Update: Anees released his debut album, Summer Camp, in May 2023. He embarked on a 26-city U.S. tour, which concludes with a hometown finale July 3 at Echostage in Washington, D.C.
Since he was old enough to drive, Anees Mokhiber would freestyle in his car. The George Mason University double alumnus has since transformed the hobby he describes as therapeutic into a career, with his car being his mobile recording studio.
On April 10, during an Instagram live from his Ford Focus, the up-and-coming rapper sang his latest single “Slip,” and was caught by surprise when Justin Bieber joined the livestream to jam along. The Grammy-winning pop star gave major compliments on Mokhiber’s musical talent in front of audience of more than 60,000 people.
“Going through my mind was just adrenaline,” said Mokhiber, BA Philosophy and Sociology ’14, JD ’17. “Everyone wants to know, how did it happen? I don’t know, and I think it’s better that way—it’s a God thing, it’s a blessing.”
Since then, the Northern Virginia native saw a more than 15,000 uptick in his followers, and has been featured in media outlets including NBCLX, WUSA-9 and Washingtonian magazine.
Mokhiber chatted over Zoom from his car on all things music and Mason.
Tell us about “Slip.”
It’s a love song about my wife. What I love about this love song is it’s written to connect with anybody. It has a vulnerability in it that love requires, so I’m hoping it connects with people.
What got you into freestyling?
Going to summer camp we’d do these things called “bombers,” where you would, on the fly, come up with a four-bar rhyme to go back-and-forth with someone. I learned then I had a knack for coming up with rhyme schemes in relatively short order. I always felt very alive doing it.
Why the car?
I commuted all seven years, as an undergraduate and for law school. For me, the car has always been such a creative space, because what are you going to do when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and you’re late for class? You can either stress, or you can put a beat on it and freestyle.
All of “Slip” was recorded in my car. That does introduce some imperfections into the sound quality, but what it lacks in perfection, it overcompensates for in realness and in beauty.
It’s a very diverse campus. I felt comfortable there as someone who is a minority. Once I got there, I learned Mason was so much more than diverse. It was very accessible, and you could study anything. There’s so much opportunity. I fell in love with Mason from my time on campus, whether it was going to office hours or walking around campus during sunset. I chose Mason based on diversity, but stuck around for a lot of other reasons.
How do your degrees help with your career?
My time spent studying philosophy and sociology was pivotal to my growth as a deep thinker and conscious lyricist. My studies at Mason are essential to the songwriter I became.
And my law degree allows me to maneuver business dealings and the legal side of the music business without being taken advantage of as an independent artist. I have so much more legal acumen and awareness of how to maneuver based on my degree. My time at Mason law taught me how to see the world logically and legally.
What did you enjoy most about your classes?
The upper-level sociology and philosophy courses were all very formative for me. Anybody can read the classics, but they forced you to do some writing of your own and do some real critical thinking.
What’s next for your music?
My next two singles will be “Love is Crazy” and “Drunk on Myself.” “Love is Crazy” is another love song; “Drunk on Myself” is a self-love song. Self-love songs are even more important because if you don’t love yourself first, you can’t love other people. Love has to emanate from within.
If people took one thing away from your music, what would you hope for that to be?
That life is good. I hope that that underlying ethos of my music can be something that people incorporate in their daily life.