Q&A Artist Feature: Hip-hop Artist Namm on Music and Inspiration
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.
Catch Namm at Mile High Jewelers on July 29th.
Find Namm Lama Squad music on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud
SZA’s ambient, down tempo style has shone no brighter than it does on her latest effort aptly entitled ‘CTRL’. SZA has been releasing quality music for the last several years now, however this body of work is the most all encompassing showcase of her evolving skill set. Not only is SZA a world class vocalist, she validates her songwriting ability and places herself amongst the best of her contemporaries. That is a special combination. Although she has become known for her softer and smoother vocal stylings, in this latest project she takes on ambitious, powerful vocals especially when gliding over stripped down acoustic guitar heavy selections like the album’s opening track “Supermodel”. She manages to navigate through these various vocal frameworks flawlessly with each style bringing something new but necessary to the project.
‘CTRL’ also includes relevant and exceptional guest features from; Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Isiah Rashad and James Fauntleroy. While the first three artists mentioned are rappers by definition, not one of these appearances feel forced or inappropriate for the sultry vibe of the album. Especially in the cases of Travis Scott and Isiah Rashad, SZA constructs a refreshing take on the RnB duet which is so often painfully predictable. Never being afraid to ditch the classic hook, verse, hook recipe for a more conversational approach with the featured artists firmly intertwined into the fabric of the song. With phenomenal writing and incredible production SZA has conceived one of the most enjoyable projects in the genre in the last several years.
If nothing else can be said about ‘CTRL’, it quickly becomes obvious that it’s shockingly honest style fashions an incredibly relatable work of art. While I am not a twenty-something black woman, I do know quite a few and no album has mimicked the narrative they relay to me with the precision SZA has on this album. She gives a full illustration of her most personal and vulnerable thoughts as she delves into issues of empowerment, liberation, loneliness and self love. There does not come an age where one doesn’t battle with these concepts, but SZA manages to communicate this album’s concepts perfectly through her lens and gives us a deeper understanding of herself and women like her. The content of ‘CTRL’ is unabashedly given from the perspective of a millennial woman and no track may better describe that sentiment than her closing selection “20 Something”. SZA sums up the battle so many people in her age bracket face on the chorus singing,
“Stuck in them 20 somethings, stuck in them 20 somethings, Good luck on them 20 somethings, good luck on them 20 somethings, But God bless these 20 somethings(God bless, oh God bless, oh God bless, oh God bless, oh) Hopin’ my 20 somethings won’t end, Hopin’ to keep the rest of my friends, Prayin’ the 20 somethings don’t kill me, don’t kill me”
Although that can appear gimmicky on the surface, SZA takes no shortcuts giving us the full complexity of navigating through an increasingly difficult social and political world. She turns what could be a juvenile conversations about pussy into deep discussions about the need for female respect and empowerment in her collaboration with her TDE label-mate Kendrick Lamar on “Doves in the Wind”, as Kendrick spits, “And good pussy is rather dangerous/ pussy can be so facetious, the heavyweight champ/ pussy is so undefeated, let’s amen to that” .
The album unashamedly ventures into other genre’s without ever abandoning SZA’s unique melodramatic style, bending from the pop heavy influence on her lead single “Drew Barrymore” to the 90’s RnB laced chorus on “Weekend” , which could have come right out of the TLC/SWV playbook. https://youtu.be/
There are also 80’s influenced songs like “Prom” and contemporary RnB tracks like her latest single “Broken Clocks”. The album, ‘CTRL’, at times is deeply nostalgic often making references to the 90’s staples much of her core fan base came of age around. Songs like “Go Gina” reinforces the albums theme and just who it was written for and about. The album at its core is a beautiful therapeutic session with songs like “Normal Girl” and “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” highlighting insecurities that strain our daily lives and especially take a toll on our romantic relationships. With verses like,
“I need your support now (now, now, now, now, now)/ I know you’d rather be layin’ up with a big booty/ Body hella positive ’cause she got a big booty (wow)/ I know I’d rather be paid up/ You know I’m sensitive about havin’ no booty, havin’ no body, only you buddy/ Can you hold me when nobody’s around us”.
