Paolo Prudencio popularly known as Shirazee was just a kid growing up in the West African country of Benin when his music-loving mom played Sting’s 1988 hit song, “Englishman in New York,” at home. Inspired by Sting’s iconic song, he began composing his own version he called “African in New York.” And Sting gave Shirazee his blessing.
With the name Shirazee, It was a high school nickname that was given to him. Initially, he was called Zee because he used to play soccer and every time he dribbled, everyone would make zooming sounds because of his quickness. Then they were in a history class one time, and the teacher was talking about the Shirazi people, they were an old African-Persian tribe that would slay their enemies down to the babies. And when (the teacher) pronounced it like that the whole class kinda turned and looked at him because of the emphasis he had on the “Zee.”
Inspired by Sting’s iconic song, he began composing his own version he called “African in New York.” And Sting gave Shirazee his blessing
Shirazee also started battle rapping at the time so, he just went with that because that’s what everybody was calling him. When it came to time to do music professionally, he just had to think of a name and stuck with what his high school friends were calling him.
Born in Cotonou, Benin, singer/ songwriter Shirazee had a nomadic lifestyle, which saw him living in places like Ghana, Paris, South Africa, London and New York, picking up six languages along the way, giving him a unique sense for sounds, which is unmistakably evident throughout his music. He has written for the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, K-pop group Girls’ Generation, Twista, and more before fully committing to his own artistry, which saw him collaborate with Nigerian producer Sarz and South Africa’s Busiswa among others.
Shirazee is an artist who’s been steadily carving his own space in Africa’s crossover era but at his own pace. The Beninese crooner and songwriter have come a long way before his 2017 banger “Iguana“ and his most recent Michael Brun collab, “Soweto,“ was on your radar.
His most recent catalogue is consistent with the afrobeat formula of heavy bass, catchy hooks and infectious melodies. Yet, his textured, raspy voice one of vulnerability and grit overlays what listeners of the genre usually pay most attention to in the right way.