24: Introduce yourself to everyone that doesn’t already know who you are.
J. Nic$ is a rapper from Miami, preferably the uptown area. I got hard lyrics, harsh lyrics talking about the struggles of growing up in Miami in this fast paced, hustle and grind atmosphere but mixed in with some street knowledge. I wanna kick knowledge to niggaz. I don’t want niggaz to be like “he can spit”. I want niggaz to feel like they done learned something from listening to my music so I consider myself somewhat of a scholar more than a rapper.
24: How did you come up with the name J. Nic$?
It’s simple. It’s just a play on my government name. I didn’t want to go out and create an alias when I was just like, “I’m just me” so that’s how it came about.
24: What was the Hip hop scene like growing up in Miami?
It was real one-sided. When Big died, I was 13 and I got good at it really quick. People knew that I rapped but I was spittin’ lyrics and punchlines, niggaz didn’t want to hear that shit back then. Niggaz wanted to hear “girl shake dat ass, pop dat pussy” (laughs). It was all about club songs, partying, heavy bass. There wasn’t any room for a rapper but it’s definitely changed since then.
24: Who were some of the artists that inspired you to be who you are today?
First one, off rip is Biggie Smalls. Biggie is my favorite rapper. He’s the reason I started rapping and I didn’t start until the day he died. Before he died, I didn’t rap, I was just a fan of music. After he died, I use to just be reciting this niggaz rhymes all the time till one day I was just like “fuck it, I’ma start rapping”. Big Gipp from Goodie Mobb was another one because he was slept one but the nigga had a hell of a delivery and he always talked about some real shit I could relate too and Jay-Z of course. He’s the greatest. Gotta put Jay-Z in there and Nas. He’s another great storyteller and his lyricism is crazy. Those are the artists that inspired me.
24: You’ve been compared to many artists, Beanie Sigel in particular. How do you view comparisons to such great MC’s like Beans?
I take pride in that because Beanie Sigel is dope. All my influences were great. They had great delivery, they were great MC’s, that to me makes a great MC. You gotta have great delivery, lyrical content and everything that comes with it. With me being raised in Miami and being influenced by all the South shit, but still maintaining that “core” learning, that’s what makes me who I am but the comparisons are cool.
24: What would J. Nic$ say his style and sound is?
I could never describe my style and sound but I can tell you how most people describe my sound. They describe it as I have a southern style but really lyrical, sort of like Beanie Sigel if he was born in Mississippi (laughs). That’s the kind of style.
24: Have you ever felt like too much time passes in the game where you have to make it and that window is closing?
At one point I felt like that. This was before I put out the Dirty Sneakers mixtape, probably two years ago. I was feeling like “man it’s over”. It felt like Miami’s wave had came and left because [Rick] Ross had popped and it was a wave of Miami artists getting signed but then that shit just stopped so I was like “it’s over for me. I might as well do some other shit”.
24: What strides do you take to make sure J. Nic$ stands out amongst the other fresh talent arising out of Miami?
The first thing is beat selection. That’s the first key because that’s the first thing people listen too when they hear your music. Every so often, you’ll start to hear everybody using the same producers and they get the same sound. I make sure I never use that sound. The biggest compliment I use to get for my “Dirty Sneakers” project was on the beat selection. It was just different. Beats that you’ve never heard before or usual don’t hear people rap on so I’m always looking for that different beat. A beat that you really gotta be a rapper to get on. There’s some beats that’s already laid out for you. The flow is already there, the hook is already there for you, beats like those, I don’t use. I only use beats where you have to make the song. As long as I do that, then I’m gonna stand out because I’m going to be myself and nobody’s like me so I’m going to stand out automatically so I go for the beat you wouldn’t usually use. “The road less traveled…” (laughs).
24: Let’s talk briefly talk about your first mixtape Dirty Sneakers. Because of the eclectic soundscape, Dirty Sneakers’ overall feel was similar to that of an EP or better yet an album. Why did you go that route as opposed to the usual jacking-for-beats/freestyle format on most mixtapes?
When I originally did Dirty Sneakers, it was gon’ be an album from jump. I felt like it was the perfect time to drop it since I was coming back in music so I still approached it like an album but I didn’t know any producers so I did the next best thing; I got a bunch of instrumentals that you wouldn’t think of or weren’t so popular but still were good beats. I have to credit a lot of that to my C9 family, especially Fr3sh Nerd. He’d just shoot me beats every day. He’d give me a new beat CD and I’d write a bunch of songs. I recorded so much music for Dirty Sneakers, that’s why it’s even a long-ass CD but I even had more than that but the whole concept of Dirty Sneakers was originally for an album.
24: On “Dirty Sneakers”, was it a conscious decision not to include a lot of features?
