By Zach Collier
Provo rapper Na-G released his debut album, Hey Na-G, on November 11th, 2015. We loved the album, so naturally we had to reach out to him and ask him about his music. See what he has to say about collaborations with local artists, his recent engagement, and how his faith has influenced his music.
Alright, so let’s get started. How long have you been rapping? What got you into it?
I started rapping a little over a year ago. It got started with a simple love for poetry and music which ended up coming together and getting me into rap.
Who are some of your biggest rap influences?
My rap influences are Kyle, Chance the the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Andre3000, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar, just to name a few.
Do you have any outside of rap?
Outside of rap some big influences on my music are Robert Frost, Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran, and Wes Radford – my father-in-law who also writes poetry.
Does your father in law write poetry professionally? Like, is he published?
It isn’t his career, but he has done it for fun for years. He is incredibly talented. He and his brother recently published a book, though, which was sold for a limited time only called To the Pallbearers. They have a facebook page and Instagram though, called Two Brothers Poetry.
Why has he had such an impact on your music? Could you share a portion from a poem of his that has impacted you?
He has impacted my music by the way that he tells a story and is able to portray emotions while leaving it up to the reader to apply it to their own lives. One of my favorites that has impacted my music is on my website:
He Never saw a Star Lit Night
“For fear of the dark he went inside,
Each time the sun set west.
Afraid to fail, from work he shied,
And never did his best.
He never saw a starlit night,
Nor saw the moonlight fall.
He never reached his own true height,
For he was scared, that’s all.”
-Wes Radford || To the Pallbearer
Absolutely beautiful. You mention Vegas in several of your songs. What was it like growing up in Las Vegas, and how did it influence your music? Would you say there’s a Vegas thread that runs through your first release?
Growing up in Vegas was crazy. I spent most of my childhood in the inner city surrounded by a lot of diverse situations and backgrounds. This definitely has influenced my music and view on the world as I have seen so many different things from a young age. There is definitely a “Vegas thread” through my first release. The song “Neon Dreams” is strictly about peoples’ goals in Las Vegas – about wanting money, clothes, women, etc. The “Neon Dream.”
How do you go about writing your raps? Do you find a beat first and write to it? Write lyrics first and then find a beat that fits?
I typically find more success finding a solid beat first, then writing the lyrics. Typically I end up altering the beat a bit once I have the lyrics but never enough that it would be beneficial to write first.
What inspires you to rap? What do you enjoy writing most about?
My inspiration to rap is to get my opinion and points across to a crowd. I have found so much more success getting my opinion across and helping others to change the world around them through music/rap than I would have just talking and trying to get people to listen. I enjoy writing about real life situations and struggles the most. Most of my songs relate directly back to things that have happened to me or to someone close to me.
Who did you work with on this album? Like where did you record and who engineered the beats? Are there any particular samples you’d like to point out that you’re proud of?
I worked closely with Nate Baldwin of Amberdrag Records – where I recorded it – to come up with the initial sound and final sounds as well. Chance Lewis and Amberdrag Records engineered the beats. I also featured Mimi Knowles, Eric Michels of Foreign Figures, Shannon Summerhays, Jonathan Rojas, Cassi Dodge, and Jalyn Macedone who made the EP complete! I am really proud of how the final verse of “Dream Catchers” turned out. It’s taken from a poem I wrote where I compare to people to roses.
We gave “Dream Catchers” some praise in our album review. It was really well done. Great use of process and duration. There are some pretty sweet vocal harmonies on “LV Blvd.” Are those sampled? Or were they written specifically for the song? If so, who sang them?
I wrote them specifically for the song! I just had some mission friends and other friends who could sing come in and record for it. Micheal Macdonald, Shannon Summerhays, Jalyn Macedone, and Cassi Dodge sang on it! They did incredible.
What’s it like being a rapper in Provo? Do you feel like Provo has room for a rap scene? How has the response been to your music and your shows?
