Natia Would Cleave Off His Pinky to Keep Rapping: Interview

“This album is my ‘Illmatic.’”
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Natia Interview, 2019

Natia may be “The God,” but he deals in humility. An adept rapper bringing to life grimy East Coast sensibilities with immutable West Coast zeal, Natia, 26, takes life’s unkindness in stride. To say Natia has been humbled by his struggles would be to miss the point: He is not a victim of hardship, but an inventor of solutions in the face of strife. 

In 2017, we first spoke with Natia in a West Los Angeles park, as he showed our writer Miguelito how to arrange a bench into the proper corner so as not to get caught using it as a bed. Natia is as intuitive in his real life as he is in his brutish raps. He’s also funny as fuck. Every moment of our interview is capped off with a hearty laugh.

“This music shit brings tears to my eyes,” Natia tells me over the phone. “It brings feeling. It brings happiness, sparks joy. Nobody knows what music means to me. If they told me I gotta take my pinky off? Where the cleaver at?… I could be the angriest motherfucker in the whole world, but [when] I start rhyming against the beats… I start smiling. Then, I can change people’s perspectives, too. That’s what makes me happy [laughs].”

In life, there is the survival phase, and then there is the living phase. As in, you learn how to make it through the bitter times, and then you become okay. The next challenge is to learn how to cope with yourself and all of life’s little oddities. With that in mind, the Inglewood native’s latest album, aptly titled Natia the God LP, made two years ago, is a mafioso-tinged look at how we cope. Particularly, “Wrong Way Pt. 3” confronts the vices Natia has accumulated to deal with himself. On “Bender,” Natia recalls the great bender of his life thus far, and how it’s spoiled everything. But even so, he still lives by his 2017 motto of doing one thing to better himself every day.

“I just think about being famous and rich, and helping people,” Natia concludes. “It’s from being homeless, and seeing the people around me. Hearing the conversations you have with different people, you learn. You learn to be a nice person, and [that] everything will be okay. You think of better days, every time. If you at the bottom, there’s nothing else but the top.”

Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

Natia Interview, 2019

DJBooth: It’s been two years since your last DJBooth interview. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about yourself in that time?

Natia: Probably, myself. I learned my mistakes and what not to do and who not to ask, and the actions I should do by myself. I kept thinking I needed people around me. I wasn’t going in on myself and focusing 110 percent as I should have. It’s been a struggle for these past two years, being homeless and all this other shit… But everything happens for a reason. Two years just flashed before my eyes! The most I probably learned? My work ethic. I say that every day: I gotta work harder. Nobody gon’ do it, but you.

How do you cope with all your struggles?

This music shit brings tears to my eyes. It brings feeling. It brings happiness, sparks joy. Nobody knows what music means to me. If they told me I gotta take my pinky off? Where the cleaver at? The way everybody else treats music, it makes me sad and pisses me the fuck off. This shit changes my whole mood. I could be the angriest motherfucker in the whole world, but [when] I start rhyming against the beats… I start smiling. Then, I can change people’s perspectives, too. That’s what makes me happy [laughs].

It’s easy to, in the face of hardship, give in to terrible coping mechanisms. How do you keep yourself away from those? Or, at least try, since we’re only human.

Damn, right!? It’s so fucking hard. I give in so easily, so I can’t even lie to you. The most I try to do is think about the future: What I could have, what’s possible, what [lives] I could change.

In 2017, you told us, “I have miserable days, but I try to make one thing about myself better every day.” What have you been doing for yourself lately?

I have been trying to do a lot of shows and networking. Inner Wave liked my music, and they were listening to my songs every day on tour. I’ve never been on tour, and I’m infatuated with it. They liked my shit, so I’m like… I need to keep going out, reaching out… That’s one thing I gotta work on is my networking. Especially these past two years, I knew I needed to talk to some important people. And [also] prioritizing songs and knowing my audience. That was one of my biggest things, too, learning my audience. I got those shits down.

How do you maintain the “better every day” attitude when life is so exhausting and often bleak?

You know my middle name is Happy, right? Deadass. I’m cursed [laughs]. I think of the future. I’ve had a cavity since I was 19, and I’m like, “When I get rich, I’m gonna get a good doctor.” I think about being famous and rich and helping people. Just invest in the people.

Natia Interview, 2019

What strikes me about you and your work, going back to 10K Hours and now on Natia the God LP, is your optimism, humor, and humility. Where do those qualities come from?

It’s from being homeless and seeing the people around me. Hearing the conversations you have with different people, you learn. You learn to be a nice person, and [that] everything will be okay. You think of better days, every time. If you at the bottom, there’s nothing else but the top.

On “Bring The Pain,” you talk about getting respect. What does respect look like to you?

Legendary status. My rhyme schemes, my beat selection, what you can learn from my shit. And numbers, man. Hopefully, I do numbers. And my legacy! That’s respect. I want people to see where I came from. All the struggles, every obstacle, and respect that like, “This guy got here.” That’s what respect is; when somebody sees where you came from and where you are now.

“Bender” is the emotional climax of the LP. Can you talk to me about writing that one?

I was actually on a five-day bender that day. The homie was in the studio, recording a guitar, and I just sang, “I been on a bender.” I went through some struggles during that time and just put the emotions on the record.

Are you ever scared of getting too emotional?

Nah, I’mma open book. I ain’t scared to say anything. It’s up to you to judge, but I know you gon’ feel [the music] in the pit of your stomach. I’m trying to tell you [something], so you can learn from my mistakes, you know?

What’s the most important lesson of the LP?

I’m the whole fucking package! I can storytell, I can make hits. You wanna talk about girls? You wanna talk about life? I’m on some whole other shit. I just wanna teach the kids to be honest; teach the kids what real music is. This album is my Illmatic. That’s the biggest summary right there. No skips! Yo, no skips!

What’s the best part of your life—you can’t say music.

The love of my life, my girl. Been with her for four years. We slept in a car together for the whole summer. When I slept on the streets, she would be in New York City buying me pizza, trying to find a way. She got me by. My girl is my best friend, and I know it sounds corny, but she put me through some good times. Like a teammate. I know most n****s is afraid to say shit like that, ‘cause they cornballs. But I could say that.

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