Sam Obey aka Obey City (pronounced “oh-bee city”) has a weird energy. This soft-spoken 26 year old New York native is at once a producer, deejay, label boss, tastemaker and champion of the new-New York underground. He effortless handles each role with zen-like serenity—in a lost tradition of American culture, one may have said ‘suave’.
What started as casual experimentation and beat making for rappers and friends has evolved over the last 10 years into an unrelenting solo passion, resulting in a steady stream of soul-drenched bedroom music that avoids trends in favor of the enduring. This is the direct product of Quincy Jones, of Tomita, of Stevie Wonder, of Mahavishnu Orchestra & undoubtedly Todd Terry & Mobb Deep. It’s through this new culture of producers attempting to recontexualize late 20th century soul with modern bootlegged DAWS that we can understand a subtle vein of pure melodic optimism.
Obey is humble when it comes to just about everything, but his penchant for the sounds of soul, funk and smooth jams has instilled a vibe that has grown up alongside a rapid evolving urban musical landscape. The result is glossy, shifting dance music that seeks the weird, the unrestrained, the cleverly odd. Obey City’s path really took shape in late 2009 with Atlantics, the debut release of his free net-label Astro Nautico, where he appeared alongside fellow label heads and longtime friends Kuhn and Paul Jones. Obey City’s unique appropriation of nostalgic sound palettes for modern purposes led to his debut solo release 18 months later, the acclaimed Melted Magic EP, also on Astro Nautico.
2012 heralded Obey City’s imperial expansion, first with his notable inclusion in Rustie’s BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix followed by his first release beyond Astro Nautico: MY RVM EP on B.YRSLF Division, featuring a remix by viral sensation Baauer. Soon he was signed to the Scottish powerhouse and Warp-partner LuckyMe, producing remixes for the likes of Freshmore and Civil Music, all while continuing to promote budding producers via Astro Nautico.