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SIPHO. Biography

Like his debut album PRAYERS & PARANOIA, SIPHO. is the product of an eclectic musical palette. Across the years, the Birmingham native channelled influence from his early days of listening to rock bands like Paramore, Three Days Grace, Foo Fighters — ‘The Pretender’ in particular would remain on loop – to more recent inspirations like Earl Sweatshirt, Solange, and Frank Ocean. Duality, then, is not something that SIPHO. had to embrace later on in life; it’s all he knows.  Throughout his formative years, SIPHO. navigated multiple interests before becoming firmly focused on music in his teenage years, recalling utilising his secondary school’s music rooms; “I was just experimenting, proving to myself that I could do it. Just finding myself through demos and songs shamelessly,” he wistfully digresses.

The Birmingham native's debut album PRAYERS & PARANOIA embraces a multitude of genres, and boldly embraces the complexities of retaining hope in the face of growing and becoming an adult. “I’m neither an adult nor a child now, I’m in that space in between. It’s not just doing society-based activities, but it’s about showing up for people, it’s the what-if of how I navigate my thoughts around life. I want to be grounded. It’s the contemplation and praying to land in a good place,” he shares. The project acts as a refreshingly honest acknowledgment of self-worth, faith, insecurity, and anger, binding together to inform critical conversations on becoming an adult and living through the most complex form of humankind in history.

Even in the project's artwork, SIPHO. references the Freudian notions of the compulsive ‘Id’ and the super-ego. The flamboyant, ‘Id’-like SIPHO. apes an iconic image in American and global Civil Rights history, of Malcolm X standing at his window holding a rifle, a week before his assassination. “It’s the display of being very into the self, into my ego, but there’s a vulnerability that’s leading me to look out of the window, at all the worries and insecurities. That’s juxtaposed with prayer, me and my super-ego looking to faith — whatever that is — for a solution,” SIPHO. says. Like the record itself, it’s an artistic portrayal of self, doubt, and the influence that the world can have on self-examination.

On the LP’s opener, ‘ELEVATION’, SIPHO. also addresses the role of social media in the realms of self-doubt. Part of navigating growth is tackling the role of the internet in framing one's perception of self, which can sometimes fuel the manifestation of ego in tandem. “It’s me just hearing all of the thoughts of the outside on myself and the ongoing noise,” he explains, “Who am I when this all lands?”

Fusing his twin loves of rock and gospel, on ‘THE CHEMICALS’, SIPHO. hones in on the substances we use to alter our states of mind while trying to find and interrogate ourselves - “the chemicals peeling off the dust.”
“‘THE CHEMICALS’ is about human monotony and trying to make sense of what leads us to these places,” he notes candidly. “We as humans are constantly trying to make sense of things.” He doesn’t condemn the activity though, more acknowledges its existence, ever-embracing the dualities of life. SIPHO. doesn’t like to ignore the truth, more navigate and interrogates its meaning and understanding.

‘SOBER’ etches even further into this theme. Led by a fusion of jungle and classical influences, and based on a number of larger-than-life characters including Action Braction, Jet Li and more, SIPHO. is brutally honest throughout, constantly plagued by behaviour anchored in ‘mayhem’.
“I don’t care if my heart stops” he sings, with the song ending with a glitchy skit, blurring SIPHO. even deeper into his trance. In its simplest form ‘SOBER’ is the nuance in the ego - it’s the confident, brash ‘badman’ as SIPHO. calls it, but it’s also the hiding of vulnerability, the hardening of ignorance - ego at its most damaged form.

SIPHO. is quick to address and directly embrace aspects of hubris, even when it exists in a realm of rage and the most toxic aspects of masculinity. ‘LOCK IT IN (NO REGRETS)’ acts as the most abundant display of this self-assurance — making the bad an all-encompassing choice. “This song, in particular, is acknowledging that sometimes I am the ‘bad guy’, but sometimes you have to make your peace with that knowledge.”

