By P80 Parks
Preferring ambience and atmosphere to basic melody and structure, Fatboi Sharif dwells in that gray area; in the “noise,” content to bask in its oddity. After lacing underground elites like Nack and Divino, YL and Starker, producer noface links up with oddball oddity Fatboi for some surreal psychedelia. Surreal subconscious might be the best way to describe how Fatboi Sharif develops his unique lyrics in his own unorthodox ways. Deeply Rooted Hiphop reached out to the pair to see how it started and how it evolved into Preaching in Havana, out now via Purple Tape Pedigree.
Fatboi Sharif on this songwriting process: “I usually sit on production I choose for a while and sleep to it on repeat for various nights. Within that process I’ll usually have dreams of where the beat will take me content wise, something as I’ll see certain colors and shapes or even lots of time will be in a certain scenery and thought patterns and once I’ve conquered all those different feelings and emotions song wise I know it will be a hard hitting body of work on all levels.”
It’s as if the music he creates provides a glimpse into his mind, his dreams, his manufactured realm. Maybe this explains how he transports us. His lyrics and delivery grab us via our cerebral and visceral reactions. His tone, energy and cadence all appeal to our emotions, the visceral elements, while the content of his lyrics provoke thoughts, stimulating cerebrally to our intellect. It’s as much how he delivers his lyrics as what he’s saying. And, as equally important are the beats, the canvas for Sharif to unleash upon.
noface: “My intent was to transmit my soul. It goes back to the subconscious, I’m trying to release what’s in there. I’ve been making music for almost 10 years, with that goal in mind. This is very raw free-form expressionism. This is like free jazz. I was thinking about all the things I was thinking about at that time, talking with Sharif about a lot of that, and watching movies, and also it’s like 1 year into covid and the whole world seems to be collectively kind of in a paranoid haze… all that just comes out in the music. Preaching In Havana is definitely an album about fear, and life, and death, and soul searching– finding god in babylon. This album reflects noface and Fatboi Sharif, or a part of us and our worldview at least. So I pretty much just threw together a bunch of samples that I had in my house or on my computer… old gospel records.. stuff I had been saving but never flipped. Sometimes l’ll hoard a song I want to sample for a while and then I can just feel when I should use it. It came very clearly and organically. Me and Sharif had recorded most of the tracks and then in one day we fleshed out the message of the album. I was eating a good amount of mushrooms back then, and getting really focused on music. We figured out pretty early there was like a religious, or spiritual undertone to the music, and the rest manifested… the interludes especially.”
Fatboi Sharif on the creative genesis of his projects: “Every project is always a different journey for me, it always a start on a blank canvas with lots of discussion, analyzing things going on in my life at the moment and the world and me finding the perfect beats that could bring those thoughts to life.”
DRHH: You’ve worked w Nack and Divino, Starker and YL. How’d you get put onto Fatboi?
noface: “Most of the artists I work with are my friends or people I’ve actually spent time with, and the music tends to come pretty organically. Honestly, I first met a lot of those people just through my music– they hit me up to work. With Fatboi Sharif we met randomly… I remember the first 2 weeks of January 2021 I was sleeping on the floor in Lungs’ living room and on Phiik’s couch, and Sharif was coming out to both of their cribs at the time just to kick it and record or whatever… I would be in another room making beats with my headphones on or some shit and eventually he just heard me playing a beat out loud and bugged out lol. And I think that same night we started Preaching in Havana.”
DRHH: what’s different about producing for Fatboi?
noface: Nothing really except I know I can go all out. I know Sharif will bump stuff like harsh noise music (laughs). And I know he loves Prince Paul. I do too. And Portishead. I just know I can play anything for him, and try to make any kind of music. But Sharif also has a really interesting process, he’ll go home and sleep with beats playing in his headphones overnight. Then he starts writing. I think we both already kind of make music from the unconscious. Or subconscious. So we got along, and the music made sense. Like I said, music should come naturally. I don’t think a lot about it. I was just hanging out with my friends. Watching Godzilla and shit, Jet Jaguar, 60’s, and making beats. I was also still in school, and my girl was bugging out on me, very hectic time. At some point I think I started to realize we were recording some really weird and scary music, and that maybe we had the potential to make a more serious or abstract kind of album… I think the concept became fully clear to us around then, and we started putting together the whole thing.”
