Solo Boy Band: ATL's Nessly on His Most Personal Project Yet
ATL rapper Nessly’s focus is steadfast, if not unparalleled. Free from distraction and grounded in honest, thoughtful lyrics, his newest project Solo Boy Band is the result of years of honing; it is, of course, yet another in what he calls “the game of reinvention and progression”—and though it’s impossible to predict what’s next, we’re savoring this latest masterpiece in the interim.
We sat down with Atlanta’s favorite new rapper to talk more about “fast food music,” Gorillaz, and how to create substantive records from the ground up. Listen to “Focus,” his standout (and aptly named) single, and don’t forget to tune into last week’s Friday playlist, curated by Nessly himself.
Tell us a bit about your background in music.
I started writing music when I was 12 years old. I didn’t really have a real sense of direction of what style rap I wanted to make, but I related most to rap music. My dad would listen to mainly rock music Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jackson Browne, Aerosmith, and Sade who has become my favorite. I think being introduced to rock through him is what opened my ears to the blend of rock and rap elements Gorillaz present in music. I can listen to Gorillaz all day every day. But when I first dove in to rap, I was listening to people like The Game, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, and Eminem. Pretty much anyone who got radio time. I used to study Lil Wayne’s flow most back then.
I mimicked so many flows and patterns that I have 1,000 old tracks that sound like just about anyone, haha. It’s stuff I would never promote but I just wanted to get a hang of what exactly makes that artist’s voice so unique. I’m sure that’s why my songs have 4 or 5 flows throughout them to this day.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
I’d like to say Gorillaz influence the production side of things when I’m making beats. It’s something I want to learn to translate vocally as well as long as it’s in good taste. I want to pay homage and make good music if I’m going to attempt it.
Kanye and Drake have probably influenced me the most as a vocalist. I feel the Drake influence as far as like singing and rapping goes. But I feel Kanye for the sarcasm, witty punchlines, and extremist production. I always look to Kanye for reinvention, which I feel I incorporate in my music as well.
Talk to us about Solo Boy Band. What was the creative process like? What are your expectations with its release in December?
Solo Boy Band was fun yet a bit more difficult than my usual process. I feel my last project was my independent debut, despite having put out music for years. It set a bar of expectation for quality and presentation. I feel Solo Boy Band was more carefully put together, and though I followed my freestyle improv style of recording I probably recorded three times the material I did for the previous project to make sure I narrow it down to the most cohesive work I can.
I expect people to enjoy it, free of bias since you’re getting Nessly only on each song. Hence the title Solo Boy Band. I kind of just wanted to give the people me in the most personal way possible—free of distraction.
How has your musical style evolved since you released the Still Finessin earlier this year?
Since Still Finessin, I have gained confidence in my sound to be able to put out what exactly I want to say to the world and that it will have good reception as long as the execution is done well. I focused on making production more cohesive by keeping the producer list low yet I chose producers who are extremely musically inclined and hear sound in another dimension so to speak. I wanted to add cinematic themes instead of giving people something completely two dimensional.
What themes would you say are present in your music?
Though my music may have a very flashy element to it, I love talking about the truths that come with an ego, admitting to my faults as a human, and owning up to them. Topics of keeping love, wanting love, and losing love. I touch on everything, I just lose myself in the recording process to give everything I’m feeling when I’m creating a record.
What’s the best song you’ve made to date, and why?
There are two songs on Solo Boy Band that I felt really put anyone who listens to my music in a whole new atmosphere. “Regular” and “We Lost Faith..” are my two favorites in the moment. I can’t really stamp the word BEST on it because my mind latches onto a song more so based on current emotion.
Regular is a song where I admit my insecurities about being in a relationship with someone who I feel is too good almost. Somewhere between that and someone you just don’t want to lose based on circumstance whether it be yours or their own.
“We Lost Faith..” is actually the outro to the project. I felt like it was that song that plays at the end of a movie where you know there’s going to be a sequel. That’s the vibe it gives. But it’s like my music takes you away from reality so much that I felt I had to address a few things to remind the people what really matters and that it’s not only about my own hardships, my own issues but that we all go through the same things. Specifically the current state of our country with all the tension going on.
You’ve gained a lot of traction already and your album hasn’t even dropped yet. What is it about your work that has people talking?
I believe I connect to the youth without forcing it. The music isn’t fast food music so to speak. It still has a very serious, mature tone to it. It has substance yet the production allows it to have the ability to still appeal to a vast crowd, whether it be a space out and think type of thing or if you’re in the mood to party it kind of just fits into this pocket that no one else touches quite yet.
If you could collaborate with any other artist, who would it be?
Even though I’d love it to be completely left field in expectation, I really want to do a song with Damon Albarn (Gorillaz). Maybe we could switch it up and get Metro Boomin to produce it, haha.
Any advice for young artists trying to break into the music biz?
For anyone wanting to break into the music business, please give it your all. Keep good energy around but never be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Stay out until 2am networking; record until 5am; learn all the computer stuff you have to; get all your friends involved.
What’s next for you?
It’s always a game of reinvention and progression. Being organic is key, so if I could tell you so early it wouldn’t be me.
Photo by Exquisite Eye.
Stay tuned to Milk for more from our favorite rappers.