With an unwavering DIY hustle and a headliner mindset, DMV artist Anees is poised to continue his run as one of the year’s breakout successes.
If you’re one of the millions over the last two years watching Anees on Instagram or TikTok, you’ve likely witnessed the conscious rapper, singer-songwriter, and social media sensation quickly become known for his enviable freestyling, positive affirmations, and for skillfully using his platform to inform his budding career.
Capitalizing on social media buzz and after months of teasing music, Anees made his official debut in 2020 with “Neverland Fly,” a vulnerable tell-all on mental health. His hit song, “slip,” which he popularly teased for over a year on socials, arrived soon after in early 2021. Showcasing his knack for poignant prose, the heartfelt summery love song flew past one million streams as the star revealed his follow-up, “love is crazy.”
A D.C. area native, Anees‘s ascension from social media star to recording artist seems swift but began after a dark period of post-grad uncertainty in his life. “I struggled with my purpose for a while and, all the while, freestyling was my light in the midst of the darkness.” Utilizing music as a form of healing and equipped with a personality that’s impossible not to like, the content creator’s introspective and catchy wordplay has struck a deep chord online, leading to a staggering community that has now surpassed 380k+ followers across platforms.
Along the way, he’s made new fans out of major artists like Justin Bieber, who jumped on the Lebanese-Palestinian rapper’s IG Live in April to show love. “To be the biggest artist in the world and still take the time to put on an unknown artist is wild,” shares Anees. “I am still very inspired by that moment, I always will be.”
Now, after 4 million streams, nearly 3 million likes on TikTok, and a year that has seen Anees land on 15+ Spotify editorial playlists, the new artist returns today with yet another new song, “drunk on myself,” a self-love anthem and reminder that “contentment and inner peace are the ultimate treasure.”
Gearing up to release his debut EP and with plans to continue his reign as one of social media’s newest stars, I connect with Anees to discuss his new track, path as an artist, the massive success of “slip,” and more. Read the full interview below.
When did you start making music, and what inspired you to start?
I started making music in late 2018. I was in a dark place, and music was my guiding light toward peace.
Has growing up in the D.C. metro area influenced your sound?
My parents moved to DC in the ’80s to do civil rights work. They raised me in a progressive, humanitarian-minded environment. That guided the artists I gravitated towards. I was raised on Lauryn Hill, Immortal Technique, Nina Simone, and a host of conscious artists.
Was there a catalyst moment for deciding to pursue music over a legal career?
Honestly, there wasn’t one particular moment. I struggled with my purpose for a while and, all the while, freestyling was my light in the midst of the darkness. Thank God, after a little while, I started to realize that I could choose purpose over pain, and the rest was history.
As a relatively new independent artist, have you faced any hurdles? How did you overcome it?
Real talk, independent artistry is a marathon. Accepting that has been a hurdle for me. Understanding that my journey is not to be compared took me a while. But once I realized I’m only competing against myself, the pressure was off. But the grind is a daily duty. I wear many hats, from promoter to manager, to publicist, and everything in between. It’s a beautiful struggle.
What was your first music milestone, and why was it significant to your journey?
Seeing my first single hit 1 million streams was nuts for me. When you think about it, there are millions of artists trying to make it, and very few get to this level. That was a sobering moment for me. I realize there are many more milestones to go, but I’m trying to savor them as they come.
We’re connecting as you release your new single, “Drunk On Myself.” Tell us about it!
This is a love song that I wrote to myself. I spent a little while forgetting to love me. In that time, my life was dark. I was forgetting who I was. But as I wrote this song, I started to remember my favorite parts of myself. I fell in love with me again. When I sing, “I searched deep and found everything I want in me,” I’m trying to tell y’all that contentment and inner peace are the ultimate treasure, and you can only find them within yourself. We already have all the best things in life. Stop looking for love and joy in other people, places, or things. You already have heaven inside you. That’s the message of the song, and I think the whole world will vibe with it!!
What advice would you give someone in the same situation that inspired your new single?
Self-love has to come first. You cannot love others properly if you aren’t loving yourself from the jump. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking that it’s “selfish” to focus on ourselves, but that’s stupid as hell. Learn to love yourself, and everybody you love will benefit from that. You are worthy of self-love, you deserve self-love, you are lovable.
If “Drunk On Myself” is part of a larger release, can you share details about the project?
“slip,” “love is crazy,” “drunk on myself,” and every single that I plan to drop in 2021 are a part of my first official EP. I still gotta pick a name for it, but right now, I’m thinking I might title it some love songs.
The EP arrives as your recent hit “Slip” flies beyond the one million stream mark. What went into making this song, and what is your reaction to the response?
“slip” is a love story that I didn’t have to write because I lived it. And humans aren’t as different as we tend to think. I think I realized that’s why millions of people dig the song, they’ve lived it too. That’s special for me. Love is our shared experience.
A few days after the song was released in April, you went on Instagram Live, and an unexpected guest joined. Can you share the experience?
That was a God thing. Justin [Bieber] blessed me, straight up. To be the biggest artist in the world and still take the time to put on an unknown artist is wild. I am still very inspired by that moment, I always will be. That was a major affirmation for me, and everything that’s happened since is incredibly humbling. Just goes to show, even the greatest celebrities in the world are just humans who wanna see others shine. God is good.
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Outside of a Bieber co-sign – how has social media helped your music development?
Plain and simple: social media is my label. I can reach the world from the driver’s seat of my Ford Focus. That’s nuts. There has never been a time in the history of humanity where this was possible. I won the time lottery in that sense, but I do have to be careful not to become trapped in the vices of the algorithms.
What is something you want to accomplish this year?
I want to put together a little tour. Start taking my music to the people. I think imma start on the East Coast and put a ten-city show together. That would be my dream.
What’s next for you?
By the end of 2021, my first EP will be complete. Then we hit the road. I need everyone to pull up to the shows!!!
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