It’s January, but don’t tell SiR. The Inglewood native is currently enjoying the warmth of summer in November, having traveled over 50 trillion kilometers to get there on his first full-length album released under the Top Dawg Entertainment umbrella.
This time last year, TDE’s Westside songbird was a mysterious newcomer after being publicly announced as the secretly signed "John Doe 2." Over the past year and a half, however, the artist born Sir Darryl Farris released two well-received EPs in Her and Her Too, enticing-yet-brief samplers of his golden voice, prolific pen, and laid-back Cali cool.
Despite the bona fide star power of labelmates like Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and more recently, SZA, SiR isn’t actively striving for the spotlight, nor has his position on a championship-caliber team changed his approach to music-making much. His style remains a heady blend of R&B, soul, and hip-hop, potent but still often liable to drift away into the wind alongside the smoke escaping the end of his blunt. He’s still singing about love, though, this time around, things are a bit more complicated. He’s also still mixing and mastering all his own shit, and his wife, who voices K for the album’s interstellar voyage, is still making sure his stomach and calendar are full.
In person, SiR is as likable as his music, an artist that remains ultra-focused on connecting with fans and who isn’t too cool to remind you that he's a fan himself. Throughout it all, the crooner keeps an undeniable smile on his face and won’t hesitate to break out in song at virtually any moment.
To celebrate the release of November, I sat down with SiR to discuss the new album, the current R&B landscape, TDE, and more. Our interview, which was lightly edited for content and clarity, follows.
DJBooth: Love was a big unifying factor on your last two EPs.
SiR: I think we were more focused on putting out a positive message and starting off on the right foot, and just establishing what I love to do, for people who’ve never met me or don’t know who I am. When I first got signed, nobody knew who I was. This was the way that we were gonna introduce me to the world, and it worked. You know? People got to see who I am as an artist, what I love to do, and now with this project, I get to open up a little more and say a little more.
How does November differ from your previous records?
It’s definitely about love, but it shows a lot more sides of it. The other ones were like lovey-dovey, “I love you” all the way through. This one’s like, “I like you a little bit, I really love you, I don’t like you at all." It’s got different vibes on there, it kind of moves around a lot.
Is that in response to your own life over the past year?
Somewhat. I mean, a lot of the stuff—I tell people all the time, I try not to pull too much from my personal experiences. So a lot of this stuff, I’m writing records. I’m trying to complete vibes. Some of the records, they won’t work without each other. When I started creating this project I just was focused on making each song cohesive with the rest, as well as something that stands on its own.
What two records need each other?
Three. So we go from the baby mama song, “I Know.” And then we go right into “Never Home.” “I Know” happens, that’s the party, and then “Never Home” is me waking up after the party, realizing that I’ve got 10 missed calls. And then the song right after that is called “War,” and that’s the song where I’m actually trying to salvage our relationship and make things right. The connection between those songs, if you’re really paying attention, you’ll see it. It might miss a few people, but there’s definitely a story in the album. Even from song one, when y’all start my journey with the voice that you hear in the background, K. I start my journey at 100%—my shields are up, I’m fully gassed, reserve power is at 100%. And then in the middle, I’m lost and shit, because I’ve been through so much going through these songs. I think the interlude helps connect the story as well. I leave a lot of stuff open to interpretation because I like to see how fans receive it and what they think, so I haven’t really said too much about it. I’m definitely excited to see what other people think of the project.
Speaking of K, what was the motive behind adding that futuristic component?
That’s my actual wife. And I think that for me, this album is just like a parallel to my life. K is my wife, she’s my real guide. That’s the person that schedules shit on my phone and makes sure I’m not late to places and makes sure I’m eating because I won’t eat. I’ll just smoke weed all day and [stay in the same spot]. For people that know me, they know that Kelly takes care of everything. So it definitely represents me very well and just represents the ups and downs of what we have as a couple in our relationship.
You have a very old soul that somehow contrasts perfectly with the futuristic angle of the space journey. Was that on purpose?