Leaning into the backing choir, SIPHO.’s smooth runs aid his embrace of “living with no regrets”. This vivid demands to “taste it off [his] neck” double down on his grasp and acknowledgment of the darker hues of himself as a twenty-something Black man. Amidst a huge arrangement, SIPHO soars here, both as a singer and lyricist, canvassing his years of training for the masses. As on his last EP, SHE MIGHT BLEED, and its standout single ‘BEADY EYES’, SIPHO. isn’t afraid of re-examining and inspecting his manhood, and naming those aspects of him that are still a work in progress.

‘FILL ME UP’ doubles down on this sentiment of darkness and desperation to cling onto masculine tendencies, highlighting how we, as humans, can sometimes revel in our selfish and destructive ambitions. “Don’t you spill my cup,” SIPHO. instructs, his pronounced and full yearns emphasising his pain. “It’s me showing everyone that sometimes soaking in that feeling is the right choice - soaking in the darkness,” he says of the song. “Sometimes you don’t want to shy away from it, and this song honors that.”

After revelling in all of these assertions, perceptions of self, and ruminations on wider life as a present-day twenty-something, he brings vulnerability to the fore on ‘RUN FOR YOUR LIFE’. Joined by the album’s only feature, Shaé Universe, the pair examine the insecurity of not feeling enough for someone, and instead pushing them away. “It’s about feeling inadequate, not enough, protecting the person you ‘love’ from not getting enough,” SIPHO. says instantly when reflecting on the album track.

Submerging deeper into love, romance, and the tumultuous periods of re-adjustment, ‘PRAYERS’ beautifully articulates realignment after a breakup and the moments of self-assessment that happen before diving into new entanglements. With conviction conveyed throughout, SIPHO laments in the in-between period simply staring down at a ledge in introspection. His range on full display once more, ‘PRAYERS’ musically sounds unapologetically British - the sombre, elongated piano and violin runs rendering it instantly poignant. “That song was one of the songs I wanted to feel like London. I was listening to some of Blue May’s work at the time and wanted to make a record in that same universe,” SIPHO. Shares of the record’s mixer, who’s also helmed records by Kano and Joy Crookes, among others. “Lyrically, I wanted to tackle the harder aspects of love, the parts that help build who we are, the parts that can hurt.”

Collaborating with Eg White (Adele, Florence & The Machine) on both ‘PRAYERS’ and ‘PARANOIA’, he tackles the current socio-political sentiment in Britain , centred around a “heavy” day in London and referencing those who have turned to alternative realities for escapism. “We were both discussing those who are now ‘mask off’, or have turned to conspiracy theories to inform their sense of reality. We’re living through seriously tough times. It’s all so surreal sometimes,” SIPHO. comments. Taking direction from Radiohead — another of his musical influences — SIPHO. delivers a sobering progressive rock-led number, instantly demonstrating his maturity and profundity as a lyricist. “Oh maybe you should call your saviour / Before they disengage the light,” he warns across ‘PARANOIA’s’ chorus.

After submerging in doubt, insecurity, fear, calls for redemption, and constant overthinking, SIPHO. lands at ‘PLANS’, which acts as the album closer. Refusing to give a fuck about what’s right or wrong, SIPHO. remedies his ruminations by simply seeking escapism. “Sometimes, we all need a break, to stop the voices, the concern, and the expectation and just live outside of this world,” he softly states before the end of our conversation. Here, a post-apocalyptic sentiment translates toward the song ending — it’s a sense of finality that SIPHO. has reached the end of his metaphorical therapy session, and he’s now ready to exhale, the beautiful violin arrangement acting as the track’s crescendo.

PRAYERS & PARANOIA is a brave and earnest work of art, carefully piecing together the intricacies of being that have come to inform SIPHO.’s coming of age. The debut LP also canvases the tumultuous nature of egotism and how it’s come to define a generation of digital natives, both in how they talk to themselves and in how they both navigate and feed into mass communication.
It’s a gripping, moving debut album that instantly places SIPHO. as an artist filled with integrity and honesty. Outside of the helplessness that paranoia can bring, or the impatience of prayer, is an artist who knows how to fill the voids of uncertainty - by moving through each thought and integrating it piece by piece.
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