Nebula: Rapper, Songwriter and Performing Artist
“Abstract rappers are harder to come by and often have harder journeys to success”
Tell us a bit about your background, when did you start performing? and how have you pursued your love for music?
My introduction to music was via my mum’s old MacBook that she was no longer using. At age 12, this was my first computer, and it had a pre-installed app called Garageband. I can’t remember if I opened it on purpose or by accident but either way, this was my first occurrence of musical production software. I was obsessed with creating pieces of out of the loops that came with the app. Eventually, I began to add vocals to these beats as the laptop had a microphone also. The quality of the music at this time was terrible but I loved it. It influenced me to pick Music Tech as a GCSE option so I could learn more about the craft. I was lucky enough to go to a school that had 2 fully furnished professional recording studios so these became my new base for creativity.
Between the teachings of the music department and my own experiences of trial and error, I was able to really nail down all the fundamentals. My initial experience of performing would come from the school’s period music recitals which were generally focused on the school’s jazz band and orchestra, but they would invite other musical pupils to perform also. Since leaving school, I continued my passion for music at university, purchasing my own studio equipment and joining the university’s hip-hop society - regularly performing at uni and non-uni events across Nottingham. Since leaving university, the balance between work and music is very different but I’m still able to make it work and give it the time and dedication it needs!
As a rapper you go by the name ‘Nebula’, can you talk a bit about why you chose that name? Do you consider your artist self as a persona?
Funny story – I actually took the name Nebula from a shower gel bottle. It was initially meant to just be a placeholder name as I was struggling to find something that I liked and then I never ended up changing it, the name just kind of stuck. I think it would be easy to fall into the trap of seeing “Nebula” as a whole different person especially as it has largely become my social handle but ultimately, I think the value of my music comes from my sincerity and authenticity, so I see it more of an extension of myself rather than a whole new persona.
Majority of our readers are part of indie/rock bands, so I think a lot of people would be interested in hearing more about your writing process. Do you start with words first then find a rhythm? What’s your style of approach?
I am very picky with the beats I choose; I will literally sit at my computer for hours as I skip through beats that have either been sent to me or are on YouTube, SoundCloud etc. But as soon I find one that I truly like and resonate with, ideas will come to me almost like instinct. It can either be a phrase that I want to build around or a particular flow/set of flows. From there, it’s a matter of settling on an overall concept and purpose to the song and using that as an anchor that all lyrics should point back to.
Your most recent single “Small Talk” has the lyrics, “I look around and see bombs in abundance, by the hundreds, I can’t believe that they’ve done this, so when I come with the punches, rain down like May weather, whatever the month is”, these lyrics are so plosive and emotive, can you talk about how those words came to be?
So, the lyric is actually “I see bums in abundance” - not as in the body part but using “bum” in its colloquial sense to refer to lazy people, it follows the initial bars of the second verse which are all based around comparing my abilities to that of other rappers. The final lines are a play on words as I’m referring to May weather i.e., rain as well as Floyd Mayweather the boxer who of course throws punches.
The artwork for “Small Talk”, where did the idea for that come from? and how was it created?
One thing about making music that a lot of people don’t realise is quite how expensive it is. After paying for a beat, engineering, artwork, paying for promotion, PR & Marketing services etc, the release of a single song could cost into the £100s depending on the level you want to push it to. I’m a big fan of cutting corners so when it comes to artwork, my first go-to is to visit sites that offer free-to-license images to see if they have anything creative to offer before going to a graphic designer if not. Luckily enough, after hours of searching, I came across what became the final artwork for Small Talk. It’s a very striking and abstract image that is still able to be tied to the song as the man in the image is covering his mouth, thus promoting the idea of not doing small talk.
For you, what makes a good rapper? Is it the projection of the words or the quality of the writing? There’s always a debate around music versus lyrics, which one has the most precedence in your opinion?
In my opinion, I think the criteria for assessing the quality of how well someone raps should be: range of content, range of flow, clear delivery and use of linguistic techniques i.e., metaphors, similes, sibilance etc. But there is a big difference between being a good rapper and making good music – being a good overall artist is much more about having a good ear for production, appropriate pairing of lyrics to production, being innovative and unique etc. In terms of my own musical taste, having a good beat is what will get my attention but having something interesting to say in your lyrics is what will actually hold my interest.
Here at The Record Press, we like to adopt an interdisciplinary lens, looking at how art forms merge and intertwine. There are a lot of crossovers between rap, poetry and specifically, slam poetry. Do you see the rap and poetry as symbiotic? Would you ever call yourself a poet? Do you think writing rap is like writing poetry?
There is definitely a strong connection between rap and poetry – supposedly rap is an acronym for “Rhythmic African Poetry”. I would never personally describe myself as a poet as I just feel the rules, restrictions and culture of rap are intrinsically different from poetry, but they share the same literary essence. What generally separates rap from other mainstream forms of music is the overtness of the lyrics, it’s very much like an essay in terms of how there’s a concept or topic to be addressed and the rapper in question will boldly say what they mean and mean what they say. Abstract rappers are harder to come by and often have harder journeys to success. Poetry can be similar in its overtness but there is also a big allowance and praise for more abstract poetry also.
A huge thanks goes to Nebula for chatting with us about some really interesting topics, we wish him and his music career the very best.
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