Nah man, I’m just, like, accidentally myself. Things just happen and I allow them to. I don’t try to go too deep and think too far into things. I just let things be and I think everything just fell into place. But I also had help, I’m not the only one putting these pieces together. Dave Free was very hands-on. [TDE management assistant] Edgar [Moreno] helps where he can. Everyone else in the camp gives their input where they can just to make sure we’re on the right track and that we’re putting out the best project possible.
How has your process of making music changed since signing with TDE?
It hasn’t. I’m very hands-on, always have been, always will be. I cut my own vocals. I do my own mixing. I mixed and mastered this project, and I’ve always been like that. I started off as an engineer so my process hasn’t changed at all. I’ve probably started doing more music, I started writing more songs, but just because I was super fired up and super motivated. And I still am, so my output has probably increased, but other than that I’m still the same old cat. I do the same old shit.
If the process is the same, how has life outside of making music changed?
It hasn’t really, and thank God it hasn’t [laughs]. But I think after this tour, you can ask me that question again and the answer will be different. After this year—we got a few exciting things coming up that I’ve never experienced, so I might have a different answer.
November is a place in the album. It’s not actually the month of November. It’s somewhere that we’re traveling to, and I never really say that. I leave it open to interpretation. I let the fans listen. But that’s where we’re going. Summer in November is like summer in the Hamptons. A lot of people think it’s like warmth during the winter, and that’s implied, but to me summer in November means something more than that. It’s like a place that I’m going to that you’ll never forget. It’s definitely not what people think. But like I said, I’m not going to explain myself, I don’t think I need to. It’s music and it’s fun so take it how you want.
Vince Staples has made similar comments, about the artist being here to make the music and the fan being responsible for figuring out what it means.
Exactly [laughs]. I’m not ashamed to tell, but still. I know that a lot of fans are gonna have their own opinion anyway so what I say don’t really fucking matter anyway [laughs].
R&B is having a huge moment right now.
We talked about this. We’ve been talking about this all week.
Where do you see yourself fitting in?
I don’t really do music like that, bro. I’m not competing, I’m not trying to fit in with nobody. I’m just trying to be myself. I’m happy with everything that’s going on with everybody, like shout out to artists like Daniel Caesar, Sabrina Claudio…
Daniel Caesar is a name that I’ve seen thrown around with yours, another artist with such a strong gospel influence. That was a very big part of your growing up, correct?
Yes, that’s correct. Daniel Caesar has his interpretation of R&B today, and I love it. I definitely do, and I can see the comparisons, for sure, but I’m a fan of his music and I like to enjoy listening to him, and I hope the same applies for me, but I don’t see us as competition or anything like that.
Oh no, I wasn’t trying to suggest that.
We feed off of each other, and I think that’s what’s gonna push us to become better artists. It’s just feeding off what the other one’s doing. If somebody makes a risky move, maybe the other one tries to, you know, make it better. And we keep improving, keep getting better. Shout out to him, I actually haven’t had the chance to meet him yet. We did a show together in Chicago but it gets hectic after you get off stage. People were running up to him so I was like… [laughs].
Keeping it in-house, to an even closer R&B parallel, do you find that the massive success SZA has had over the last year puts greater expectations on you?
Again, I don’t care. I don’t even think about that kind of stuff. Like, I fuck with SZA’s project, it’s tight. I listen to it. “Go Gina” is my shit. But I don’t make moves based off of what other people are doing. I’m looking for my fans. I’m on my phone constantly trying to interact with people that want to fuck with me. I’m not worried about what other artists are on. I’m not listening to music because other people are listening to it. I’m just not that type of guy. It's not me.
How do you feel about interacting with fans on social media?
I love it. I was a fan first. I just started really doing this seriously, and getting a lot of things moving, so for me, I was the motherfucker that was at work eight hours a day on my phone watching the people I liked do their thing. I definitely don’t want to be that person that shuts fans out if they’re reaching out. It takes gall, it takes some fucking balls to reach out to somebody on the internet that you don’t know and probably is not going to respond. So if you’ve got the balls to reach out and say, “Ay I love your shit!” I got the balls to reach back and say, “I fuck with that! Thank you very much!” So I try to talk to as many fans as possible, I think that’s big, and a lot of artists don’t do that, they say it’s thirsty.
