The origin is essential to any story of success. No one begins at their destination, there’s always a story of the journey. Without knowing of the rags, there’s very little beauty to the riches. I love all that Jay Z the rapper has accomplished, but it wouldn’t be the same without knowing Shawn Carter the hustler. When I got on the phone with NicX, a promising Cleveland-born but Atlanta-bred rapper, the first question was about what made him start making music. A simple question, some would even consider it mundane, but the answer he gave me wasn’t just the beginning of his rap career, it was the moment that would change his entire life.
“I couldn’t rap to save my life,” he recalled with a laugh. It was a confession he didn’t dare admit after being approached by a group of guys on the second day at a new school. He had just moved to Atlanta from Cleveland, a change of scenery encouraged by his mother. A little drug dealing is what got him sent down south to live with his father, and that’s how he ended up in Duluth High School being peer pressured to join a rap clique. We joked about how his life sounded like a movie waiting to be written, especially once he told me about his first writing session, “I realized while I was writing how good it felt to express myself because I was going through a lot at the time. Around that time, Charles Hamilton, J. Cole, B.o.B, Wale and Drake—that group of rappers inspired me to write more.”
By complete accident, he found an outlet, a form of expression that made him feel a way he hadn’t before. All it took was hearing his voice come through the speakers to know that music is all he wanted to do. The more he wrote, the more he recorded, the more people would gravitate toward him, and even begin to sell him dreams of record deals—it wasn’t long before he started to envision touring instead of focusing on grades in the classroom. After the completion and release of his first mixtape, NicXnation, he decided to drop out and pursue his dream.
On “Flight 319,” the single that appears on his forthcoming Tryna Get Home EP, NicX raps, “My life ain’t terrific, my life is so stereotypical, I struggled in school, then dropped out of school, now I’m a rapper.” The line isn’t completely true, it doesn’t give context to the reason why he left school, and it’s far from typical:
“I dropped out of school because me and my dad didn’t have a stable living situation. Every three months we were evicted. When I first moved in with him, we were living out of an extended stay. He couldn’t really save money because of paying child support for his three kids and me, even though I was living with him, my mom wouldn't give him a break. Every time he got paid he only made like $50 out of his checks. He couldn’t provide for me and him. We would move and get evicted from everywhere. It just got to the point where I didn’t have a house to call a home. You go home to think straight, you go home to do your homework, you go home to figure things out. I couldn’t figure out anything because I didn’t have that. We’re sleeping on people's couches while I’m in high school, I wasn’t thinking straight on that. All this was happening while working on 'NicXnation.' I put my heart into that and was able to share my story with people at school and they loved it. When that happened, I left school."
Comfort, it's the first word that comes to mind when I think of home. There’s a feeling like no other walking through the front door, entering the sacred sanctuary, and having a sense of solace wash over you. NicX never had that home, nor the comfort of a stable living condition. Couch to couch, apartment to apartment, state to state—he became somewhat of a nomad, but he never lost his focus on music. He taught himself to record, produce and engineer his own music. NicX took his destiny into his own hands. It became his driving force to find a way out.
Knowing the lack of a stable home, I asked if his EP title reflected that part of his life:
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“Life was hitting me to the point there was nothing I could do. I was with my boy, and he told me, 'At the end of the day—you, me, everybody we are all trying to get home. We’re all trying to get to a certain place and say we made it.' A lot of people out here are lost, they are trying to get somewhere, the place where everything makes sense. I think they’re trying to get home.”
A bad record deal that affected how he released music, losing family members, starving, losing a supportive girlfriend, being betrayed by those he believed he could trust, and constantly moving all transpired during the making of Tryna Get Home. All the stress led to indulging in Adderall; it turned into a dependency, a form of escape until he felt the effects of his addiction. Beating the drug was a necessary battle to complete the album. He considered this the toughest time of his life. Everything was for the sake of getting this music done. The music is filled with emotion for this very reason—you can hear it not only in the lyrics but in the tone of his voice. He's someone who has fought his way out of the darkest dungeons.
There’s a reason why the EP is only six songs. Originally, NicX planned for more, but another bizarre detour got in his way:
“My hard drive broke that had the music that I been working on since 2012. Everything was deleted, and the only files that I had in my Dropbox are the songs on 'Tryna Get Home.' I was supposed to call my manager and discuss the track listing, and right before that happened my hard drive broke. The day before I cleared off everything from my computer and backed it up on the hard drive. What’s crazy is, my manager texted me before he knew the hard drive broke telling me that he thought the EP should be the songs in the Dropbox. I took it that the universe was against me and that I should just go with the flow.”
These six songs are the only files that survived; the music that the universe left him. He’s optimistic, knowing that he’ll have a chance to release an album 100% his way one day. Talking to NicX, it’s like hearing a resilient spirit who refused to allow the tough times to get the best of him. A unique voice that took his Cleveland hunger, his Atlanta creativity, and the struggles of his life and poured it into his art. It's passionate, personal, and mixed with the pain and aggression that comes with the life he's lived. He’s an outlaw who only knows how to overcome.
I wouldn't bet against such a fighter. Tryna Get Home is just the beginning, the first chapter of what could very well be a long tale.
By Yoh, aka Yohmad, aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: Instagram