Love is one of the most explored concepts in music. Whether it pertains to the excitement of falling in love for the first time or the intensity of facing a painful breakup, music of all genres has never shied away from both sides of the passionate love coin. But as artists grow to have a more complex understanding of love, music will examine a more nuanced aspect of these themes. DRAMA is at the forefront of this idea, taking a modern approach to love and accompanying it with rosy, danceable beats.
Hailing from the Chicago music scene, DRAMA is an R&B/dance duo that combines electronic beats with emotionally powerful lyrics, forming what they call ‘happy-sad music.’ The group consists of Via Rosa and Na’el Shehade, both from contrasting musical backgrounds. Rosa is a master in darkly dramatic lyrics that deal with tragic love stories, while Shehade produces upbeat music that just makes you want to dance. After meeting through a mutual friend that is also heavily involved with music, Jean Deaux, Rosa and Shehade formed a close friendship and collaborative partnership.
“I want to make dance music, and she’s like, ‘I make sad music,’ and I was like, ‘Perfect!’” Shehade explained to FOX 32. The combination of the two is the foundation of their unique edge, and it serves them well when learning from one another. “We work really well together because we both have similar backgrounds in music but come at it from different angles. He sees things I can’t see and vice versa,” Rosa stated of their collaboration in an interview with Flaunt Magazine.
Rosa grew up traveling on tour with her parents’ reggae band. She was surrounded by musicians and creative minds from a young age, learning firsthand what it means to be dedicated to the craft and constantly on the go. She began making music at 14. Rosa is also an experienced chef that has attended multiple culinary schools. She originally moved to Chicago to take care of her grandmother, attend another culinary school, and to work on her music.
“I have my whole life to be a chef. I can be 50 years old and open a restaurant, but not everybody gets the opportunity to travel the world and make music and survive and live off of art,” Rosa said in an interview with Vibe.
Shehade is a Chicago native that started making music in his teens while attending high school. He has been a DJ and producer for years, working on projects like Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap and G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer compilation.
Shehade was raised in a conservative Arab-American household, and he had to show his family his love for music gradually. “Coming from an Arab-American family, they want you to become a doctor, a lawyer, something of that sort, but I just didn’t…,” he spoke of his upbringing to Billboard. Shehade shares his passion with the youth of Chicago and Palestine, where his family is originally from. He sees similarities in the two with their drive for success and determination.
“I traveled to Palestine this year and last year, and I work with a refugee camp. When I’m out there, I teach them how to produce and tell them this is how they get out of this place – making great art and being the best at whatever it is they want to be. I see them dreaming,” he said.
In recent years, DRAMA has taken a contemporary approach to discussing romance and relationships through their music. In their most recent EP, Lies After Love, they explore the falsehoods that we all embody to get over a breakup. “The concept behind Lies After Love is to highlight the affirmations and lies that people tell themselves to get over heartbreak. We both have a really hard time expressing ourselves one-on-one. So this project was our way to openly express our own thoughts and feelings about heartbreak.” DRAMA said in an interview with HYPEBEAST. Shehade’s personal lie that he’s told himself is, “I’ll never fall in love again.”
In one of their new songs released this year, “Dead and Gone” tackles the value in recognizing when love is working for you and when it needs to come to an end. The song opens up with, “Love is for lovers and old men, who know when to fold and when to go home.” According to their Genius page, Rosa wrote that she got the inspiration from Johnny Cash. “I imagined an old man at a casino sitting at a table and he’s just had enough of gambling and decides to go home to his wife.”
- Written by Mallika Pal