, Fat Trel, Yung Gleesh and a few more have accomplished a lot in the past year. I’m a fan of a lot of the music that comes from the entire area. The door is open, it’s just a matter of getting up to put in the work. Also, R.I.P to Avionadramida. He passed away in 2012. He was young but he influenced a lot of people in the area. He was one of the best to do it.