Meet snny. The Ivory Coast-born, Boston-bred, NYC-based artist first made his introduction this fall with his shimmering debut EP Learning to Swim, via Glassnote Records. The newcomer, who was raised on rock and roll, first got his start as a songwriter through creative writing and poetry and was heavily encouraged by his mother — a major influence in his musical upbringing.
“She really liked Prince and Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan and all that stuff,” he recalls. “I was born in the Ivory Coast and we came to the U.S. when I was 4. She had a big influence on everything I was listening to early on. She would play a lot of music around the house, and that’s kind of how I got introduced to music, was through her playing songs and telling me about artists that she really liked.”
snny’s debut set effortlessly traverses genres from R&B and soul to hip-hop and pop — all with a hazy, nostalgic bent and many sonic nods to the past. The young artist followed up the set with the new youth anthem “A Better World” last week, recorded as a medley with Dylan’s acclaimed hit “The Times They Are A Changin’.”
“When I wrote ‘A Better World,’ it felt like the climate of the country and the world was similar to that of the ’60s when Bob Dylan wrote his anthem for a frustrated youth,” he says. “I wanted to channel that same spirit in my own voice and provide comfort for my generation in a way that we haven’t necessarily had yet. Dylan is the reason I started songwriting, so to be able to reimagine his classic in a way that speaks true to me and my friends with his stamp of approval brings it all full-circle.”
Below, snny opens up about his favorite NYC haunts, eBay finds, his “comfortable” vintage aesthetic and more.
When did you first begin experimenting with songwriting?
I don’t remember writing my first song, but I remember my first poem and I remember being like, “Oh, this can transition well into writing songs.” My mom was really big on me writing in general, she always wanted me to artistically have an outlet, and she said writing was a way to do that, so I gravitated more towards poetry early on, but I think just writing poems made me want to expand on it, and I really liked music so it transitioned into songwriting from there.
When did you first move to New York City?
About two and a half years ago now. But I had been coming to New York since I was in high school, just visiting and exploring the city, I always loved it.
Your new video kind of paints a portrait of youth in New York City — what’s your favorite neighborhood and where do you and your friends hang out the most?
My favorite neighborhood is where I live in Greenpoint [in Brooklyn]. It’s just got some good shows, all my favorite record stores and clothing stores and places are here so it’s just really cool. My friend DJ’s at this place called The Lot down the street from where I live, it’s a really chill spot and it’s outdoors. It’s just a really nice community.
You worked with director Patrick Golan on the video — what was inspiration and how did clip come together?
Yeah it was super chill, he’s my friend and he knows me, and it’s really easy for him to just get it. I told him what the song was about and he got it right away. I didn’t have to go into too many details, and he sent me an email with what he wanted to do and it’s exactly what I had envisioned from the get go, so it was really easy and organic.
Which record stores in particular do you really like?
I go to The Thing [1001 Manhattan Ave] — that’s probably my favorite one. Other than that I really just find records on eBay to be honest.
Is that your favorite method of finding new music?
I don’t even know how I find new music — it’s usually through friends or if I’m at a party or a show or something, listening to Spotify playlists or something. It’s always random. I use eBay for older records.
What’s your favorite eBay find?
I got a lot of old Mad magazines and they’re pretty cool. I just like to get a lot of random magazines, some of the early Rolling Stone magazines. I have one where Michael Jackson is on the cover with Paul McCartney that’s pretty cool. I get a bunch of random stuff on there. [Laughs]
How would you describe your style overall?
I like to be comfortable, and I like soft colors. I generally keep it simple. I’m kind of into the more vintage aesthetic. I thrift a little bit, and there’s some NYC brands that I really dig that are coming up and are really cool. There’s a brand called OnlyNY that is really cool, there’s another been called DDUGOFF that is really cool. Bowling shirts, old retro.
Favorite clothing item for shows/performances?
Probably just my necklace. I got it at this jewelry store in the lower east side called Popular Jewelry, it’s really cool it has a Michael pendant on it and it just looks cool.
Coming from a different place, do you feel like NYC still has that spark of being a place for emerging artists to break through?
I think it’s great — there’s so many awesome musicians coming up in the city, and there are all these new bands, just a cool energy that’s happening here, and some people tend to either run away from it or run towards it. I think a lot of people have left and gone to L.A. and the people that have stayed are finding that it’s almost like New York is reborn, and coming alive again, it’s cool.
Do you have any emerging artists on your playlist now that inspire you?
I’m a big fan of King Krule’s work, Jorja Smith, Leon Bridges, Vince Staples, Toro Y Moi, Blood Orange — yeah, there’s a lot. There’s a band from the U.K. called Hawk House, that put out a project a while ago, back in 2014, haven’t heard much from them but they are really dope too. ?