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Interview: Bobii Lewis

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Artists who strive for diversity and multi-faceted identities are rare and refreshing, and Bobii Lewis is certainly one of them.

One of the main aspects of Bobii Lewis’ music is its range. He primarily describes himself as an R&B singer but is quick to assert “the genre of my music isn’t just R&B - I do everything between R&B and reggae.” A listen to his 2016 mixtape Blind In The Summer and listeners are able to hear that in full effect.

Lewis credits his sound to his upbringings and his parents’ musical tastes. “At the time my mum and dad used to play a lot of Motown and classic reggae, these were the genres most played in my house, and it’s fitting that I’ve ended up doing R&B and reggae.” However, the range of his music does not just stop at R&B and reggae fusion. “I felt like after I did Blind in the Summer everyone just said I’m an R&B artist and no one heard that I’d made so much different music. So, I thought, why not drop everything on them, so after the mixtape, every song is a different vibe."

Post-mixtape the releases are all incredibly diverse. That same fusion sound is prevalent on tracks like ‘Force You’ featuring Not3s, his latest single ‘Never Leave’ and his soon-to-be-released ‘The Reason’. But added to that are tracks like ‘Drifting’, which is an afro-swing/dancehall R&B track produced by legendary Jamaican producer Don Corleone; ‘Show Me The Way’ as a more trap-heavy, contemporary hip-hop flavoured sound; ‘Moonlight’ is a pure piano melody-backed ballad; ‘Daylight’ has none of that reggae bounce found all over Lewis’ earlier mixtape.

Songs like ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Daylight’ hold a special place for Lewis: “‘Daylight’ and ‘Moonlight’ are not going to get easily as playlisted as a ‘Reason’ or ‘Force You’, but when I go and do shows, they’re the ones that the core fans are messing with. It’s not like I have to drop a song with a bounce for them to like it, they’ll take in what I’m saying, I can pour my heart out and they’re gonna accept it.”

Lewis is able to change genres so effortlessly due to the uniqueness and power of his voice, in tandem with his harmonising proficiency. For his skill in harmonies, he credits Boyz II Men as a major idol: “My idols are usually Bob, Stevie and Michael, but I also grew up on Boyz II Men, where the layers and the harmonies will melt you even if the bars of the song don’t. I feel like that whole era got into me because the first songs I ever made were all slow jams in their style”.

Lewis has built on his Boyz II Men influence and paired it with his early days of singing in a choir to now know harmonies inside out. “I’ve always been a fan of harmonies, but I’ve even got my own way of delivering them now, everything is now so improvised and freestyled… What I do is 4 freestyle takes and just do harmonies all over the gaff, and unplanned still get the feeling of me really singing to you but you have the polish.”

Freestyling and improvisation have now become major parts of Lewis’ creative process when making music, taking huge inspiration from American trap star Young Thug. “I listen to people like Young Thug who is basically just all freestyle! I feel like I could lay a freestyle and be mumbling, and I know what I’m saying behind it when I listen back but nobody else knows. Sometimes it just gets the feel out of the song, because when you’re freestyling you’re in the vibe of the beat, you’re not trying to write a big song you’re just vibing.”

Being “in the vibe of the beat” has profound connotations for Lewis, where freestyling becomes a spiritual process more than just a creative choice. “I always describe it as the universe is just pouring through me when I’m freestyling, I am basically just a vessel and I don’t know what’s coming out. There’s times when I’ll sing a melody or I’ll sing a bar and I’ll be like “F*** that’s a mad bar how’d I come up with that!” and I don’t even credit that to myself I credit it to my idols because if I’m freestyling I can only be freestyling what’s been shown to me.”

One of those idols that Lewis has the utmost respect for is Craig David. Lewis has supported David at some recent shows of his and has had studio time with the UK R&B legend. “I look at Craig like he’s a legend…for me ‘Born To Do It’ is the reason I felt like I could do R&B as a UK act, because nobody really did big numbers like Craig in R&B from the UK, there wasn’t anybody really to look up to before him.”

With features already with major UK artists like Not3s, Wretch 32, Avelino and Stefflon Don and now a huge feature soon to come out with Craig David, one might think that Lewis only enjoys collaborating with major, established artists; he is quick however to say the opposite. “As much as there’s features that people may pinpoint, I enjoy doing tracks with Kojey Radical and people more on the come up in a similar space to me - I love those features with not exactly the highest profile but still great music.”

Guest features are to play a major role on Lewis’ upcoming two projects, one of which is due to land before the end of the year, with the second coming soon after. “I’m gonna get a lot of features as well, so culturally I feel like I’m creating something with the project because I want it to go to fanbases that aren’t the same as mine, so you bring yourself in front of those fans and start to open up their minds and how they take in music.”

On his two upcoming projects, expect to hear a large variety in sound: from dancehall and reggae to grime and R&B. But more than that, gear yourself up for tunes that are true to the Bobii Lewis brand. 

“It’s a mix up of sounds and me being true to myself: I could have easily continued doing R&B, but I stuck to my guns. So currently I’m drip feeding different vibes until people see the full picture and then I can give them the full picture.”

“Everyone goes into the game with the perspective of ‘I wonder what I can say for people to feel me’ but people just want you to be you. So, the moment that any artist accepts that, is the moment that you can build your character to the people and make them fall in love with you,”

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