The experimental rap heard on Lover’s Nightmare is the sound of local artist Semkari transitioning back to his roots. Always a fan of Drake’s slow songs, Semkari’s debut album is a return to melodic material, which he was making before he came on the scene with a string of singles.
“For me, releasing something like this shows me that I’m still true to myself because I have what inspires me at heart,” Semkari said.
Dosing the R&B melodies with playful cut-ups, downtempo indie hip-hop builds the listening experience of Lover’s Nightmare.
“The first half is me enjoying my vices, the second half is reflecting on life and relationships.”
One single, “Warzone,” is inspired by his time helping Marcus McDonald with Black Lives Matter, while the track “Falling Down” is an anthemic reveal: “I feel like my soul resonates with that song, and I put myself out there and had an open door with my emotions.”
Multiple producers contributed to the album, including local rapper Dave Curry, aka Black Dave, who made the beat heard on “Gone.”
With influences like Russ, 3OH!3, Metallica and Soundcloud rapper Summr, Semkari wrote Lover’s Nightmare for whatever mood you’re feeling.
“If you’re sad or you’re happy or you had a shitty day at work or if you’re leaving a party or going to a party,” he said.
There have been moments where he wanted to stop making music altogether.
“One of my friends, Wop, sadly he’s missing right now in Arizona. He left me an email one day at 3 o’clock in the morning like six months ago saying, ‘I don’t want you to give up on your music.’ I feel like if I stop now, I would probably let him down. It’s always taken a lot for me to keep going. Especially with him not being here with us.”
The Lover’s Nightmare Oct. 15 release show at The Royal American, will feature Clayton James, Hirow, Tyrie and Dwrxght with filming by the Grilled Cheese Show and vending by Billy Thrift Shop and The Almighty Apparel.
Rather than booking gigs regularly, Semkari is focused on building a presence on TikTok and Twitter and putting out collaborative singles and videos. His goal for his next music video is to have a plot behind it, which will be new territory.
And while the next few singles will delve more into pop, the inspiration behind his next album idea is Edward Scissorhands, the loner at the top of the hill.
“I identify with his character. Right now, it resonates with me heavily, especially the ending where he has to run away from everyone who loved him. He was trying to help other people but he ended up hurting them.”
Being the only Black kid his age in the private school he attended, and being asked as a Charleston native why he didn’t sound Gullah, he’s dealt with being misunderstood over the years.
“The best way I can say it is what Earl Sweatshirt said: ‘Too white for the Black kids, too Black for the white kids.’ ”
To keep making art in these uncertain times, he believes it’s essential to remain vulnerable.
“I like being genuine and open with myself and not censoring my art. I think people nowadays tend to censor themselves — the whole cancel culture thing. We live in an age of, ‘Everything is happy-go-lucky,’ when really, it’s not.”
Although transparency still leaves room for interpretation. His music is him painting a different picture of himself, building confidence in himself — which he’s pretty sure his younger self would be happy about.
“To my past self I would say, ‘Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve.’ I grew up the nice kid. I grew up in a Christian household and was taught to do the right thing regardless of my emotions, and that’s led me to get hurt. I would tell him to keep his heart guarded and do his best to stay loyal to himself.”
And to his future self?
“I hope he is the person that I have worked toward becoming every day. Just like anything in life, you don’t want to get too comfortable, to limit yourself and be too scared to take the next leap of faith with your art.”