Gabriel was born in Lakeland, FL, which is a pretty small town on the I4 corridor in between Tampa and Orlando. His mother was born and raised in Lakeland, but his father emigrated from Saudi Arabia in the 90s. His family is originally Palestinian, Gabriel’s grandparents on his Arabic side were from the West Bank, but were forced to move because of conflict with Israel. There aren’t a lot of Muslims from where he is from, so growing up was there was pretty interesting. There were a lot of people who didn’t understand it being a different religion, so for a while, I had to deal with people belittling everything about it, especially after 9/11 and during the Iraq war. Gabriel is a poet, more than anything.His last name “Al-Shaer” actually means “family of poets” in Arabic, so it’s in his blood to be a poet. That’s what he aims for when he create, rather than going for any specific type of genre. Gabriel is 22 years old. His elementary and middle school, Rochelle School of the Arts in Lakeland, was an art school so growing up he had a lot of different influences from all these different aspects of the arts. Gabriel was in chorus from 3rd grade until 8th grade, played saxophone in band and jazz band from fourth grade until eighth grade, keyboard from third to fifth grade, and show choir from seventh grade until eighth grade.
After middle school, He didn’t take part in any organized musical activities, but would always be singing and freestyling, just fooling around in class getting on the teacher’s nerves. Junior year a couple of his friends and him started a band for a community service project, where we would play music and volunteer for events. During exams senior year, they performed at the school talent show - nothing serious, just a medley of covers, and the girls went crazy in the audience when we started performing. Gabriel played football so nobody thought he could sing, but it was seriously surreal. He felt like a Beatle. His mom was an amazing singer, though. She’s the one who really taught him to how to do it well, like the mechanics behind it. Some of my first memories are with her singing in the car.
Once he got to college, after his freshman year when he still played football, he started doing open mics around UCF to get back in that feel of performing. He was mostly performing covers because, at the time, he didn’t have his own written material yet. He started taking music a lot more serious when he started recording and posting material with one of Orlando’s up and coming producers landlordcollectin. Shouts out to him because he saw something in Gabriel, and he was the first to get him to take this seriously.
Besides doing music, he likes to play chess - He’s been playing since his grandfather taught him when he was five. It’s a great game. he reads a lot as well, and he’ll play FIFA every now and then with the homies.
Did you always want to be an artist?
-When I was really small I remember my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I wasn’t sure exactly how to describe it, but I remember I had seen this guy on television performing in front of a bunch of people and I thought that was so cool. I remembered they’d called him a rock star on TV so I told her I wanted to be a rock star. Her reaction was funny, though, she just responded, “Oh, that’s not good. You don’t want to be a rock star, honey.” So I was just like, “Okay whatever you say.” So for a long time it wasn’t an express goal to be an artist, but it was always something I thought I wanted to do so I would think about things I would do if I ever had that platform where I could achieve that goal - sort of internalizing the skills without going after it until I had that independence to finally do it.
Do you remember the first song you made?
-The first song I ever wrote was with the community service band we started my junior year in high school. We called ourselves EGK, by the way. We were doing a cover of ‘Where is the Love’ by the Black Eyed Peas, but we were doing it for our school Hamlet project to show we understood the themes behind the play. I rewrote the whole song. It was the first time I’d ever done anything like writing a song, but I remember just being amazed when we were finished that I could do it. One of the lyrics went, “If my soul is mine to keep, can I set another free,” and I remember thinking to myself, at the time, that that was pretty deep.
What makes you different?
-A lot of things make me different, just like with any other artist. I think growing up and having to reconcile being a part of a different religion than my friends gave me a different perspective that a lot of Americans never have to go through. It’s helped me to look at the world by how others might perceive it instead of with just my own perspective.
Besides that, my friends and family have definitely impacted me to want to be better. Everybody’s been so supportive and inspiring to me in their daily endeavors that it’s made me want to be a better person. I don’t know if my support system is any different from other artists but I would not be who I am today without them.
Greatest accomplishment in life/music?
-When I was in sixth grade I got really sick and had to miss a couple weeks of school. We had a big poetry project due for when I got back so I just worked on that, off and on, while I was sick at home. I got an A+ on the project, and it baffled me, to be completely honest, because writing it seemed so natural. One of the poems ended up getting published in a Polk County Poetry Anthology, and I thought that was the coolest thing - being a published writer.
Top 5 Artists you want to work with?
-This is a tough one.
Number one, I would have to say Frank Ocean. I love the emotion he puts behind his music. You have to be fearless to display feeling with so much honesty.
