With a background in poetry, multidisciplinary Twin Cities artist Dua Saleh has kicked off the new year with an essential debut project. Executive produced by the increasingly prolific Psymun, the self-assured Nūr tackles gender identity, politics, and diaspora effortlessly. Doing all this without stumbling, Dua Saleh has solidified themselves as one of the Midwest's most exciting creative voices.

Dua comes on strong with the playful, self-produced "Sugar Mama" before opening up to more celestial sounds on "Albany." Dominated by a captivating presence, both commanding and malleable, other voices on the record mostly serve to further elevate Dua's own.

Corbin, fka Spooky Black, is but wallpaper on the hypnotic "Warm Pants," while Velvet Negroni delivers a memorable cameo on "Survival." But if there's one individual that helps compliment Dua Saleh's vision the best on the release, it's Psymun, who produced on every song besides "Sugar Mama."

Psymun's cozy Minneapolis studio, situated alongside the Mississippi river, has become a hotspot for the Twin Cities' music scene. In a year that saw him receiving producer credits on releases from both Young Thug and Future, Psymun also committed a lot of his attention to fostering some of the Twin Cities' unheard voices. Dua Saleh's new EP represents the true breadth of what these neighboring cities have to offer.

Nūr sees Dua Saleh take full advantage of Psymun's distinctive approach, commandeering the idiosyncratic sound and using it for bold and unbridled expression. A sense of fluidity permeates the release, in both the subject matter and structure. It's a wildly inventive EP that arrives with a purposeful thud and confident sense of self.

Dua Saleh
Image via Against Giants/Photo by Braden Lee

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Kassala, Sudan and am of the Tunjur Tribe. I'm a multidisciplinary artist based in the Twin Cities that emerged from organizing roots. I've been focusing on music since signing with AGAINST GIANTS.

Coming from a background in poetry, how was it moving to music?
It was easy to integrate poetry into music, especially when the melodies started coming to me naturally. Music came to me at a time when poetry was too heavy, breaking through to the body, spirit, and mind.

There's not a lot of music that comes from a non-binary perspective, so do you feel that it's important for it to be a topic that you tackle within your output?
For me, music is a fluid and imaginative space. It's less about gender and more about a soundscape for emotions, texture, and memories. People of the trans experience are constantly creating content, but generally don't have the resources. Hopefully, more platforms will start to recognize trans and gender non-conforming artists in the future. A group I would recommend would be Kamilla Love and booboo.

What was it that brought you to work with Psymun?
Psymun heard about me through mutual friends and reached out to work on music. I felt honored that such an immense talent wanted to work with me.

How did Corbin's background vocals on "Warm Pants" come together?
The sounds melded well in his head when Psymun and SinGrinch showed him the track, so he just jumped on it.

Dua Saleh
Image via Against Giants/Photo by Braden Lee

Speaking of vocal collaborations, Velvet Negroni fits perfectly into the sound you've built on the EP when he appears on "Survival." When writing that song did you always have him in mind, or was it something that came together organically?
It happened organically while everyone was in the studio. All of us were freestyling while Psymun was producing on the spot. The results were beautiful and spoke to each person’s soul.

Psymun said on Twitter that you recorded "Sugar Mama" on your phone. Is that something you do often or was there a specific reason for this particular track?
It tickles my spirit a little to know there are cheats to engineering and coding on your phone; so I always produce on my phone. "Sugar Mama" was made as satire, playfully distorting the ear. Just an acknowledgement of consumer culture and social hierarchy in most music scenes.

What do you think it is about the Twin Cities that fosters so much interesting talent?
The Twin Cities is remarkable because of the sheer amount of history, character, and artistic energy that both cities foster. The talent and atmosphere is nothing short of extraordinary especially because of all of the cultural influences from places like St. Paul's Rondo Neighborhood or Southside Minneapolis.