Meet Selasie, who makes a cathartic introduction with his debut single, Unnatural
The genre-shifting blend of pop, R&B and rap is amongst the intoxicating we've heard from a newcomer all year - and there's plenty more to come.
Header image by Max Dona.
We're always getting excited about new additions to Australia's next generation, and that is perhaps what draws us so intensely to Selasie as a force to be introduced to today. Raised in Western Sydney amongst an African-Australian household, the 22-year-old is one of those brilliant acts that fuse together sounds from their upbringing with those that they pluck from across the journey growing up, the end result being this unique blend of cultures and musical textures that really feel unlike anything else (and in turn, so damn special).
It's an approach to musicianship we've been seeing more of in the last few years, as the diversity and versatility of Australia's music scene grows exponentially as boundaries fall and limits are moved, giving the opportunity for musicians like Selasie to rise up and introduce themselves with music that you wouldn't have found at any other point across Australia's cultural history. Heralding someone's uniqueness like this is a big call, but it's something that becomes truthful when you listen to his debut single Unnatural, which feels less like an introduction to Selasie but more like a masterclass in what to expect, and everything that goes into making it so special.
Unnatural is a moment through and through. Sonically, it's a kind-of left-field blend of hip-hop, R&B, pop and electronica that pluck mannerisms from each of these genres' outer fringes and combines them into something unique; shimmering and woozy in ways, yet precise and focused in others as it switches between sounds and nods to those that have paved the ways before him. It's stuff that Selasie brings together with ease; nods to The Fugees and Kaytranada blending amongst his own distinct touches, which give Unnatural an edge that makes it stand tall from the crowd.
"I didn't want to come out just as a rap artist," he says. "I wanted my first introduction to leave people guessing where I sit and what type of artists I am. This song doesn't feel totally pop. It doesn't feel totally R&B, it doesn't feel totally rap either." Unnatural does a great job at highlighting that, bringing an introduction to the supposed worlds the musician lives in, yet leaving things open enough that there are so many potential pathways in his future - and you have no idea which one he's going to pick.
"Unnatural is about heartbreak and missing someone, and not feeling the same after you go through something," he continues, now talking about the creation and themes of his debut.
It's a stark and inspired introduction to someone making some incredible music, and with plenty more in the pipeline, there is no better time than now to introduce yourself to the person behind it all. So do so below, as Unnatural makes its way into the world and Selasie introduces himself as someone well worth keeping an eye on.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a 22 yr old African-Australian born and raised in Sydney. I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a multicultural setting both in the community and at home. I first got into music because it was my only outlet for processing emotions from my childhood amidst a custody battle as well as finding myself during adolescence. Art in general, but specifically music is important to me because I feel it’s a necessary expression for those that are under-represented or feel unheard. I’m a homebody and keep to myself so outside of the studio, I tend to enjoy philosophical thought and discussions. I also have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and culture, spending time listening to audiobooks, new music and researching the greats.
What’s your music like? What does it sound like? What kind of themes does it usually cover?
I want to curate a new sound for Australia, it’s therapeutic and introspective. Some would say it’s alternative rap. Overall I don’t believe it sits in one genre. It covers the deeper elements of various human experiences such as the complexities of relationships in general ranging from friendships, to family to romantic relationships as well as why relationship to self and society.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
My process usually involves free-styling over beats whether I’m in the studio with GXNXVS, Aywy etc. or at home. Sometimes, starting something from scratch like a piano loop or a guitar riff is the catalyst for my melodies. Then I go about tastefully arranging hooks and verses around the demos that I stash. The writing is somewhat impromptu, I try to come up with lyrics on the spot so I can keep the integrity of what I’m feeling in the moment. The last thing I want is my lyrics to feel over done. It’s a messy process, no one song is made the same way but I like to believe that’s how I keep it interesting and raw.
Can you tell us about your new single, Unnatural?
The song is about a relationship that has gone stale and is no longer evolving naturally thus creating an unsettling vibe within the connection that’s hard to ignore which is specially the energy I set out to articulate. I think we’ve all experienced relationships that have become fractured whether we wanted them to or not and anyone that has felt that knot in their stomach will connect to this song. At the time I recorded the track I was in a lonely place thinking back on what went wrong with my previous relationships. The thing I love about this song is the hook, because the melody feels timeless and new at the same time.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2021?
The video for Unnatural will be out very soon. After that, I’m planning to release another single and hopefully some more visuals for the year. I’m also excited to see who relates to my music after Unnatural drops and establishing a community of like minded people.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I want people to know that it’s normal to feel certain emotions, especially for men. Knowing that it’s OK to connect to what you’re feeling and finding the balance between vulnerability and masculinity as opposed to shutting down (and I want to make that shit saucy). For my female supporters, I want to give them insights into how we, as men, process these situations and that we’re similar in a lot of ways that are not often discussed.
Where can we find more of your music?
You’ll definitely be able to find more drops on all streaming platforms + once this first project is out, you’ll be able to listen live - expect an AUNZ tour once COVID restrictions end.