Na’el Shehade is a Chicago-born and-based, Palestinian-American producer and DJ, who inherited an entrepreneurial drive from his late father, who immigrated from Palestine to the States in the 70s to build a better life. Shehade fell in love with DJ culture as a kid and as an adult took up music production and engineering. The Chicago-born and-based producer and DJ’s interest and passion led to a diverse and eclectic array of professional opportunities, including early studio work with Chance the Rapper and Kanye West and music projects for MTV and Bravo.
Shehade’s collaborator Via Rosa grew up in a rather musical household: her parents played in a reggae band and toured as a family, homeschooling Rosa into her early teens. Although her music listening was limited primarily to oldies, Sade, Brazilian music and Afrobeat, a teenaged Rosa kept poetry journals — and by high school, she started writing songs and making beats. After relocating to Chicago in 2010, Via Roa connected with THEMPeople, a collective at the center of her adopted hometown’s sprawling hip-hop scene.
The Chicago-based duo’s collaboration together, DRAMA can trace its origins to a chance meeting between the duo back in 2014. And since the act’s formation, the duo have bootstrapped a subtle yet rapid rise on their own terms, centered around a sound that meshes Shehade’s Chicago house-infused production and Rosa’s soulful delivery, inspired by jazz, hip-hop and Bossa nova while managing to blur the lines between R&B, dance pop, heartbreak and bliss. Along with that, the duo have had a long-held history of a proud and bold DIY ethos, self-releasing several EPs and making multiple tours — on their own terms.
DRAMA’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Dance Without Me is slated for a February 14, 2020 release through Ghostly International. Thematically, the album’s material reportedly finds the duo recasting romantic tragedy as moonlit self-acceptance while pairing Rosa’s candid lyrics about the intricacies of interpersonal relationships with sleek, dance floor friendly production. Instead of wallowing alone in their blues and heartache, the material features characters who sashay and strut, knowing their self-worth while being vulnerable. This album is dedicated to the people watching their friend’s love-lives grow and happen around them, and not having anyone,” Rosa says in press notes.
Last month, I wrote about “Gimme Gimme,” Dance Without Me‘s second single, a sleek and slickly produced club banger, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, Via Rosa’s effortlessly soulful vocals, twinkling hi-hats and a euphoric hook. And while being a sultry synthesis of Between Two Selves-era Octo Octa and classic, Larry Levan-era house, the track found its love-sick narrator wobbling between aching vulnerability and proud, self-reliance, as she searched for a sign that it’s okay to love again. “Nine One One” is a slow-burning, Quiet Storm-influenced bit of cinematic pop which features Rosa’s soulful vocals singing lyrics of encouragement and devotion — with a gorgeous, soaring string arrangement. Much like the album’s previously released singles, “Nine One One” is essentially a story of survival and resilience.
DRAMA will be starting a breakthrough 2020 with a tour that begins with a European leg through late January and early February, before a lengthy Stateside leg that includes a March 26, 2020 stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Check out the tour dates below.