Yes because after coming back from a year and a half hiatus after dropping the mixtape, if I would’ve came back out with my first mixtape and had a bunch of features on it, I don’t feel people would’ve been able to grasp who I was. They would’ve been like “who’s this nigga?” That’s why I didn’t want features on it because I wanted people to know I am J. Nic$ and this is what I do; I rap. I feel that was a great decision to do that. If I would’ve put it out with a bunch of features, I feel like I wouldn’t even be here. I wouldn’t be doing this interview right now.
24: Are you happy with the feedback you’ve been getting from the public since its release?
I love the feedback. I didn’t expect it. I expected Dirty Sneakers to come out and people be like “whatever”. I put all this hard work into it and I see how things are done in the Miami scene are just starting to pick up, just a little bit so all of the feedback is a great feeling especially when I do something that I put my heart into and people except it and they love it on top of that, that’s a greater feeling.
24: Since then you’ve been getting a lot of exposure on independent and major websites and blogs off the strengths of your singles and mixtapes. How does it feel to get recognition from the public for all of your hard work?
It feels great, especially from being down here, it lets me know that things are changing. As far as what I’ve been doing or how I been making my music, nothing’s changed. It’s just finally people are taking notice to it so it feels great. It feel good when you put in hard work and people take notice. I’m on “cloud 9” (laughs).
24: Let’s move forward. Tell us about your new project, “The Stimulus Package” which dropped today. What was the concept and creative process behind it? How have you grown since Dirty Sneakers?
The whole process and concept behind the project came from how I was feeling after put out Dirty Sneakers. Dirty Sneakers got so much love and so much acknowledgement so fast, I didn’t know how to take it so I went through a little period of time of not knowing what I wanted to do next. I’d say I was going to do one thing, then turn around and be like “nah I’m not going to do that”. It got to a point where I was like “Damn! I wish I could say I’m J. Nic$!!!” Then I was like “Fuck it! J. Nic$ for President” but we scrapped that idea and focused mainly on The Stimulus Package. As for my growth, I’ve grown a lot since Dirty Sneakers. Dirty Sneakers was basically if somebody just jumbled me up and put me on a record, this is what you’d get. This is all J. Nic$ can do. The Stimulus Package is more centralized; more records about my life and where I came from and who I am. With the Stimulus Package, I want people to feel like they know J. Nic$. They know where I’m from and where I’m from.
24: What was your inspiration for the hit single “The Illustration”?
It kinda came from when I first heard the beat. The feeling it gave me. The thing about me is when I write music, I see what I’m going to say before I write it down. The beat made me envision a cold street, like an alley and from there, I just started thinking about things that I’m seeing in the city and things within the inner-city down here in Miami, like how it is, how people are and it just kinda formed from there. Especially with that kick in the beat. When the beat drops, I was like yea “this dat shit I gotta murder” and at the same time I felt like I haven’t put out a record like that in awhile. Something undeniably lyrical and just had to feel. Other records I put out, they were good, something you could vibe too, something you could smoke too but the illustration was something I had to let niggaz know that lyrically I’m still here. Ain’t shit change.
24: How would you describe the changes in the Miami rap scene from when you first started rapping to now?
Now you can be from Miami and be a rapper! (laughs). Before you couldn’t be from Miami and be a rapper. You had to be a DJ. That’s basically what it was; the form of MCing as a DJ. You had to be on turntables, you had to get the crowd hype, just party music. Now you can be a rapper and not make party music. Now you can make the music you want to make so it changed drastically. It went from “I’m from Miami and I’m a DJ” to “I’m from Miami and I’m a lyricist”. That’s where it’s at now and I love that.
24: One of my favorites songs that your on is not even a J. Nic$ record. Your verse on the “Black Ice” record by fellow C9 artists Phresh James and Lil Champ along with D.Ca$h, Jigg, Nak and Plus Givens to me is a modern day classic. How did your contribution to the song come about?
I knew about the record for a long time. I was actually staying in Orlando at the time when I first heard about it and knew it was going to be on the [Phresh James & Lil Champ] “M.I.Aliens”. They told they were doing the record and originally I had another verse and it was nothing like that one. It was more conscious and talking about life and all that shit but when I came to visit one day, it was just to do the record so when we got back in the studio and I heard the beat, I was just in a mode where I was like, “you got Phresh James on here, Jigg on this shit, these niggaz beast! I don’t want to get outshined on this shit!” so I was like “let me put this conscious-ass verse up and write some real shit. Let me write some raw shit”. I wrote the verse on the spot, just went in a recorded it. I think I was the last person to hear everybody on the record. I did my verse and next thing you know, I was back on my way to Orlando so I didn’t hear the final product till way later.
24: Well thank you sir for putting that “conscious-ass” verse away (laughs)
24: Now on a serious note, when your on the studio working on records, do you still stay with the traditional pen and a pad or do you dabble in the trend of coming up with the verse in your head?