What are your dream collaborations, outside of who you’ve already worked with?
J. Cole is one for sure, and I actually met the guy. I go to this thing called the Playlist Retreat that Jazzy Jeff holds every year, where he just invites a whole bunch of his favorite musicians to come vibe. It’s like 118 of us last year, and J. Cole was a special guest. And I got to press play on him and we had a chance to vibe. So I definitely think that’s gonna be something that can happen, hopefully. Kendrick, fasho, but I shouldn’t even have to say that to you, you should just already understand that. I want to do some music with Ms. Jill [Scott], but I want it to be right. Because I’ve worked with her before on her project, I’ve worked on her album but I’ve never had the chance to actually work on my stuff with her, so it would be tight to have a feature from her. Justin Timberlake, I want to write songs for him. I think he’s an amazing artist.
Do you like his new stuff?
I like the single, kind of. I like that fucking video man [laughs].
Everyone’s talking about it...
Exactly, and that’s the point of it. I think Justin Timberlake’s the kinda guy where if you give him the right songs he can really make an impact. When James Fauntleroy was writing for him, “Suit & Tie,” that fucking project changed my life.
James Fauntleroy is amazing.
Whole ‘nother conversation. I grew up in the same neighborhood with the cat, he’s God where I’m from in my eyes.
Have you guys worked together?
I’ve met him like… like I was a kid. Like a child, I meet James and I die. That’s how I feel about James Fauntleroy, real talk. And I know eventually we’ll probably be in the studio together, but I wouldn’t even—it’s like me getting into the studio with JAY-Z, I wouldn’t know what to do. This nigga grew up like blocks and blocks from me, to see him be that amazing before I was even writing songs and doing this shit, I have so much respect for him.
When it comes to speaking up in the studio, working with people that you grew up a fan of, have you gotten more comfortable with giving input and feedback, making your voice heard?
It’s still difficult in certain spaces because of the respect [I have for them], but I think that 2018 is gonna be the year where I start to [make my voice heard]. Because you can’t keep doing that, you mess up opportunities being a bitch. That’s just being frank. I should probably word that better. You mess up opportunities not taking them. Being in the room and just being like, “I’m in the room!” instead of being like, “Yo I got this crazy idea.” I’m more fired up about it the further along I go, so I think that I’m changing as a man being around these different environments, so that’ll in turn change how I write songs and change how I feel when I’m in the room.
One person you have great chemistry with is Anderson .Paak. Any new collabs on the horizon?
It’s definitely going down, I’m definitely excited that he’s back in the studio and working. I’m trying to catch him before I leave [for tour] so that we can get some work done because I know he’ll be done by, probably March. He’s probably already done, honestly. But I’m definitely on some songs with him. I’ve known him for years. I was a fan first, with him, like I said, we all grew up in the same area, in the same part of LA. Actually, he grew up a little further than me, but his vibe, man. He seems like somebody I would have kicked it with tough in high school. Shout out to him, man, that’s my big bro.
I know the album just dropped, but what can we expect in the future?
More shows, definitely. I’m definitely performing a lot more. I’ve been more so focused on getting the studio stuff out of the way, and now that we have the album out, and we’ve done the mixtapes and all that stuff, we can just go out and start moving on the road. I gonna do the Miguel tour [and] hopefully I can book myself my own tour right after that, and keep working, keep moving. Stay in the studio, I do my own engineering and all that shit, so it’s not hard to take my life on the road with me if I have an idea, and keep things going. I definitely plan on working on the road as much as possible, too.
With TDE, your name recognition has grown significantly, and you’re making excellent music. Do you see yourself looking at chart success? Is that something you keep in the back of your mind?
Again, no. It’s not my goal, man. I make music because I love it and I appreciate my fans because they afford me that privilege. They make it so that I can make music, so I love them. That’s all that I’m worried about is who gon’ fuck with me. If you fuck with me, I fuck with you. That’s as real as I can be, man. If it happens, I’m blessed. I’ll probably cry. I’ll probably be on the GRAMMY stage like, *sobbing* “I love you mama!” I don’t even think like that man. It would be great but I don’t even think about it.