Although it may not file under your average rap album, don’t try and categorize this music though. While it remains hip hop, the soundscapes are atypical, avoiding the structure of your usual boom bap production, just as Fatboi prefers.
Fatboi Sharif: “I just always like to paint different pictures and worlds with every track experience so I love dipping into different canvases production wise that really speak to me and that I feel will challenge more than just a typical boom bap beat or something that’s more easy on the ear but at the end of the day to me tho if it connects with me it connects.”
noface: “with Sharif I knew I didn’t have to hold anything back at all, which was nice. I’ve made a lot of music over the years and I don’t think all of it can really be defined by a genre… but usually I try to focus myself a little towards certain sounds when I’m working with certain artists. This time it just didn’t matter. No genre.”
Like an alarm clock awakening your ear drums, “Static Vision” jumps off the journey, Fatboi ending the track repeating “I ain’t scared no more, I ain’t scared no more.”
Check the video for the lead single, “Static Vision” here:
“The Hybrid” dials in the tension with nervous piano keys, as it seeps into the frenetic “Sunday School Explosives.” Lungs peppers “John Hinckley” with a delivery that complements Fatboi’s unique flow. On “1999 Hacker Worldwide,” the minimal production creates a quiet before the climax in the journey, allowing for Fatboi to create vivid imagery, inviting us to see in his mind. “Parasite” is like a tick that can’t be shaken off, with clanging bells and piano notes that creep up your spine. NoFace throws in a couple of interludes that sound like a combination of Saturday morning cartoon snippets and cultural homages. “Paging Dr. noface” plays like a voyage to India narrated by muppet characters. “Sugarcane plantation” plays out a bit more relaxed, replete with post lunar landing vibes, but spills into the cartoonish frenzy of noface’s interlude “Smells Like Autopsy.” Perhaps the most melodic, “Nazi Needle Marks,” provides a noir jazz vibe, mysterious and interesting as an obscure 70’s snippet continues the surreal journey. Phiik provides a flurry of rhymes on “5G Celsius Cell Tower,” assisting the radiation in further melting our minds. The album closes with “Fentanyl Firing Squad” as Fatboi creates cult vibes over winding horns and background chants.
If there’s one notable thing that stands out it’s that Fatboi’s imagery is poetic and imaginative even if it doesn’t subscribe to the typical rhyme flow we so often hear.
DRHH: to me your rap often sounds like poetry and less like rap.
Fatboi: “To me it’s honestly rap in it’s purest form but I always say certain things you have to listen to a certain way and see from a certain lense to fully engulf and analyze. There’s a element of poetry for sure but I wouldn’t categorize it. For me I always aimed to be one of the greatest writers ever who’s work could be studied and embraced in all forms of literature from hip hop, poetry, books etc. The words are always the most important element of it all.”
DRHH: You often share your musical tastes from lots of genres. Do you consciously try and incorporate that same spirit (of other genres) into your own music, or is it more of a byproduct?
Fatboi: “I want it to hit as hard as the first time you saw a film like Jacobs ladder or fantastic planet, something you may have not have understood how all the pieces fit but on further viewing it connected it a way that it always keeps you coming back and as powerful as the first time you heard sly and the family stone or black Sabbath where you embrace the overall experience and as time goes on everything else about the listening experience makes you fall in love more with it.”
DRHH: How much input did Sharif have in the process?
noface: “A lot. When we were making the song “1999 Hacker Worldwide” at Lungs house, Sharif made me pitch down and slow down the sample so much further than I had it, for like 10 minutes I’m just asking him “are you sure?” and he gets super hype yelling about it. Even when I was adding all the little sound effects and transitions, Sharif was there in the room the whole time. Super involved artist and he takes his own shit seriously, which I appreciate.”
Not likely to be similar to anything you’ve ever heard before, Preaching In Havana is a unique audio adventure from Fatboi Sharif and noface. Open your mind; Embrace your third eye and allow yourself to embark on the spiritual journey with Fatboi and noface as your personal shamans.
Preaching In Havana, courtesy of boutique label Purple Tape Pedigree, is out now. Stream here:
Preorder physicals for Preaching In Havana here: