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Artist Spotlight: Obai

“I’m a little artist, but the love is definitely reciprocated.”
Obai in Arizona

(Image via @obaimusic)

Enter the R&B and pop universe of Obai: Gen Z’s next biggest superstar. 18-year-old Sudanese artist Obai is a musician who continuously pushes the boundaries of his craft. He started making music at the age of thirteen and holds the values of being a relatable and storytelling artist close to heart. His debut EP, svnteen, gives fans a glimpse at his versatility and maturity as a young artist on the rise and invites new listeners to tap in with a prominent new voice that demands to be heard.

“I’m a melting pot of everything I’ve ever consumed.”

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona shaped Obai as a person and artist. He reflects on his beginnings, revealing his family’s influences on the music he consumed and would eventually use as inspiration for his own. While his sister introduced him to the likes of Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, his brother incessantly bumped classic R&B bops that have shown clear influences on Obai's sound. Simultaneously, his childhood was synonymous with Sudanese music full of storytelling and soulful lyrics coursing through his household on any given day. The musical surroundings of Obai's identity are frequently explored in his music and are something he cherishes deeply.

Obai makes his love for his hometown very well known by honoring it in visual aspects of his music: “I love Arizona creatives. I feel like everyone’s tapped into each other. It’s like our own personal hotspot.” In the music video for his single “dancefloor,” Obai, and fellow Arizona-based artists vibe in a dimly-lit retro diner.

Although heavily influenced by his upbringing, Obai also takes inspiration from other Gen-Z favorites such as Drake, The Weeknd, Don Toliver, and Frank Ocean; “Live, laugh, Frank,” Obai jokes when speaking on what he taps into when looking for inspiration. However, when it comes to melodies, Obai holds PARTYNEXTDOOR’s artistry next to none. Funny enough, his cosigns from CashMoneyAP and Bryson Tiller speak to the lane that Obai has created for himself to thrive in. The young artist described himself as a “sponge” during those experiences, as he learned so much from being submerged in the world of those ahead of him career-wise. He reflects on his first song, “Goodbye” as having a Bryson Tiller type-beat. With this in mind, meeting and working with Tiller, Obai expresses, was a full-circle moment for him; "In some sense, I feel like I’m living another person’s dream,” Obai says when speaking about how surreal his whole journey has been. He was also grateful to work with CashMoneyAP, explaining that he walked in as a songwriter and came out dropping a song with him, which was a surreal moment in his career. It is clear that the artists Obai has worked with see his virtuosity as an upcoming star.

Obai in Pheonix

With every release, Obai wants listeners to feel like they’re entering his world. The song “girls like you” allowed Obai to create a fun, but profound song that worked perfectly with the accompanying scenic music video. He elaborates, “It was a very fun video to shoot. I was in a drop-top; I was in a Benz. It was lit. I always wanted my music to kind of act as some sort of beacon of light. I want people to look at my stuff and be like, ‘if he can do it, I can as well.’ Art in general is a powerful gift.

Obai has cared about the development of being an artist from the beginning of his career, strategically spacing out the releases of his first singles. He also treasures having a strong team; “I need people to care about the stuff I’m trying to push out as much as I am.” Obai shares that his mom has joined him on label trips for years, and continues to stay with him throughout his journey. Obai’s mom and best friend, who turns out to be his creative director, have led him in the right direction and are a stable foundation of his team.

He has needed that foundation and support as he released his debut EP under Geffen Records, svnteen, at the end of January 2024. The 9-track EP is filled with the nostalgia-inspired R&B & pop tunes that he absorbed from his siblings' playlists. Catchy lyrics and soulful croons are littered throughout the project as Obai reflects on a lot of the themes he has shared that are so important to him right now: his identity, his relationships, and his passion to succeed at the beginning of a journey he hopes lasts for a while (we would bet that it does). The song, journals,” is most personal to him on the EP, with lyrics focusing on his mom, his origins, and the initial doubt he received towards the beginning of his career; “I speak from the heart on that song,” Obai proclaims.

Obai stresses that things are only going to get bigger and better from here; “I want to branch out to more experimental sounds. I want to build a bigger universe. For every roll-out, every video; it’s just gonna get crazier and crazier.” Obai’s humble and infectious attitude is going to carry him far, and we can’t wait to see what he has in store. For now though, bump his newest EP, svnteen, fresh out this year.

Stream svnteen HERE

Follow Obai HERE

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