Rapper/Producer Nomis Talks Socially Conscious Hip Hop, Not For Sale, more
Oceanside, California, Hip Hop artist Nomis has been on the scene for some time now and, after a small hiatus, is back with Socially Just, through which tackles issues in the US and globally. In this interview, I ask him about his creative process in production, his motivational tips for excelling as an independent artist, and his definition of "socially conscious" rapper.
Mike Gaits: For those who may not know, who is Nomis? How did you acquire the name?
I am a Hip Hop and spoken word artist from Oceanside, California, who is desperately passionate about social justice. The moniker "Nomis" came about in high school when some friends and I formed our first rap group. I was the only one that wasn't taking the rap thing seriously, so initially everyone had an alias except me. One day in class I was writing my name down at the top of a piece of paper for an assignment. After constant pressure from one of the members, I, of course, took the smart-aleck approach and simply flipped the page over and put it in the light. My last name is "Simon," so it read as "Nomis". I said, "Boom! 'Nomis' it is. Are you happy now!?"
Now that you're back on the scene, what inspired you to drop your latest project, Socially Just? Was timing a factor?
Actually, the timing is largely coincidental. Social justice is a much larger umbrella than solely issues with law enforcement and #BlackLivesMatter. I was originally inspired to make the project as a response to my passion toward issues around human trafficking. I knew I didn't want to make an entire project about human trafficking, though, so I opened the scope to be more about justice issues as a whole, because they all need more attention. I know it seem that, due to the current trend in shootings involving white police and Black men, some artists are only beginning to write about such things, but that's just not how it happened for me. I have two songs on the album that address the issue specifically. "Flaw" was actually written before I started working on the album but was obviously a great fit for the project, considering its substance and what's going on now. I had no choice but to add it to the album. The other song is "Smile," about a time when I was dealing with some really difficult things in my life, including the shooting and killing of my younger cousin by the police. My words came from a real place.
In this world of Hip Hop, do you think being a socially conscious rapper is difficult when coming up with topics and concepts for songs?"
I don't think its difficult to come up with topics, but it can be very limiting at times. I'll have great song ideas that I choose not to pursue because they wouldn't really fit within the narrative of a specific project, which sucks sometimes. But now I'm working on finding creative ways to link what I want to speak on and what I need to speak on. I haven't fully cracked the code yet, but I've definitely completed three or four sides of this Rubik's Cube. I'll get it though.
When listeners put their headphones on to listen to Socially Just, where do you want your music to take them. I have to say, I just finished listening to "Traffic," and you gained one more fan today!
Hey, thanks, brother. That means a lot to me. Make sure you guys check out the video, too. It's some of the best art I've ever been a part of...
When people put on the headphones, I want them to end up in one of two places, depending on the song. I want them to either be inspired and empowered, or challenged and enlightened.
This album is meant to be an anthem for those who know, and a study guide for those who don't.
In Hip Hop, production is often ignored. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that non-beatmakers don't know about when it come to producing good music. What kind of software do you use, and how did you find your theatrical sound?
My setup is pretty moderate. These days, the beats, the recoding, the mixing and the mastering are all done in Pro Tools. Within that, I use an old version of Komplete, a basic low-end M-Audio keyboard, an MPD and, sometimes, I still bust out my classic MPC 2000XL.
As for my "theatrical sound," I've never really even thought of it that way but that's an interesting way to put it. I'm very much inspired by good story telling and passionate art. I think the common factor in those things, along with my music, is the dynamics that come from that. I use a lot of minor chord progressions and that, for sure, sets a certain tone to all of the music. I want people to be moved when they hear the music. I think that's what it takes to keep the movement moving.
I'm glad you brought up the production because most of my listeners don't know that I do that aspect of the music as well. I produced like 97% of this album myself!
What made you leap into Hip Hop and share your creative mind with the world? What was your biggest flaw when recording your music. What drove you to try harder when perfecting your music?
Man, I grew up in a musical household, and I was born in the '80s, so I grew up with Hip Hop. I've been a part of the culture for a really long time, so participating in it on another level was a natural progression. I think my biggest flaw for the first few years I made music was my focus. I held such a regard for substance and song concepts that I neglected polishing my voice and my sound. I can't really listen to anything of mine before 2008 (laughing). The good news is that 2008 was really when my first true solo album came out, so its all good. That being said, I'm always growing and aiming to be better at my craft... always.
What's next for Nomis?
Next is to keep pushing this project. I have some tour dates lined up and I want to make sure this album gets the attention I feel it deserves.
Also, I just officially became a part of Not For Sale, one of the largest anti-human trafficking organizations in the world. I'll be hitting the road with them as well.
I'm pretty sure I have already conceptualized my next project, but I could very well change my mind and push it back, so I'll keep my lips sealed for now.
Any tips that you would like to provide for other up-and-coming musical artists who want to be unique and have their music heard?
This might sound corny, but my biggest advice would be: be yourself. I wasted too much time in my early years trying to make music that I thought the OGs would like. Making rap music for other rappers was one of the most detrimental things to my growth as an artist.
How do fans find you?
My twitter, soundcloud and bandcamp.
Any final comments?
Praverb The Wyse Quoted:
"Make music that is Inspirational, Impactfull, Powerful, Creative, Reflective, Transparent"