The enigmatic artist sobhhï speaks to Atwood Magazine about his craft, artistic inspiration, and the intersection between music and maths.
Is it rather difficult to make out sobhhï’s face in the header picture? All the better. He’s an artist who likes to keep his personal and physical identity a secret, and he’s embraced the theme of darkness in many ways beyond these dimly-lit portraits. Sobhhï has also founded a record label called NUIT SANS FIN (which means “endless night” in French) and operates in a self-proclaimed style known as Trapsoul Nocturnal (which has been defined as a combination of “dreamy R&B, bedroom soul and hip-hop.”
Sobhhï has spent a decent amount of time in the United States– he’s studied at both UC Berkeley and UChicago– but is currently based in Dubai, where he has established himself as “one of the top R&B/hip-hop artists in the Middle East.” He earned that title on the strength of two series of EPs known as RED and BLACK, which have included such intriguing numbers as “imagine that,” “abu / dhabi,” and “4am in riyadh”— the capital of the country where sobhhï plans to move to soon after wrapping up his time in the UAE. He’s also done his part to make this rough social distancing period go down for easily for his listeners with the brand new release, “quarantine and chill.”
Sobhhï may be protective about his real name and facial features, but he’s far more open when it comes to talking about his craft and artistic inspiration, as Atwood was lucky to discover.
Listen: RED III – sobhhï
:: A Conversation with sobhhï ::
Atwood Magazine: We’ve now reached the third part of the RED trilogy. How has this series evolved with each record? What are your thoughts now that you're finally capping off the trilogy?
What do you make of your title as “the #1 streamed R&B artist currently based in Dubai?” What is the R&B community in Dubai like and how has it managed to inform your identity as an artist?
You said that one of your goals for a previous album was to “amalgamate urban contemporary music and Arabic in a way that felt natural.” Does that remain a goal for you in RED III? What are some of the challenges you face in achieving this goal and how do you ultimately manage to overcome them?
How did the narrative structure of RED III come to be? How are these themes embodied in the album's lead single and video, “red bottoms?”
Watch: “red bottoms” – sobhhï
In addition to performing music, you’ve also been doing a PhD in applied mathematics at UChicago. How do your balance your interests in both music and math? Anything you learn in the classroom come into play within the studio?
Earlier this year, you said that you still hadn’t performed an official concert yet but were hoping to do so eventually. Any updates in that department? What are your hopes for when you finally take to the stage?
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