It depends on the record and it depends on the quality of the marijuana. Like if have some loud-ass weed, and I’m just in my zone and the beat gives me a feeling, it depends. I actually did that on Dirty Sneakers on a record called “Backed Again”. I did that whole record off the top, no pen no pad. I was feelin’ it, I was vibin’, the weed was good and I just went in. I like that feeling, not having the pen and pad. It gives you a more freer feel. I’m actually preparing myself to get better at that. When I write a verse, I memorize it. I don’t like going into the booth too much and having to look at a pad or at my phone, especially now that I’m getting into the routine of performing. I see myself getting to that level but I haven’t reached that yet. I haven’t reached that Jay-Z and Rick Ross level yet but one day I will.
24: Do you enjoy the social networking aspect of the game or do you look at it like it’s something you have to do like giving away free music?
The social networking aspect… It’s kind of give or take with me. I enjoy it to a certain extent, but with anything you run into certain people that you’re not, you know… “kind of” (laughs) but that’s a part of the game just like it’s a part of the grind now with giving free music. You gotta do that. You gotta network with people but at the end of the day, I keep it G with everybody so I keep a small circle. I network with a lot of people but I only deal with a certain group of people and they all know who they are.
24: Where do you see yourself going in 2010?
Up! (laughs). I look at it like, I get more energy the more I do. The more I do, the more I feel like I have to grind. I’m not a person that’s like “oh, now I got thins so now I can fall back”. The more I get people looking at me, the more I’m like “I gotta step it up now” and let people know. I believe in hard work paying off. I wouldn’t say I see myself signed, but I do see more people knowing more of who I am by the end of the year on a regional and national level.
24: How do you feel about the current state of music in general?
I like it. I like the way it is. I feel like now, especially with the internet, we’ve taken power out of the hands of the corporate “fat cats” (laughs). It’s not up to them on who’s hot. The people choose who’s hot and who’s not now because everything is internet based. A lot of artists are dropping albums not even in the stores, just strictly off the internet and their doing well. Now I look at it like it’s about your grind. Before, it was about who you knew, now it’s about your grind. If you grind now, you’ll be where you want to be that’s why I love the state of hip hop the way it is now. It’s all about the artist now.
24: What does longevity mean to you in today’s music market?
Longevity was something that you use to see more back in the day, back when I was coming up. Nowadays, I don’t see most artists that are coming out having longevity, even myself at some point, not because of the music, but just because of how people are nowadays. People’s attention spans are way shorter then they were before that’s hy I feel like the music is getting shorter, the albums are getting shorter and in return with all of that, careers are going to get shorter. Artist like Jay-Z and Nas are still putting out albums 10, 15 years through their career. I don’t see any new artists 10 years from I’ll still want to listen to. The way music is evolving, I feel like the longevity of an artist has shorten but you can still have longevity but it’s gonna be a lot harder. Once I’ve said everything I need to say, I have no problem retiring so get as much J. Nic$ as you can (laughs). That’s whay I want to make my music timeless.
24: Who was the last new artist you liked and why?
J. Cole is the last one to come out that I liked and the reason why is because dude’s a monster! J. Cole’s just a beast. The first time I heard J. Cole, I heard of him through other people, but it wasn’t until I saw a Youtube video for “Simba” and it was directed by B.B. Gun. I remember when I saw that video and I heard that verse, I was like ” this nigga’s sick! He’s ill!!” I automatically was a fan. I rarely get like that about a new artist because I’m still a new artist. Most new artists, I look at them as competition. I’ll be like “yea ok. Let me go in the lab now” (laughs) but J. Cole was one an artist who when I heard his music, I fucked with his music.
24:Well that’s all the time we have, thank you for providing 24hourhiphop.com with this exclusive interview, do you have any last words for your present and future fans?
Go get that Stimulus Package. It’s out now and at the end of the day, it’s a lot of good music out there so take a notice to it because it ain’t always gon’ be here…
Follow Us On Twitter:
J. NIC$ “The Stimulus Package” Mixtape http://usershare.net/ec98imrikp7p
J. NIC$ “The Illustration” (Produced By Mr. Familiar): http://usershare.net/uscf259yubhd
J. NIC$ “Bumbo Claat” (Produced By D. Money): http://www.limelinx.com/files/6ce1531f0cb04615f25e6b2cfb037255
J. NIC$ & Phresh James “Soul Searching” [Feat. Vito] (Produced By Nuri): http://limelinx.com/files/22b988b83ae160303d8e60494f7588d6
J. NIC$ Phresh James Golden Lil Champ & Sean Buck “C-95 Freestyle”: http://limelinx.com/files/aed0ce32c0ce9bbc1ccc4857617d449a
J. NIC$ “Dirty Sneakers Mixtape”: http://usershare.net/mez2whuaap5y