(AllHipHop Interviews) Sometimes it takes traveling the world to fully understand your place in it. That journey can be an enlightening experience, especially for an artist that reflects on his life adventures through his work.
An example of that artistic expression will be displayed on the forthcoming album from Damani Nkosi. Before finalizing his Thoughtful King project (executive produced by Warryn Campbell), the Inglewood rapper crisscrossed the globe including stops in Europe, China, and Brazil.
Nkosi later shot videos for his tracks “Free Dumb (Chains Off)” in Hamburg, Germany and “Now That’s Love” in Paris, France. The latter song features appearances from Grammy winning jazz pianist Robert Glasper and R&B singer Musiq Soulchild. Thoughtful King also includes contributions from BJ The Chicago Kid and PJ Morton.
After cutting ties with Sony Urban and Snoop’s Doggystyle Records, Nkosi is releasing Thoughtful King independently. Damani Nkosi chatted with AllHipHop.com about his new album, his travels overseas, breaking into the industry, and more.
How did you first get involved in the music industry?
I have been rapping for years. I was featured on Kurupt’s Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey. That was the first feature I ever had. I had a 16 bar verse on that. That was my introduction where I was actually on an album.
You also worked with Dr. Dre. How did that relationship start?
I used to battle rap back in the day. At “The Next Episode” video shoot, I was battling six or seven people in a cypher, and I didn’t know that Mel-Man was standing in the background listening. He liked what I was spitting, and he brought me to Dre. About two weeks later I met Dre. That’s how we started.
You’ve expressed that your father played a big impact on your life in general. How did your relationship with your father affect you musically?
My whole confidence as a man came from my father. Ever since I was able to understand anything, he just kept telling me I was a king. He started instilling pride in me just as a human being and as an African-American- what it meant to be from African descent. He was teaching me that at a young age. I guess he just knew what I was going to encounter when I got of age. So I walk with a certain pride that carried over into my confidence in my music. So he’s definitely instrumental in all of my success.
You signed to a major label at one point, but you are releasing this album independently. Do you have any interest in signing with another major or do you want to stay independent?
Independent is cool. I get to do exactly what I want to do. Anytime someone respects my craft and it translates into good dollars for them and me as well, I’d definitely take an opportunity that made sense. But right now it’s really just cool to be able to do exactly what I want to do from a marketing standpoint, a visual standpoint, a lyrical standpoint, and as far as musical selection. I get to control it all. So win, lose or draw, it’s really just all win for me. Either way it’s fine for me. I would only do a label if it made sense for both of us.
Your single “Now That’s Love” features jazz musician Robert Glasper and R&B singer Musiq Soulchild. Is that genre-crossing sound reflective of what listeners can expect on your album?
Yeah, I did a little bit of everything. It’s pretty much everything that I’m influenced by and that I listen to. I’m a big jazz fan, I’m a huge Hip Hop fan, and I’m a huge soul music fan. So it encompasses all of that. The whole album is just a big, dope blend of all of that music which makes a great hip hop album to me.
And how would you define a “great Hip Hop album”?
One, I’m a big fan of putting paint where it ain’t. Trends are cool. I’m not against trends. Things trend because obviously everybody likes it at one time which is dope. But I’m a big fan of the raw creativity that each person has. So when it comes to Hip Hop, if it’s creative, you’ve got a distinctive voice, and you have a perspective in your lyrics that I don’t really hear often, that’s a great Hip Hop album to me. I’m just a big fan of individuality.
What are some of your favorite albums?
I would go back to Paid In Full. I would go back to KRS-One. Then I will come up to Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt. Pick a Common album – Be. I love the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album. I think that’s incredible. I love Kendrick’s new album. It’s a bunch of albums, but those are just some of the few that I think are creative and dope.
What’s your opinion of the L.A. rap scene at the moment?
The new L.A. rap scene is good. It’s like a mixture of what is going on here, what’s going on everywhere. Because of the Internet, you can see what everybody’s doing. The L.A. rap scene is dope to me. It’s a dope community. Everybody is a 3 degree separation away from each other. Everybody knows each other. Everybody’s doing shows together. It feels good.
What would you say you took away from the experience of being overseas personally and artistically?
Personally, just to walk down the street every day in a foreign land you do a lot of reflecting. You can look back at America and have a different perspective knowing you’re not there. You’re forced to adapt to something totally different. It just changed my perspective on life to see the way other people live, what other people value versus what I’m used to in my society, in my surroundings. It changed my perspective on the world. It made me change the perspective of my content.
Just seeing other things broadened my mind. To actually see and experience going to a house party in Germany, what is that? If you’re a true artist that’s going to automatically spark your mind. I’m a writer. I love to write. I love poetry. So I instantly got tons of things going on in my head when I’m experiencing something that’s out the box from my normal surroundings.
Will your album be available in digital, CD, and vinyl formats?
We’re working on a vinyl. I’m going to put it out digitally. It will definitely be on iTunes, and then I’m going to see how people respond to it. I plan on performing a lot all across the country and overseas as well. I’m just going to play it by ear.
I’ll be able to work it longer. It’s a different role for me, since I don’t have $200-$300,000 at one time to get the word out there, so it’s going to be a slow grind. I do plan on getting it out there both digitally and on vinyl. That’s something I’m looking to do.
My plan is to take each song and promote it the full year. I didn’t do any records on this album that I would say are for this or for that. I did records on topics that I felt were important to me and important for people to hear. There are no throwaway records. Everything I recorded is on the album, so it’s very concentrated. It’s very direct. I did exactly what I wanted to do. For me it’s a dream album. Artistically, I captured what I wanted to capture. Whatever I was going through in my life at the time – in the last three or four years – is on the album.
Damani Nkosi’s Thoughtful King is scheduled for digital download on Tuesday, May 6th.