San Diego – North America
I am a huge fan of the independent artist. In San Diego most of the artists fit this description. But when it comes to Hip Hop and getting respect and actually succeeding all on your own, iLL Nicky can now be thrown into this bunch. Now with bigger opportunities available to him, you’re sure to hear all about his next move. Here’s what we talked about.
When did you start performing, making music professionally?
When I was 10 years old, my brothers built a makeshift Hustle and Flow like studio in my room. The booth was made of old plywood, filled with egg cartons and mattress padding. They purchased an old Casio Keyboard as well as turntables, a 12 channel mixing board, and shitty little monitors, all for like 70 bucks at a garage sale. My two older brothers used to smoke, drink, and record their freestyles for hours on end. One day they left the house, and I kind of taught myself how to use Acid Pro, and recorded two songs. One remix to BIG’s Big Poppa and the other to Xzibit’s X.
My brothers were blown away when I showed them, and allowed me a spot in their group, Uncertain Mindz. From this point, I knew that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I moved to San Diego when I was 19 years old and met DJ Decon. After he heard me freestyle at a party, he encouraged me to record at his home studio. I began to put out professionally produced projects. Once I teamed up with engineer, Sean Powers, and rapper, Mikey Ceaser, there was no looking back.
What other albums, mixtapes or tracks have you appeared on?
My first mixtape was called Hungry. I recorded and mixed it myself in 2009 with the help of DJ Decon and Roadeezy. After that was My Name Is Nicholas and then I did a collaborative album with rapper Cheeba Hawk, called Breaking and Entering. After that I moved back to Oakland with my brother and gave birth to the name, iLL Nicky. I recorded The iLL Nicky Experiment and had it mixed by Sean Powers. After the lightweight local success of that mixtape, I was able to kickstart 6k for my album, The House With No Pressure, which is filled with live instrumentation, choirs, talented singers and rappers, as well as original production from several producer friends. We charted the album everywhere from iTunes to Amazon, Spotify and Google Play. I then released a weekly project on sound cloud called, Crescendo, and eventually released the collective on TheiLLNicky.com as a free download.
The House With No Pressure, what does the title mean?
Since I was young, my living situations have always been chaotic. In an Italian household with all boys, there is a lot of bickering, yelling, eating, fighting, etc. Writing music was always my escape. My muse. When I was recording the album, I was living in San Diego with 9 kids, most of which were in the Navy. There was never a dull moment. The studio, Capricorn Studios, was my sanctuary. There was no one in the studio yelling in my ear or clouding my thoughts. It was my house with no pressure. Additionally, my artwork designed by Andrew DiPaolo and I, explains it more in detail. It was inspired by a Spanish artist named Mira Ruido. There are 4 different terrains: snow, countryside, ocean, and city. This represents the various paths you will encounter and have to overcome in your life. It also represents the well rounded. The songs on the album are diverse and different from one another, making it a very well balanced listen. The buildings that make up the city are designed with no ceilings or roofs to symbolize the idea of “no pressure.” I am portrayed as a giant, raising my sign or “iLLs Up” which stands for “I Love Life” as I gaze at the clouds, representing my inner peace.
Tell us about the album. What are the singles? What were some of your concepts and direction on this album?
I wanted to make good music. We had the luxury of being in a professional studio equipped with every piece of production we could need. I wanted to show people that I am more than just a rapper that makes hip hop music, I wanted to show people that I am a versatile artist that can make world music, relatable to everyone. Plus, I wanted people to understand exactly who I am and what I stand for. I discussed topics like the struggle within the industry, overcoming hardships, my childhood and personal upbringing, falling in and out of love, http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/weight-loss/ self doubt and conflict, as well as shedding light on the modern day “swag” rapper, their reliance on money and fame, and their lack of creativity, individualism, as well as the lack of respect for the art and growth of a culture. I wanted to relate to listeners and spark emotion but most importantly, I wanted to inspire artists to be better. To be honest and more transparent. To take away their masks and show themselves to people. To lighten up, not take life so seriously, and show love to those around them. The single, Automatic featuring Nat-Z and produced by Wide Range of Frequencies received radio play in San Diego on Z90.3 for a few months. The song discusses my commitment to my craft, and how it has become automatic, something that is a part of my soul.
I see you used crowd funding to produce this album. Tell us how that happened and what you think of it?
Yes, we used Kickstarter. I was amazed with how much support we actually had. It was an extraordinary feeling when the donations started rolling in. Setting the whole thing up, however, was quite a process. We had to take into consideration the costs of every single thing. We were asking for $4,000 for the production of the album, the distribution, and merchandise. So the way it works is, you give incentives. So let’s say someone gave $10, I would send them a concrete copy of the album when it was finished. Or if someone gave $50, I promised them an iLL Nicky hat, shirt, CD, and a DVD of the Music Video for Short People, and went so far as offering a Steak Dinner to those who gave $300. We ended up raising $6200 and delivered on all of our promises. That money was the world. It allowed us to do everything that Sean and I had dreamt of doing with my brand. After we got the ball rolling we were able to connect with the right people and finish the website. Once we were professional looking online, the offers to perform at different venues starting rolling in. The Kickstarter for my album changed my life for sure, it made me realize that this whole thing is real and very realistic.
How far has your music taken you? What are your big experiences within Hip Hop so far?
My music has taken me further than I thought possible. First of all, doing everything pretty much myself early on, helped me attain a knowledge on how the industry works, and how to conduct business. It has connected me with beautiful people all across the globe. I was brought to Puerto Rico to do 10 shows in 7 nights, I have performed at many high end venues in San Diego and San Francisco. I’ve performed along side some great artists such as Andre Nickatina, Grieves, Sol, Mike Stud, KRS One, Waka Flocka, Far East Movement, Grouch and Eligh, Living Legends, Logic, Iamsu, and many other talented MC’s throughout the years. Just recently we have finally been connected with some major labels in LA, so there some big things in the future.
What are your goals for iLL Nicky, the artist?
I have so many long term, abstract goals on modifying peoples minds and perception, by implementing my theme of love and respect, but it would take too long to share, so I’ll just tell you my concrete and short term goals as of now. I have just officially finished the paper work for my own business, The iLL Movement LLC. I have garnered the rights to my logo, name, and my music. Now, as I begin to speak with major labels, my goal is to attain a distribution deal, so that I can keep my art, be creatively in control, but have the massive forum that the major labels have access to. Pretty much, I’ll create everything, and then give it to the label to market to the masses. Since The iLL Movement is a business, and I am the owner, I have the ability to sign other talent. This is great, because artists that sign with me would get the same opportunities. They would get to be authentic by keeping their art, but have the large audience reach. I want to continue to grow my catalog, and start headlining and doing major shows, like Coachella. I believe that if the crew and I continue to focus and work as hard as we have been working, many of our goals and ambitions are very realistic and within reach. I want to learn, more and more, every day, and always improve.
What’s next for iLL Nicky? What are you working on? What are you pushing?
Dude. I cannot wait for people to hear this next project. I have 12 new songs, I am unsure on the release date, but it will be soon. It will be called Angles to Angels. Right now, an undisclosed label and I are working on picking a single to push as well as working on various music videos.
My plan is to put San Diego Hip Hop on a National level. I have what it takes to do that, and I want the world to hear the talent down here. I may travel the world, but my home and business is and will always be based in San Diego.
By Mr Ceza Photo Courtesy iLL Nicky