2.] Number two would be Noah “40” Shebib. His production is iconic, and was a huge soundtrack behind my high school years, and my artistic development.
3.] Number three is Post Malone. I love classic rock, especially Fleetwood Mac, and his cover of Fleetwood’s “Dreams” was so freaking cool. Man, I would love to do something like that.
4.] Number four would be Hozier. His lyrics are ethereal. And the way he combines blues, rock n’ roll and gospel is beautiful.
5.] Lastly, I would have to say Kendrick Lamar. The themes that he represents through his music are timeless and, at this point, are another aspect of American countercultural history. Plus, he’s the greatest of all time.
-My favorite producer of all time is Noah “40” Shebib. His production perfectly captured how I was feeling during high school, and especially with Take Care. I listened to Take Care every day my entire junior year. Every time I listen to it now I get nostalgic for that period.
My favorite producer right now is Flying Lotus, though. I haven’t stopped listening to his last album “You’re Dead,” since it dropped two years ago.
Who’s the hottest in the game right now?
-Kendrick Lamar. No question. It could just be because his album dropped only a couple days ago, but that’s all anybody is talking about. He has that kind of influence where his name just markets itself.
The ideal path into a successful career?
-I’ve seen Dave Chappelle talk about how his career advanced at a natural pace, where he kept improving as his opportunities arose. He said he didn’t know if he would have been able to handle everything if it had been sprung upon him at a younger age, like how it happens with some in the entertainment business. I believe in the process towards success. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The ideal path is a natural progression where how talented you are is dictated by how much work you put in and stay consistent with, which will lead to bigger and bigger opportunities. Otherwise, I believe the success can destroy you.
Any other talents?
-In high school I played linebacker and was actually captain of the varsity football team. I went on to play a year of college football at Stetson University before transferring to UCF. I also took part in an international chess tournament once, but I only did alright.
Where are you from?
-I’m from Polk County, or more specifically, Lakeland FL. It was a lot smaller, but it’s still growing pretty steadily. There is a nice art scene, but it’s mostly known for high school football. A couple of NFL players that have come out of Polk are the Pouncey twins, Ray Lewis, Bilal Powell and Chris Rainey. Tracy McGrady is actually from Polk County too.
Who are your inspirations in life/music?
-Music-wise some of my biggest inspirations include Bizzy Bone, The Doors, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and The Beatles. 2pac has always been of my biggest inspirations, as well. Not mostly for his music, but that he used his life as a platform to talk about his beliefs on the world, and that he stood up and stood for those beliefs and looked to make changes in the world to make a difference.
Are you currently working on anything?
-I am currently working on an EP that should complete a trilogy of tapes that I’ve been working on for the last two years. It’s exciting to see an artistic vision come to life the way it has, but the final tape is still only a couple songs in right now.
What’s the greatest thing about Central Florida?
-The greatest thing about Central Florida, by far, is the diversity. Growing up, all my friend groups would have every different kind of race you could imagine. There’s a large Arab and hispanic population in both Tampa and Orlando, plus, because of the temple in Lakeland, a rather large Indian population, as well. One of the bigger musical conglomerates in Central Florida, Colours of the Culture, represents this diversity extremely well, and showcases with their various styles the many influences that people growing up in Central Florida have been a part of. I don’t think there are many places as diverse as this Central Florida region in America.
What makes Central Florida home?
-Central Florida is home, and will always be home, because this is where I’m from. I’m not the type to be perpetually nostalgic, but where I’m from is where I’m from and I will always represent myself with that in mind. I love this place.
Anything you love about Orlando?
Oh man, so much. I love the diversity and the aesthetic. It seems like you really can’t pinpoint Orlando, or box it into one area because it’s so sprawled out and massive. You can be near Oviedo and UCF, and get a completely different vibe from the city than you would being in the downtown area. And there’s just so much going on if you take the time to look. Whenever I first came here I was almost overwhelmed at what to make of everything, but over time you really find what you need to and where you want to be. The people here are amazing too. Growing up in a small town boxes you in as to what kind of personalities you’ll see. Coming here was one of the greatest things that’s happened in my life, by far.
Any people in the Central florida art/music scene you want to shout out?
-Oh, yeah!! shouts out @moneymikeproductions, @lanlordcollectin,, @razatwn, @Creatives_Only, @swirlsss, @ColoursoftheCulture, @beatsbyjimmy, @thanksjoey, @tsashowcase, Much love <3
She Left Home
Ignorance is Bliss
Too Long (Series)
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