With this album SZA has emerged as an integral voice in an all to often misunderstood generation. While SZA definitely has the pulse of the female audience her appeal absolutely crosses gender lines. As my close friend put it “SZA’s music inspires to find a girl I want to burn one with and marry”. While that may be a reduction of SZA’s ability to create deep thinking yet down to earth music, his sentiment runs concurrently through many of my peers. While the majority of the album is down tempo and jazz bass infused there is a particularly interestingly interlude entitled “Wavy” which provides a short, very singable change of pace within the album. This album only will only serve as one of many beautiful projects from SZA as we look forward to what is destined to be a long and successful career.There is no reason to not have this album in your catalog and give it quite a few spins!!
Singles: Broken Clocks, Love Galore, Drew Barrymore
Personal Favorites: Doves in the Wind, The Weekend, Wavy (Interlude) and Garden (Say It Like Dat)
303live: Introduce yourself
Boonhamin: The names Boonhamin, skateboarder turned hip hop head. I started rapping about 14 years ago… Didn’t think much of it as a kid growing up, just thought it was cool freestyling at parties with all the homies…. As time went on, I invested in recording and dj equipment. Then I decided to start taking this party hobby a little further. My first show was with Slimkid3 of the hip hop group The Pharcyde. From there I started recording a bunch of songs with other hip hop artists and producers. Moved to Colorado and started a group called Observatory and ended it after our DJ (DJ Jimmy Hands) passed away two years after. After that, moved to Denver and started another hip hop collective called Are You Serious… We’ve recorded a few mixtapes, dropped a full length lp, and opened for some big names throughout the years. I have a few more projects coming soon with new producers and artists in the works. So, that’s my past in a nutshell… Where do we go from here?
Q1: How long have you been performing? Where are you from?
I’ve been doing shows for about 10 years… Originally from Minnesota and South Dakota… Moved to Colorado 7 years ago.
Q2: Explain your story behind your name.
Emcee name Boonhamin (Just acquired randomly) Group: Are You Serious (Came up with the name because we wanted to turn a phrase into a known name)
Q3: You have quite the collection of music videos, which is your favorite and why?
From the videos I’ve done… I’d say “Music” is my favorite… Shows the style of the people individually in the group
Check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24tuFzlwpDk
Q4: Who are your most influential contemporaries and why?
As far as other artist that I look up to… Over the years I’ve developed my style after Aesop Rock, The Roots, Atmosphere, Wu-Tang, all the old school hip hop heads, The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, CL Smooth and all the classics.
Q5: What was most memorable about opening for Macklemore?
Playing with Macklemore was definitely a cool experience, him and Ryan Lewis are down to Earth people. I’m proud of how far they have come and especially doing it independently.. (quite the accomplishment)
Q6: What’s next for you?
Whats next for me? I have a couple mixtapes about to come out and a new Are You Serious album in the works… You can always check out www.areyouserious.net for new releases.
Q7: What advice would you give to another young artist?
Advice for other artists…. “Change the game, don’t let the game change you.” Always find excitement in what you do… If you lose passion or focus, take a break… Just like anything else in this world, if you don’t enjoy doing it… What’s the point?
Without further ado, here is a brand new remix by your boy Trev Rich, check out the track while we wait on his new album…
Trev Rich is gearing up to release his new album titled RAIN IN THE SUMMER,
“The Worst” Remix. http://t.co/B0AC02FnFL
— Konnichiwa (@_TrevRich) May 2, 2014
Trev Rich – The Worst Remix Yaaasssss
— Serene Santiago (@SincerelySerene) May 2, 2014
@_TrevRich cover to "the worst" >>>>>> has got to be the realist song I've heard in a while. Shots up bruh. Good fuckin work.
— Lpeez ✊ (@OfficialPeez) May 2, 2014