Denver hip-hop artist, Namm, talks about his music, those who have inspired him, and making music with a message. (Photo credit: TheTravelin’Joe)
The door slowly closes behind us leaving the room quiet and separated from the music pumping through the speakers in the main art gallery section here at Megafauna. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling with artwork and both classic and obscure album covers; the perfect setting for me to talk all things music with Denver artist, Naam.
How long have you been making music?
I couldn’t tell you when I wasn’t making music. That’s how long I’ve been doing it. I’ve been doing it since I was really young but actually taking it seriously, probably since I was 16.
Take me through your writing process. What is it like for you?
I like to sit with music for a little while. If I get a couple of tracks together I’ll sit and play with them for a bit. Once something comes to me, I think of the concept and then the melody and when I have the actual hook together, then it’s nothing for me after that.
Are you producing your own beats at the same time, too?
On occasion, yea. But I have in-house producers, though. I’m mostly a writer. I write everything.
How long does it take you to put the lyrics together? Does it depend on the song?
It depends. I kinda write under pressure a lot better. So if my deadline is tomorrow, then I write my best stuff. But I can write a song between 10 minutes to an hour. When there’s no real concept to it and it’s just spittin’ and putting things together that sound clever, that’s easy for me. When I’m actually focusing on a topic, I won’t say it’s hard, but it’s a little more in depth, you know what I mean? I like to take my time a little bit more with those concepts.
Who in the industry has influenced you as an artist?
All the greats. The Biggies. The Tupacs. Jay-Z. I’m a big Outkast fan. Any music, especially with hip-hop, that’s really saying something. I come from that era. I mean I listen to the new stuff just cause I like to keep my ear out there and know what’s goin’ on but I’m an old school dude. That’s the stuff that gives me inspiration. A lot of music now is more about the track and the feel of it. But I come from lyrics and messages in the music.
You mentioned that music now is more about the track and feel of it rather than sending a message. What are your thoughts on that as a writer wanting to tell a story?
I believe hip-hop is still what I came from even though you go through periods of trends. It’s a young game but what people also have to realize is that hip-hop isn’t that old. It’s not like rock ‘n’ roll or soul music. It’s a very young genre so people don’t understand that even Jay-Z is considered old school now and he’s what I came up on. So you have the older cats and the younger cats and it’s just that the younger cats run the trends and stuff right now. But I try to stick to what I do and what I know and not jump in on that. Now I can get in on a record with any of these young cats, I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s still gonna be me and what I do on that track.
What is your message?
My message is do what you wanna do. I’m from Queens and grew up rough, which I didn’t realize at the time. It just was what it was. Moving to Colorado has showed me how good people have it out here. I watch so many people try to be something else so I just want to stay true to what I do and hopefully give that energy off saying you can be yourself, do how you feel, and people will reciprocate it. People will reciprocate it more if you’re being true to yourself. I hear so many songs and it’s the same song as the one I just heard. It’s the same cadence, same flow, everything is the same. I think in order to have longevity, you can’t be in that space. You just have to take risks and just do it. It might get accepted and it might not, but it only takes one.
Do you reach back in the past, hard as it may have been, to help inspire your lyrics?
Absolutely. That’s where I draw everything from. My life experiences, whether it was me or someone close to me that went through something, I pull from those things. I try to pull from a true place. The music comes out better when I do that. I think it’s my obligation if there are people listening to put something out there that they can take with them.
Do you think there will eventually be a shift back toward more messages behind the lyrics within hip-hop?
Absolutely, because if you look at the people still on top, the real money makers in the industry, they’re all subject based artists. You still have the Jay-Zs, you still have the Eminems, you still have those people who put that music out and it’s the biggest thing.
Compare your style to that of today’s latest trends in hip-hop. Are you comparable to someone out there or do you even pay attention to that?
I haven’t really heard the ‘you really remind me of this person or that person.’ The difference between me and a lot of rappers is that I consider myself a three-dimensional rapper. Most of my favorite artists are one-dimensional rappers. So you have Jadakiss and people like that do the same thing on every track. Eminem is a three-dimensional rapper to me because he can change it up in so many different ways. I’m like that. I switch to whatever the music says to me. I don’t have one flow or one style. I can do a bunch of different things.
What does your music mean to you?
It’s an outlet for me. I get to vent through my music. It keeps me from jumping off the porch. When I go through stuff I really like to write. It really helps me in that way, but at the end of the day, I just want people to respect what I do and like what I do. I’m not trying to be Drake or nobody. I just want to be able to support my kids by doing music.
What is your opinion of the music scene here in Denver?
There’s an extreme amount of talent in Colorado and I’ve been amazed by some of these cats out here doin’ it. My take on the scene is that people don’t really know how to work together, though. It’s like everyone wants to be the first to do it so it’s like gimme, gimme, gimme, and then push, push, push. But I think that if something positive pops off it’ll give these other artists an opportunity to showcase what they can do as well. But the scene out here is real dope.
What projects are you currently working on?
I actually have an album that I’ve done with the band (Lama Squad) that we’ve been sitting on for a little while. So hopefully here soon we’ll be able to put that out if the stars line up and the backing comes in like how it used to. Maybe within the next couple of months. I also just did an album with my brother and one of my other guys. It’s called Boardwalk Empire. I’m from Far Rockaway Queens so I grew up on the boardwalk and so it’s a play off of that. The album is crazy. It’s kinda like 90s hip-hop but modernized. It’s something real different. It’s straight lyrics and dope beats that’s real different than what’s goin’ on now. I’m hoping within the next month that’ll be out. But yea, August is gonna be a month where I’m getting back into it as far as getting these projects out, doing promotions, and doing a lot of shows.