Image via George Douglas Peterson
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Staley Sharples says that “Live, Laugh, Love” is out – “Ruminate, Rage, Revenge” is in.
Fatboi Sharif is the auteur, protagonist, and antagonist of his own subversive B-movie horror flick. But he’s more John Carpenter and Wes Craven than Roger Corman, a world builder capable of balancing camp with cutting commentary on the modern era. Take the video for “Smithsonian,” from his 2020 album Gandi Loves Children, where the “Garden State Gargoyle” plays both a killer clown and The Final Girl, speaking on the evils of reality in a haunting Ronald Reagan mask that symbolizes the real-life monsters plaguing our history and beyond.
On his latest project with Roper Williams, Planet Unfaithful, Sharif extends his B-movie director’s mind to expound on the masks worn to disguise an epidemic of loneliness, disconnection, and lack of empathy. The EP is a treatise on contemporary society’s ills, and much like the low-budget movies Sharif loves, his artistic expression is framed to defy standard categorization.
Drawing from his rich, multi-disciplinary background as a radio show host and cinephile, Fatboi Sharif fearlessly blazes a trail between dreams and reality through vivid lyrical imagery. Released on POW Recordings, Planet Unfaithful doesn’t find the New Jersey native wallowing in self-indulgent despair or standing on a soapbox. Instead, he plays an intuitive intergalactic prophet speaking truths through intricately-crafted couplets and tongue-in-cheek punchlines. Williams’ beats are splashed on like an auditory Jackson Pollock. Sharif claims that the EP is “the picture we wanted to paint of what’s going on right now.”
Sharif grew up surrounded by music. His parents usually played hip-hop in his house, but it was the gritty ‘90s grunge movement that truly captured Sharif. A poet at heart, Sharif first began expressing himself through words at age six, even publishing some of his works from these tender years. His grade-school awakening as a songwriter unfolded through his admiration of the uncompromised attitude of bands like Nirvana. The heady, emotional energy captivated Sharif, and fueled the Rahway rapper’s vision to create hip-hop that exuded the same blistering intensity and swagger.
As host of his college radio show Strangers With Hip-Hop, Sharif invited aspiring rappers to join him for on-air ciphers. This is how he connected with longtime friend and collaborator Roper Williams. Their 2020 single “Church Tower” is an early example of their clever, heady concoctions. You picture that the song was conceived as the product of a mushroom-fueled, late-night studio session in a hidden corridor of Luigi’s Haunted Mansion.
Darkly comical surrealism aside, Southern rap clearly permeates the New Jersey wordsmith’s output too – as he weaves everything from the poetic truth of Outkast to the anthemic confidence of 8Ball & MJG into his own patchworked tapestry of influences. 2021’s Gandhi Loves Children saw Williams and Sharif casting their magic together once more, with the full-length album serving as the spiritual predecessor to their latest project, Planet Unfaithful. Featuring guest appearances from E L U C I D and Bruiser Wolf, the EP is a new chapter in the existential story that these artists are hoping to tell.
To Sharif, music is spiritual. He cites visions of colors, shapes, and temperatures in his work. Film, too, is an art form that powers his psychedelia. Watching movies like Bad Lieutenant and Jacob’s Ladder inspired Sharif to write music that transcends time through the words he speaks. “I always want to accomplish that level of story musically. Why do we have to write for [this moment] on earth? Why can we write for places outside of here? Or maybe places before here, depending on how you go about it.”
Our conversation drifts from the making of Planet Unfaithful and the story behind Sharif’s long-time friendship with Roper Williams to the possibility of an alien collaboration in the future.