Seventeen and steeped in ideals of spiritual isolation and mysticism, St. Paul, MN singer/songwriter/producer Corbin AKA Spooky Black entered the scene in early 2014, unannounced but with an undeniable maturity revered by critics and listeners alike. The debut album “Black Silk” went viral, Corbin’s vocals slipping over hazy beats in the tightest DIY dream.
The accompanying video to Corbin’s standout single “Without U” took off and has amassed over 3 million views. Releasing his follow up EP “Leaving” just a few months after his debut, Corbin established that he was here to stay – in case anyone had any doubts. “Is Spooky Black going to take over the R&B game?” Noisey asked in a loud headline while Consequence of Sound and Complex deemed “Without U” one of the best tracks of 2014. With no press surrounding his releases, Corbin stayed hidden in the shadows, further piquing widespread interest in the project.
Maybe it’s the story of his first tour that best characterizes the happenstance, irony, and mystery of Spooky Black’s career. “I made that song around the time I started thinking ‘DJ Khaled is such a weird, ridiculous human being,” Corbin said in an interview with i-D earlier this year, referring to the “Leaving” bonus track “DJ Khaled Is My Father”. In typical Spooky Black fashion, the title has, of course, nothing to do with the material: “I thought he was really funny…It was an on-the-spot decision…” In a strange turn of events, Khaled ended up contacting Corbin. “Does your DJ have All I Do Is Win…?” Khaled asked before agreeing to open for Spooky Black at SOB’s in NY during his debut headlining tour. Each of the tour’s seven shows sold out.
Spooky Black shares the stage with his St. Paul hip-hop/R&B collective thestand4rd, which consists of rapper Allan Kingdom, producer Psymon, and producer/rapper/singer Bobby Raps, in addition to Spooky Black. Spooky Black’s influence permeates thestand4rd’s self-titled debut, but it by no means sounds like a Spooky record. The beats are all textural, and the same detail in lyricism is there, but it’s clear Spooky Black isn’t the only force behind this project. It’s this willingness to depart from the comfort of working in isolation that sets Spooky Black apart from other 21st century singer/songwriter/producers.
After a year chock full of success and surprise, Spooky Black is surely still in the early stages of his career. He recently released “Worn” as Corbin, billed as a collaboration between thestand4rd and WEDIDIT and featuring production by Shlohmo, D33J, Bobby Raps, and Psymun. Since then he’s dropped Couch Potato, an EP with Bobby Raps. The work is remarkably consistent; Corbin continues to do it for noone but the fans. Who’s to know what’s next. We’ll be listening.
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