There isn’t a very established rap scene in Provo yet so there is definitely a lot of room to grow! I don’t know that there will be a lot of rappers who come out of Utah, but I do know that there is a great response to it and a lot of positive opinions! There is a lot of talent here.
You’re a notable member of the CR4W, with Mimi Knowles, Jamesthemormon, and Jay Warren. How did that group get started? How do you guys make a collaboration happen?
What’s funny is we don’t really know how CR4W started! Mimi came to all of us and said, “Hey, let’s do a cover of a song!” Then there was a lot of positive feedback so we eventually created the group and have been great friends since. It just kind of happened I guess!
Jamesthemormon does a lot to incorporate his faith into his music – I mean it’s in the name! Jay Warren has also appeared on a few of his tracks that discuss Mormonism directly. How does your faith influence your music?
Although I don’t rap about specific topics in the LDS Church like James does – which he has done great at – I have taken a different route to incorporating my faith in my music. I have learned that as long as what I stand for is reflected in my music and lyrics that I can show the world what my faith is and the type of person I am.
Mimi and James often flaunt the line, “Two black Mormons making music with an Atheist.” Those outside of the faith often view Mormonism as a mostly white, American church. Did you ever run into that perception while you were serving an LDS mission? Do you feel that your music has the ability to challenge and change that perception?
I definitely ran into that being on my mission in backwoods Georgia – especially since I served during the Romney/Obama elections. I constantly was told “Oh you’re black AND Mormon?!” As if it wasn’t possible. But here I am! Music and examples can definitely change that stigma. We have already started doing it with our colabs and different songs.
You’re known for some stellar local collaborations. “Pushing Up Daisies” features Mimi Knowles. How did that song come to be? What was it like working with Mimi on the track?
Mimi was in the middle of making his record as well and doing his own career so it was hard for us to find a time that worked for both of us to complete it. It was the first song I started and also the last to finish on my EP! But it was great working with Mimi. He is so talented and has amazing input.
How did you go about collaborating with Eric Michels on “War?” Who wrote the hook? Was Foreign Figures involved at all? Or was it strictly Eric?
I am really good friends with all of the members of Foreign Figures. We have been friends since I started music. I wanted to make sure I got their sound and talent on my first project. Eric was the only one involved. He wrote the hook and sang it. He did amazing and it turned out to be a great song!
You recently got engaged. When did you know she was the one for you? Were you nervous to ask her to marry you?
When did I know Amelia was the one?! Before asking her I wanted to be 100% sure. It’s obviously a huge step in our lives. I knew she was the one when I was able to step back and realize that she had all of the qualities and aspects in her life that I wanted in mine but couldn’t find without her. I don’t get nervous, but I got pretty nervous when I asked her. It was so worth it though and I can’t wait to be with her forever.
The video you made about the proposal was incredible. Gave me chills. [Laughs]. How long did it take you to set up all the lights and everything? Did you film all of the solo shots before or after you proposed?
Thank you! I am happy with how it turned out. Getting all of the details and props arranged took about two weeks and I was at my sister’s house setting up for a couple hours before Amelia got there. We filmed all of the solo shots literally as she was driving to come “pick me up” (or so she thought). Then we filmed the proposal – obviously – when Amelia got there. It was tricky to keep a surprise, but I somehow pulled it off and she had no idea!
How do you think marriage will change the way you approach your music?
Oh man! It’ll make me stop talking about how I “Get so many girls” which I didn’t even actually get before, but for sure won’t now! I think it’ll help me to take what I am doing more seriously, too, since it will be impacting Amelia more now as well. She helps me stay organized though so it will improve in that aspect as well.
Do you plan on continuing your music career? Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you hope to be?
In 5 years with music I would love to be touring the world and doing crazy shows. That would be incredible. Outside of music I hope to be a dad and be finished with school by then – pursing my career either in music or outside, whatever is best for my family.
Make sure to check out Na-G’s debut album, Hey Na-G, on SoundCloud here.