First off, let the people know who Nolan The Ninja is?
Nolan The Ninja is a 22-year old emcee & producer from Detroit, MI with aspirations to modify the world through “audio art”.
When did you start and did you start producing or rapping first?
I started rhyming first, which was around 13 or 14. In high school, I used to battle guys in the lunchroom. (laughs) I didn’t start taking things serious until 17 or so, though. That’s when I began to crash open mics, live cypher filmings, etc. As far as producing, I didn’t start taking interest in that until a few years ago.
Who was your biggest influence to make you start rhyming?
Honestly, I didn’t really have one. Growing up, I was a “sponge” when it came to music. I knew of the current hits but I also had knowledge of the vintage cuts like Wu-Tang, A Tribe Called Quest, etc. I don’t know, it’s weird. (laughs) As of now, my influences include Nas, Redman, Q-Tip, Jay Dee (Dilla), The Roots & many more. Like I said, I’m pretty diverse via ears.
What’s your favorite genre, aside from hip hop and whose your favorite non hip hop artist?
I love neo-soul, jazz & R&B. To be honest, that’s what I really grew up on. My mother used to play all of the smooth jams by Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Heather Headley, etc. Therefore, I would hear it every day when I rode with her to school. Plus, the vibe(s) of the genre is just so mellow. I love music that you can just vibe out to. You know, smoke a little herb & just chill. (laughs) As for my favorite non-hip-hop artist(s), I enjoy Billy Cobham, D’Angelo, Bob James, Erykah Badu, Patrice Rushen, Quincy Jones, Eumir Deodato, etc.
That’s dope man. Do you think that influences your music at all?
Most definitely. People wouldn’t think that because they’re quick to box me in due to my usual aggressive edge. But if they’re REALLY attentive to my work, they’ll notice that my music strand runs long. For example, I’ve released remixes to “Brown Sugar” by D’Angelo, “On & On” by Erykah Badu & more. Those are far from hip-hop. Or, the interludes that I produced on my last album. Ultimately, I love music. Hip-hop is just an outlet that allows me to expand to other fields of music. In 5 years, I may not even be a rapper. I may be on some Rick Rubin sh*t. (laughs) In otherwords, a monk with the art; consultant?
Haha, word. Let’s bring it back to hip hop, what’s your favorite hip hop album of all time?
That’s easy; Nas – ‘Illmatic’. Speaking of which, it’s cool to see all of the attention that the album is getting for its 20-year anniversary. That album is just so perfect to me. Like, it’s such a great LP summed up in 40 minutes; phenomenal. Plus, he was only 18 or so when he created it. Crazy!
Me and you both my man. I was almost gonna ask what your favorite Nas album was next but that’s already settled. Alright, let’s talk about your upcoming album, Illphoria. How would you describe the project?
Well, ‘illphoria.’ is just a beat tape. It’s a compilation of previously-released production of mine as far as remixes, album cuts, etc. I would describe it as an “instrumented experience”.
When’s that dropping?
On November “Illeventh”, 2014 (11.11.14).
That’s ill. So on the topic of production, what’s your studio setup like?
Well, it’s minimal because I’m broke as hell. (laughs) I have a KORG PadKontrol & MPC 1000 for my drum pads, a Numark turntable for my vinyl rips, a couple of Alesis monitors, FL Studio 9 for my DAW & a laptop. It’s not much but it gets the job done, you know?
That’s better than my current setup, that’s for sure.
Like 9th Wonder said, “it’s not what you used but how you use it”.
I’m just gonna take a guess that being you’re from Detroit, and you’ve already mentioned Dilla, that he must be your favorite producer?
To be honest, no. The only reason that he’s not my top favorite is because I wasn’t hip to his work for awhile. I grew up hearing some of his work from songs such as “The Light” by Common, “Much More” by De La Soul, etc. But he was never really praised until he passed away, you know? Therefore, I didn’t hear much about him. Growing up, I knew more about DJ Premier or RZA than Jay Dee, which is somewhat f*cked up. With that said, I didn’t fully see the significance in Dilla’s work until about 5 years ago. Nevertheless, he has definitely inspired me A LOT since then. That’s mostly credited to his creativity & drive. Also, I know a few of his associates from back in the days. Guys like Waajeed & DJ Sicari have told me crazy stories about Dilla. Overall, that guy was amazing & I definitely wished that I could’ve met him before his demise.
Before I let ya go, favorite Wu-Tang song?
Ah, that’s a tough one. My favorite album is their debut LP, so I’ll pick a track from that. I would have to say either, “Protect Ya Neck” or “Can It Be All So Simple”.
Cool, I always thought CREAM was overrated compared to the rest of the LP so good you didn’t say that. 🙂
(laughs) Word, I hate overrated sh*t…
Peace to Cr(e)ate Music, Creative Minds Coalition, SIREN & anybody else that’s a believer of the ill sh*t. Also, remember to follow your he[art]!
And follow him on Twitter @NolanTheNinja