Photo Credit: David Cabrera
Miami, Florida is a land of extremes. Here, nonsensical white lines indicate excess. Personal destructive endeavors abound, be it spilled party favors or prey; they confetti landscapes. Fueled by a laissez-faire economy, the carnage continues. Is this a ceaseless cycle of depravity? No. Perspective, coupled with awareness, is key to maintaining and challenging any reality. Change is possible.
J. NICS, a resounding product of his Miami environment, uses his voice as an MC to cultivate change. Hip-Hop affords NICS the personal and creative freedom to impact the world. Catalyzed by purity, encouraged by a cohesive circle of friends, and inspired by a supportive family, he is surrounded by unity to help manifest his dreams. Improving his craft since the age of 13, the wordsmith steadily challenges his expression to accurately display his art's development. In this AllHipHop.com exclusive, J. NICS speaks on Miami, music, and manhood:
AllHipHop.com: I’ve read that you’re from Miami Dade county, and that you grew up in the Uptown area of Miami, the Miami Gardens. At times, struggle and strife have been your neighbors. Often when folks can’t see past the block, they’re met with hopelessness and complacency. How did you learn to challenge that mindset and to strive for more?
J. NICS: I was always encouraged to do more. When you’re growing up you learn a lot from your surroundings, and the people that you’re surrounded by. I was just blessed that a lot of the people that I came into contact with, that were older than me, were always instilling knowledge on me. They’d share the life-lessons that they’d learn with me. Being a kid, and being around that, it gave me a different ambition and perspective. Normally, if you’re just wrapped up in the block—the way that things come at you as a child, it’s almost like they’re trying to brainwash you. Because everything is just pushed at you, ‘This gotta be this way, this gotta be that way!’ And rarely do people even put the thought into trying to question that, or think about, ‘Whydoes it gotta be like this?’
When I met up with older people, whether it be my uncles, or the dude from the corner, or even the homeless person from the corner store—at the moment he may just be ranting on to other people—but, as a youngster, I picked up something from that. All of those different things, they mold you. In that point in my life, I was like, ‘Let me find out what I love, and I’ll strive towards that.’ No matter how dark it might seem, on every situation there’s always a light. There’s always a light. I’ve had dark days; I’ve had bright days.
AllHipHop.com: Regarding the previous three years, what circumstances or events have encouraged an evolution with your life’s priorities?
J. NICS: There’s a lot of different things. For one, with many people, I feel like death is one of those things that is taken as a life experience. So, unfortunately, I’ve been close to people who have died. I’ve gone to school with people, and at a young age, their lives were taken. It really gave me an outlook on life. I gotta learn from my mistakes. If you make the same mistakes, you ain’t going nowhere. I’ve always been a person about progression. I can’t be complacent. I gotta keep going forward with anything that I do. An event like that with losing people who are close to you, even though gun violence, or illness—whatever—those types of events in life gave me a different outlook on things.
AllHipHop.com: People appreciate your mixtapes series, Southern N*ggas Ain’t Slow. From The Tribute, my favorite track is “Exception”. That track is raw. Today, what motivates you to strive for more?
J. NICS: There are a lot of different things. Those things really don’t change. I’m motivated by my family. I’m motivated by my life’s experiences. Things like that motivate me; I’m really family orientated. I feel like that’s the basis for a lot of things. By family, I don’t just mean my blood, I mean my friends. I keep a very tight circle of people around me, and those people are my family. They motivate me, because we’re all in this sh*t together. As a unit, we’re all rocking together. My daughter motivates me. Seeing her, I know that I created a life. In this world, I want her to have the best possible opportunities. You feel me.
AllHipHop.com: You sound like a real man right now.
J. NICS: [chuckles] I mean, I am a real man.
AllHipHop.com: From The Product, on “Kung Fu” you say: “…I don’t write about sh*t I don’t do…”In relation to Hip-Hop, is there a difference between telling lies and entertaining? How do you balance poetic intent with realistic accounts?
J. NICS: Like I said, the thing about it is that pureness. That’s my approach to the artistic form. A lot of artists, they’re not doing it. Now a lot of rappers aren’t making music that’s pure to them. Okay, everybody’s doing this because it’s the cool or the trendy thing to do. It’s not coming from the pure form. When I came and I first started making music and writing, I wasn’t doing it, because everybody was a rapper. Or because rapping was a cool thing to do; I did it because that’s what spoke to my heart. So, that’s what I end up doing.
As a kid, before I started rapping and emceeing, I was writing. I used to write stories. I would take an event that happened to me and just write a story about it. You’re a journalist, you understand when you take a story, and you get inspired by it. With my music, I’ve been influenced a lot by Scarface, and Biggie, and Jay[-Z]. Their music always played out like a movie. So, a lot of times, I try and do that with my music. Sometimes, the story that I’m talking about is my life, or sometimes it’s a story to where I’m speaking from the perspective of someone. Either I met that person, or it’s a mentality of someone that I know. You know what I’m saying. Instead of just saying the mentality, as a character I’m describing that mentality. Great artists like Jay[-Z], B.I.G., and Scarface were able to do that. Adding that element of street, and realness of your reality and the things that you grew up in, your surroundings, but you’re taking to it to another poetic and lyrical zone. I feel like that’s dope.
AllHipHop.com: With “Kung Fu”, what happened first, did you have the concept and lyrics; or, did you have that Lottery beat?
J. NICS: Actually, the beat was first. When I heard the beat and how they flipped the sample, I was like, ‘Man, that sh*t’s hard.’ I was like “Kung Fu!” I love the f*cking name. I was like, Kung Fu, hell yeah. With a lot of my music, I’ll write it on the spot. It’s like I hear the beat for the first time, or I’m even there while the beat is being created, and then I just write the song. It’s all in one motion. Making a song is like throwing a punch. It’s like all in one motion. Everything flows, from the creation of the beat, to the writing of the lyrics, to the recording, and the mixing of the song.
AllHipHop.com: Earlier, you touched on this, now I’d like you to go into greater depth. In an interview that you did with KevinNottingham.com you said, “I make the music that I make, not because I’m trying to impress somebody or anything, I make it because that’s the kind of music I like to hear.” When you’re creating music, is it done purely for cathartic reasons? Why do you do it?
J. NICS: As an artist, it’s important to hear your music as a listener, and not get caught up into your music itself. Musically, I know what I like, and what certain elements that I like to hear. When I hear a beat, this beat makes me feel this way; so this type of element is coming out me. When I hear the beat it might feel real aggressive. So, that’s the type of emotion that’s going to come on the track. It all depends and I feel like that’s the beauty of it. That’s the beauty of music - it can be anything.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s discuss Miami’s Hip-Hop reformation. Right now, ¡MAYDAY!, Space Ghost Purp, Golden, and yourself have my ear. What are your thoughts on the local Hip-Hop scene?
J. NICS: It’s dope. I think it’s at the best that it’s ever been. All my life I’ve been down here. I’ve never seen the music scene the way that it is now, as far as the artists that are coming out and what they’re able to do. A lot of factors have to do with that. It’s timing, it’s the type of artists, it’s the type of music, and it’s the place to where music is as a whole. It’s just a lot of different factors that. It’s beautiful. There are a lot of good things going on down here in Miami. From music, to art, to sports, to you name it. Right now, it’s just a real blossoming and flourishing city.
AllHipHop.com: Come on, you said sports? Are the Dolphins any good? F*ck the Heat.
J. NICS: [chuckles] I understand. You’re an OKC fan. It’s okay. I got on a Heat jacket right now.
AllHipHop.com: Well, I enjoyed the interview. Good day, sir! BOOOO!
J. NICS: [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: I’m hearing great things from your upcoming project DarkSide. “Wonderland” is still on repeat. How did you hook up with DJ Burn One? How does his creativity complement yours?
J. NICS: I did a show at A3C on the DJBooth stage. There he ended up DJing for me. Then we ran into each other again at South By Southwest. I had an album release party for Southern N*ggas Ain’t Slow; he came down and DJ'd for me then. From there, we just got into the studio. We just kept seeing each other around and kept working with each other. He’s a dope producer; I’m a huge fan of his. So, when he came down to Miami, we just f*cking got into the studio and started working on some tracks. The next thing you know, we got an album.
Working with him was really dope, because, right there on the spot, he makes like all of his beats from scratch. With me being an artist that likes to move in a fluid motion when making music. It was the perfect combination. He’s making the beat then and there, and I’m writing the outline for my hook; or, maybe starting on my verse. This was the first project that I ever did where I traveled around and recorded. Usually, I would record all my stuff in Miami. Working with him, I was branching out to different worlds. I recorded in Miami, I recorded in Atlanta, I recorded in New Jersey and New York. So, I got to go around to different places. You know, we were still moving in the same forward motion, and creating on the spot. It was dope, and a great experience.
AllHipHop.com: Your physical appearance demands attention. A lot of these rappers are petite while you’re tall, very nice, and juicy. Plus, you have a voice like a man.
J. NICS: [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: How are you making time to incorporate romantic love within your profession?
J. NICS: I got a daughter, you know what I’m saying. Her mother holds it down. I just be out here doing my thing, just vibing, man. I really don’t put too much thought into that. When it comes to situations like that, I’m more of the go-with-the-flow feelings. I never go out looking for anything. It just comes.
AllHipHop.com: You can recognize the difference between a good woman and a bopper?
J. NICS: Yes, I can definitely recognize that difference. Those characteristics will show. Like I told you, when I was young, I learned from some old heads that been put me up on game. So, this ain’t my first OK Corral. [laughs] So, I’m well aware. You got to be well aware. That’s what a Mack does. A Mack ain’t a person who’s a player or a pimp; a Mack is someone who knows and understands the game. You got to know and to understand the game on every level.
AllHipHop.com: In what ways are you working to become a better MC and a better man?
J. NICS: As a better MC, I always try and challenge myself with different things musically. I always try and step outside of my boundaries. When I’m working on a project I’m in a certain mode. There’ll be a certain vibe for that project. Then I’ll go on and move into something else that’s maybe completely different. I hate being complacent. It gets boring, you know what I’m saying. The thing with music is it always has to feel new and fresh. There has to be purity for me really to be vibing it. As a man, I always try and learn something new. As a human, you should always try to learn something new to be a better person. So, every day I’m becoming a better person.
AllHipHop.com: Until the next time that I’m able to do you, what would you like to share with your supporters?
J. NICS: Everybody that’s rocking with me, just know that I’ma keep on rocking with you. I’m going to keep on being myself. I’m going to keep evolving and making different sounding music. The people that listen to my music, I feel like they’re people who evolve as well. They should be able to understand and respect that.
Follow J. NICS on Twitter (@JNICS_305).