Shamir Opens Up About The Challenges Of Being 'Genre-less' And Paying Homage To Odetta

Girlie Action Media

The singer-songwriter and budding actor spoke to ESSENCE about his admiration for the queen of American folk and categorizing music in the age of algorithms.
Sydney Scott Nov, 13, 2018

In 2014, Shamir Bailey—known mononymously as Shamir—rocketed onto the scene with his debut EP, Northtown, and infectious hit single, “On The Regular.”

Since then, things haven’t exactly been easy, but the talented singer and songwriter is carving a path of his own.

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His recent album, Resolution, follows in the same footsteps of previous releases, Hope and Revelations, in that the singer plays with genres and continues to “watch everything and get inspired by everything.”

Speaking with ESSENCE, Shamir made it clear that he takes pride in his eclectic taste as a musician.

“I’m not inspired by one thing or one genre of music,” he says. “So I have to express that within myself.”

But, self-expression in a world obsessed with algorithms can make things tough for an independent artist.

“I like to consider myself everything -less. I consider myself genderless, genreless—all of the -less, just because I take from everything,” the singer continued. “We live in a very algorithmic world and, to a music lover, they’re like, “Oh, I guess Shamir should sit in all the genres,’ but the algorithms, they’re like, ‘I don’t understand what’s going on.'”

“The way that they categorize me these days has been a challenge and one of the main things that made me break and start removing myself from the sound of the first record was because I kept feeling locked-in and confined,” he added. “I  was like, ‘No, I’m more than just this one thing. I’m very multifaceted.'”

Shamir most recently flexed his musical abilities with the video for  his single,”Larry Clark,” an homage to the director and queen of American folk music, Odetta.

“When it comes to Odetta, she is a pioneer and, still to this day, so underrated,” Shamir says. “She’s always been such huge part of my life as a Black folk singer. For me, she was just my main influence as far as listening to, writing, and really pursuing this very specific type of music that I don’t feel represented in. She’s influenced Bob Dylan, for God’s sakes, you know? So it was just kind of natural that I pay homage to her.”

While Shamir is currently busy preparing to launch his own label and working on new music, he also hopes to add a few more things to his resumé, like making even more of a mark in the acting world. (Shamir appeared as AJ in season one of Netflix’s Dear White People).

“I also have ongoing acting stuff too,” he said, when asked about upcoming plans. “I think it’s great to be multifaceted and to have multiple things to choose and do.”