Driving 2,982 miles from Boston, Massachusetts to the city of Angels, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Khamari is ready to set a name for himself. He drives the lonely road, braving the journey of moving his life to the other side of the States with only one E.P., a suitcase, and a love for music under his belt.
I sat down with the recent RCA signee to discuss the isolation of creating music in a new city, his love for older soul music, and what it means to find A Brief Nirvana.
Following the release of his latest E.P., Eldorado back in late 2020, Boston-bred, recent L.A inhabitant Khamari has endured a lot of changes in his life.
Originally from the East Coast, the singer studied at the Berklee School of Music, but once things started taking better shape with his music career, Khamari made the bold decision to follow his passion for crafting music. He shares, "“I decided the only way to become better at doing it was putting out music.”
When it came to creating and studying music in the field and in an academic setting, he stated, “being an artist is being the bridge between art and mainstream culture and Berklee wasn't teaching me how to do that.”
Berklee was the move for the singer coming from a family of music heads.
“There's two parts of the journey. For a long time, I was in Boston making and studying music. I was studying classical music for a long time. I played a lot of instrumentals when I was younger, and went to Berkeley College of Music and it was dope but I realized I wanted to be an artist more," he shared.
Since leaving Berklee, the singer has signed with RCA and relocated to Los Angeles to be closer to the industry. Relocating away from friends and family severely shaped the creative process that went into creating A Brief Nirvana.
“It’s difficult because it's an exciting time yet very important time,” he said.
“There's a lot of dynamics in my life that shifted. I went from naturally making music that was fun and it turned into having a lot of expectations behind it. There’s a lot of things that should've changed.”
“It’s been a tumultuous time, but it's been the time I’ve known the most about myself and the most about the process,” he said.
This is the singer's major label debut LP, so the creative process was birthed from his recent experiences. Khamari crafted the project through a period of retrospection. Tentative thought and care went into every detail in the process, with the intent of creating a strong introduction to who he is as an artist.
“I started making this project the day I released the E.P. I thought to myself ‘what can I write about next? What kind of stories do I want to tell? What kind of production do I want, there was really no break.”
“A large part of it was what kind of artist I wanted to be. I had to think about what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say. Gaining a lot of influence from other artists, for me I wanted to take a lot of that in and regurgitate it in a way that felt honest and true to myself,” he said.
“My favorite artists pay homage with their sampling so I wanted to conceptually pay homage to them.”
All throughout the record are little seeds that hint at Khamari's overall love of older soul and r&b music. Little nods and homages to a wide variety of artists are sprinkled all over from the samples to the chorus interpolations.
The first one that’s most evident is the interpolation of Andre 3000’s verse on Rick Ross’s “Sixteen”.
The interpolation serves not only as the perfect fit for the feeling Khamari was trying to capture but as well as a nod to the rapper himself as he is one of the storytellers Khamari looks up to.
“One time I was at the gym and I'm always saving random songs and that song [ Sixteen, by Rick Ross ft Andre 3000] came on and I thought ‘this is exactly what I was thinking.”
Storytelling plays a major element in A Brief Nirvana's composition. Despite songs having a clear narrative, the lyrical content to them isn’t the strongest. Khamari recognizes the need for improvement and added to the need to grow.
“There was a point where I was making a lot of music and I was really struggling with conceptualization. With knowing I had stories to tell, but I didn't know how to tell them so I was listening to artists that connect with their audience for how they connect with stories and that’s the story I wanted to tell,” he shared.
These nods get really creative through the production of the album, an element that easily steals the show out of all the positive prospects.
A majority of the instrumentation utilizes classic R&B hooks for the background vocals and acoustic instruments adding a stripped-down sound to the mix. Khamari's voice takes center stage in the mixing, really showcasing the lusciously smooth sound to his voice.
Older R&B music plays a major influence beyond the sampling. The entire project is drenched in this style of nostalgia, calling back to early aesthetics. It’s almost as if the LP as a whole has a filter over it.
“I think coming up studying classical music and older soul music like Stevie Wonder, and Lauryn Hill, there are so many people who have influenced me from that realm of music. This older R&B sound has integrated into my DNA and the DNA of my music so it's very easy to pull from that,” he shared.
Nostalgia plays very much into it when it came to the overall concept.
“It’s a very retrospective project in that I'm thinking of the past a lot and I think sometimes sonically, those samples help paint that picture.”
“Finding little moments here and there. Is it fleeting or is it something achievable?”
“A Brief Nirvana” is a conversation with Khamari. One the singer carries in hopes of alleviating the weight of joining the music industry.
Throughout the project, each song title alludes to introspective moments of seeking inner peace. To Khamari, a brief nirvana raises the question on is it attainable. “Is it fleeting? That was the question I wanted to ask with the project," he shares. "For a lot of people, life is ups and downs but in this specific project, in this specific headspace, for me, it happened to be a difficult period so that brief nirvana is me finding those moments of finding a light at the end of the tunnel.”
This is most evident in the album closer “Requiem”. “Requiem is probably the most direct song in terms of touching on the headspace,” he shared.
“In order to become a better version of yourself, you gotta kill the last version so you have to get rid of the old habits, old ideals that don't allow you to grow in that positive direction so Requiem is about falling into that dark void and thinking back on “man how did I end up here.”
“I kinda wanted it to be a cliffhanger where not everything will end perfectly, but there is hope. A brief of nirvana, you can reach that moment of happiness.”
There’s one thing evident throughout this project and it is the presence of Khamari’s dedication to grow as a storyteller.
An endless stream of thought and intention was put forth in the poetic songwriting and overflow flow of this project. From the presence in the mixing room in the studio in L.A, to adding his own creative direction to the production process, A Brief Nirvana is beyond a strong major debut and showcases the artist's love for music in tandem with a promise to grow as an artist.
“I think I want to see the vision I had to fruition. I went through a lot trying to get to the point where I had the vision to put a project together, how I wanted it to come together, and how I want it to make people feel,” he shared.
Finding the vision can be a difficult task. Crafting home thousands of miles from your upbringing can be isolating. Yet, through triumph and seeking the quiet in the noise, Khamari has found these moments of peace and translated them into sound with the goal of growing as a musician in mind.
“When it's all said and done I want this to be a stepping stone to being looked at as someone who is a force to be reckoned with as an artist.”
Stream A Brief Nirvana now: