Every city has its hometown hero, proving that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it. Just as Drake serves as that beacon of light for the daydreamers and hip-hop lovers of Toronto, Detroit-born and raised Amir Obè has slowly ascended the ladder of hometown hip-hop heroism and secured the crown this year, sealed by the release of his standout EP, None of the Clocks Work.
Obè started out like many young, aspiring artists did in 2007 — on Myspace. However, it wasn't long before his musical talent elevated him to internet stardom. In 2014, fueled by his growing popularity, Obè released his first cohesive body of work, Detrooklyn, which he describes as the turning point in his career. "That project opened a lot of doors for me," Obè says. "I just take things further every step. It's always been about constant growth for me."
Detrooklyn, named after the two cities that raised Obè, also managed to draw the attention of none other than one Aubrey Graham — better known as Drake. "Drake's manager, Oliver [El-Khatib], heard Detrooklyn and reached out saying he wanted to hear more music and build a relationship," Obè says. "Things started to pick up around the same time, coincidentally, and we maintained that friendship ever since."
Since Detrooklyn, Obè has released an extended play album Happening in the Grey Area, and co-produced music with Partynextdoor and Drake, along with his latest EP, None of the Clocks Work. All of these works were recorded and produced in Detroit where Obè starts all of his projects. The artist attributes his desire to create in Detroit to his ability to keep things organic and be close to family. "It's a progressive time in the city and there's a lot of positive energy here," Obè says. "Being in that environment and seeing how things have changed since I was a kid out here ... I've equated that growth of the city to the growth in myself."
Amir says he continued to stretch himself artistically in the making of NOTCW. "I was striving to make the best music possible, and trying to have a distinctive sound, and keep things very cohesive," Obè says of the EP. "It's always about growth. I like taking leaps on every project and pushing myself to really create something that I can be impressed by."
Obè sites a diverse array of artists — the Police, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson — as influences. "We wanted the music to bend genres and to be appreciated 20 years ago or 20 years from now," says Obè. "We wanted a timeless feel, something that was really in the moment and didn't have an expiration date on it."
Although it was inspired by '80s and '90s pop music, NOTCW was made completely without sampling, something that is somewhat unheard of in the hip-hop world. This pure and authentic methodology resulted in a deeply personal and undeniably catchy collection of songs, which Obè is currently sharing on tour in the United States and abroad.
"I never say my music's 'complete,' it's kind of like you have to abandon it," he says. "Like I feel like good art, at some point you just have to walk away from it. You can't really finish art."
Amir Obè performs at the Shelter on Wednesday, Sept. 6; 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; Doors at 8 p.m.; Tickets are $11.