Shamir grew up in North Las Vegas, an area that Shamir has called "cookie-cutter suburban." He was raised as a Muslim but describes himself as "more spiritual than religious, I don't believe in god per se, I kind of feel like god is the universe."Shamir identifies as queer, informing an interviewer that "I don't identify as gay because I don't identify as male or female".
Shamir's aunt was in the music business and lived with Shamir and his mother while Shamir was younger. Bass players and producers were guests at the family's home, helping Shamir's aunt with her songs. His parents and aunt introduced him to a wide range of music, including hip-hop, R&B, Outkast, Groove Theory, and singers like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Janis Joplin. At age nine, Shamir received an Epiphone guitar, and began writing his own music.At age 16, he formed a punk band with a friend, but the band ended quickly when his partner froze on stage at their first gig.
During his high school years, Shamir recorded tracks in his bedroom for his first EP.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Shamir sent a demo tape to the Godmode label in New York City. The label founder Nick Sylvester contacted Shamir and called the music "kind of like an R&B 'Yeezus'."Godmode signed Shamir and released his debut EP, Northtown in June 2014.
Shamir's Twitter handle describes himself as a "musician, comedian, singer, rapper, twerker, chef, writer, filmmaker, tumblr, skinny