Multifaceted 18-year-old musician Sharifa talks overcoming alienation, the greatness of Erykah Badu and future musical endeavours.
Words Liam Cattermole (@liam_cattermole)
Photos Freddie Miller (@freddiemillerphoto)
Many make the move to London in a bid to kickstart a burgeoning music career. Riddled with sacrifice and consequence, the decision isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it’s one that 18-year-old rapper, producer and DJ Sharifa is taking effortlessly into his stride. The East Midlands-born artist channels everyday hardships and emotional endeavours into fervent productions. His latest single, ‘TOO MUCH’, is delivered with unbridled autotuned harmonies and a taste for trap’s intensely hypnotic sounds.
The last few years have seen Sharifa drip-feeding fans with a range of sonically disparate singles, from 2020’s invigorating ‘Disrespect’ to the glitchiness of ‘SWITCH’. His most recent comes accompanied by a DIY-perceived music video. Revelling in abstract aesthetics, the visuals portray him in his rawest form, relaying vulnerabilities with an admirable candidness.
We caught up with Sharifa to talk overcoming alienation, the greatness of Erykah Badu and future musical endeavours. Tap in below.
Hey Sharifa, how are you? For those that don’t know, introduce yourself and the music that you make!
I'm good man, I hope everyone's well. I mean, I'm just some random 18-year-old kid who makes alternative rap and pop music to connect with people and culture. I love art and everything that comes with it and love creating meaningful shit.
Let’s kick off with some of your first musical memories. Can you remember the first CD you bought or downloaded and who the first gig you saw was?
I think I was just past the generation of buying CDs. But we had a bunch of them around the house from artists like Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson and George Benson, which I spent a lot of time listening to. It was my sister and cousin who really introduced me to the urban side of music, like Kanye and Jay-Z as well as artists more soulful artists like Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu.
You’re living in London now, but you grew up in the East Midlands. You’ve previously described where you lived as ‘close-minded’, why do you think this is so? Was there any scene more broadly in the East Midlands that you found yourself a part of?
I grew up in Derby which was pretty small and the people are very narrow-minded. Most people stick to the same route and there's not a lot of diversity and differences there. I think that people there like to stick to what they know and don’t like their ideas to be challenged. It's so crazy because down the road you have Nottingham, which is insane and there are loads of things happening there. It took me a while to realise it, but when I did, I spent a lot of time in Notts.
And what’s it been like since you moved to London? Has it been everything you wanted for your career or has anything taken you by surprise?
It's been amazing. I don't think I felt a sense of belonging like I have since I've been here. As much as I haven't necessarily gotten to where I want to be yet, I know that this is the place I need to be to get there. The people and creatives are wild and the different scenes here just allow people to try things out and express themselves. I think one thing that surprised me would be that some people don't have the work ethic that you would hope for; they just expect things to happen. But that's not a lot of people, most of us have a love for the hustle.
Your latest single, ‘TOO MUCH’, has a clear Travis Scott influence to it. Is there anyone else that inspires the music that you make?
Yeah, 100%. Travis did a lot for me in those mid-teen years, so I took huge inspiration from him. Kanye also inspired me in the production and experimental side of things as he tried things that people may have looked at him sideways for, but it pioneered the music we listen to now. And I get compared to Juice WRLD sometimes, I think the lyrics and emotion definitely tie back to him.
And was the single made in the studio or was it a hit made in the bedroom? When you’re writing and recording, is it a social event? Is there always people coming to hang out or do you rather that it’s a more focused and solitary experience?
It's a bedroom hit always man. I love to have social events when sharing and producing. but writing and recording is mostly done in the bedroom, it's where I do it best.
The track’s come with some great visuals, directed by Alex Rossi. When you sat down for the initial conversations, what did you discuss and how did you want the video to look?
I hit up Alex a month after I made the track which is mad quick compared to what I usually do but I just knew I loved it. I'd put together some visual references that I liked and thought represented the track and we hopped on a phone call. I guess I wanted the visuals to be abstract and unique and not just your standard performance video because I think that's boring. I also wanted it to portray something and just show who I am. He killed it though. Shout out to Alex.
One thing that stands out in the video is that you’re a well-dressed bloke! What’s your favourite shoe of all time? Why’s this so, and how would you wear it?
Haha, don't gas me too much man I won't be able to stand up straight. I've been into Bottega Veneta for the past 3 years, especially the puddle boots and can't take my mind off them. I don't even know why I like them so much but I just do. I’d probably wear them with my Moschino shirt and some leather trousers. I can't wait for the day I get a pair.
Is this single indicative of a wider release? What’s your musical motivations for the rest of the year?
I think 'TOO MUCH' was an insight to show my diversity and potential. It's me experimenting with my sound and trying new things. I like that it doesn't limit what I can do and opens up more doors for me. I wouldn’t say it's indicative of a wider release unfortunately but I’ve definitely got some crazy projects dropping this year
What’s next for Sharifa? Is there anything in 2023 that you’d like to tick off the bucket list?
One thing I would love to do is properly build my name within the underground hip-hop scene in the UK, performing at shows and getting more involved with the culture, etc. I think that would be a really good base to take my movement to where I think it can go. But taking things one step at a time is the most important thing.