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PAUSE MEETS:

Black Sherif

Talks festivals, honest artistry & reflection.

Creative Director: Rhys Marcus Jay // @rhysmarcusjay
Photographer: Peter O’Sullivan //@peterosullivan_
Stylist: Felicia Brown // @_feliciabrown_
Interviewer: Amal AlTauqi // @altxuqi

“Don’t ignore what’s in you.”

As we set the world alight during our conversation, Black Sherif and I found ourselves surrounded by an aura of authenticity, something impossible to penetrate when it’s rooted so deeply. “The real power is to control what’s within you… In every happening, there is life”. In the same way, his sonic delivery flows smoothly, and the flow of conversation is equally as effortless. The two of us catch up on an exhilarating Sunday afternoon, moments before he is expected to perform to 43,000 people at a sold-out Wireless Festival.

A person’s self-confidence level is considered one of the most influential, motivating factors and behaviours in their everyday lives. If there is one thing Black Sherif is 100% confident in, it’s the fact that he was born for this. An artist who lives with integrity, performs well, and shares his art with the world.

Top: H&M x Mugler Trousers, Shoes: Filling Pieces x Dr Martens, Jewellery: Seol + Gold, Sunglasses: Bonnie Clyde

You’ve been super active with the live shows this year. Atlanta, New York, Brussels, and now London! Which aspect of live performances do you enjoy the most?

I think mostly the response. With me, I’ll work with the energy, whether it’s 50 people, or 100. I can work with all of them. Anytime I get on stage, there’s only one thing I’m curious about – even if I am one song in, I’ll already know where the energy is going.

How do you switch up the vibe from headline shows to festivals? Does the creative process alter somehow?

Definitely. With the headline shows, there is real Blacko believers. Those that have been here from time. With festivals, it’s mostly people who have come to see their favourite artist. But again, people have ears, and they know what good music is, so it all depends on energy.

When it comes to audience, you seem to strike a heart-warming balance between those who admire your realism and those who are willing to learn more about your work…

Yeah, 100%.

I was in a rabbit hole on YouTube when this comment from a fan caught my eye. “Black Sherif is the kind of success story that encourages me. Watching his development and seizing every opportunity”…

This makes me want to do more. For so many years, we were just f*cking around and doing us. Should I say, we were being ‘deliberate’. I was aware of whatever and any response or reaction I was getting through my art, I set goals, I knew where we wanted to go, and it was through the songs. When it comes from the world and you’re able to learn things and implement things in your art, that’s the way.

In fact, I actually think that the most beautiful thing an artist can do is merge their heritage with a contemporary sound that reflects their present-day sensibilities. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who find themselves in similar situations you were once in?

I think don’t ignore what’s in you. What’s inside you. That’s really you. That’s your sauce and no one has what’s inside you. But everyone has what’s going on in the world.

But even though you faced hardships, the complexity of your experiences led you to create such captivating music that has allowed so many people to resonate. How has your journey taught you something about yourself?

About myself? Me trying to understand myself. I grew up very timid. Where I grew up, it was surrounded by tough people. When I got into high-school, I was a left back in football and was never interested in making music. It was growing up with my mum who was a reggae head. So, going from my small family to making friends with people from all over, I started to hear about hip-hop. I didn’t know songs, I knew names – like Biggie, Tupac, Nas. I always had this small beat box on me, and I’d go around searching for music.

What kind of things were you searching for? Perhaps the rawer form of hip-hop? 

For me, If I’m intrigued by something, I want to go down to the root. The first song I heard that got me like “woah” was Bad and Boujee.

Cardigan: KAPITAL from Mr. Porter, Jeans: Flaneur,  Sunglasses: Hot Future, Jewellery: Serge Denimes, Trainers: Axel Arigato

Migos?

Yeah. This was my first year in high school. I remember thinking “yo, this is hard” and I went home from school that day to an Internet cafe. When I started writing music, I never wanted to forget the type of music I had first listened to. When I sit down and write, I let all that knowledge evolve to it.

Vest: KSUBI, Shorts: La Fam, Trainers: Puma

“Every art that I have ever fallen in love with has an identity deeper down.”

I really like how you sing with such humility and relatability, unapologetically exploring personal and social consciousness. In a world full of idealism, your honesty is a breath of fresh air. Is that something you have always tried to convey through your art?

It’s something that I have learnt unconsciously. The real power is to control what’s within you. That’s what I strive for most with my music. I feel like my soul has been trained by the people that were around me during the first years of my life. It’s just about being real to ourselves. I don’t even feel pressure outside, I only feel pressure from what I give to myself.

No external pressures? I guess you’re your own competitor in some ways. It’s often those who feel that external pressure start merging into someone they are not.

I think for me, it’s not even about levelling up. Its staying true, even with my music. Sometimes I think to myself that I grew up too fast, I learnt so much and now I’m ready to unlearn things. I think overall, it’s to have full control. I want to let my feelings out.

I was actually going to ask when it comes to making music, where do you feel most at peace?

The studio and on stage. When I’m on stage, I often think about how to translate the energy from the studio to the audience.

Is music the only medium that allows you to feel that ‘authentic’ power or is there other ways in which you’re able to feel?

Going to the beach or even being in the bushes. My next album, most of it has been written there.

So, what, the next album is going to be called “At the Beach”?

Yo that could be a thing. *Big fist* You could be onto things.

I might need royalties. There’s something so calming about being within nature, or even near water. You feel grounded. There must be a spiritual meaning too.

I feel like, so let’s say how we’re talking right now, there’s a physical aspect to it but I do believe there’s a non-physical world too. We have souls unconsciously; we are beings that are communicating with one another.

This is just an outer shell, for real. So, being the most streamed Ghanaian artist on Spotify for the year must have been a surreal moment in your career. How do you even reflect on that?

It was pretty mental. Even to reflect on all of this, like when I’m home, I feel like rooms bring my energy down. [Like I said], I want to be outside (not in the clubs, I mean literally outside).

It is impossible for us to ignore the seamless ability you have to jump on any track and blend in flawlessly. Is there a particular process that you follow when collaborating? 

I let everything work. In every happening, there is life. Everywhere I am, I want to be free, so I go with the flow… there’s no process.

Jacket: La Fam x NSG, Vest: KSUBI, Sunglasses: artist’s own

I was actually going to ask when it comes to making music, where do you feel most at peace?

The studio and on stage. When I’m on stage, I often think about how to translate the energy from the studio to the audience.

Let’s delve deep into your stylistic approach. How would you describe your style and where are your favourite places to find inspiration?

I love the markets. You find everything there, from trench coats, to more. I love beauty for things, I see it. I put things on, and I’ll add things, take things out, I just need to feel good. I don’t like conventional things. I want to wear what I feel like wearing without any pressures.

And to wrap this up, what’s next for Black Sheriff? 

I’m in the studio. That’s what’s happening.

Follow BLACK SHERIF on Instagram

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