At age 19 I was living in the mountains of Montana, working at the college newspaper, and using my shitty fake ID to get into bars. This is probably sounds like the typical college-age male (except for the living in Montana part as we know that only weirdos, hippies, and ranchers live there). Hal Williams is not your typical 19-year-old. Williams, a member of Los Angeles-based Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them and Atlanta’s Nobody Really Knows, is a trailblazer. At age 19, Williams has already self-produced (with OF’s Matt Martians) two stellar releases of mostly instrumentals (with the occasional goofiness of Tyler, The Creator and others added in).
He has also had his hands in a number of NRK releases, including his forthcoming solo debut under name of Pyramid Vritra. Included with the post is a sketch of one of the songs from Williams’ solo debut, the epic “Elenor.” At over 18 minutes the long, the song plays more like a novella with different movements detailing Pyramid Vritra’s relationship with the title character. Needless to say, Williams is prolific, driven, and way too talented for someone at that age. Williams was nice enough to answer some of my queries about his dual nature as a member of two burgeoning hip-hop collectives. Here is what he had to say, unedited, misspellings and all:
Introduce yourself and your group (like a newspaper personal). What is NRK? What is OF?
Hal Williams of the Jet age of tomorrow and the super 3 (from OF), also known as “Pyramid Vritra” (a rapper/producer/musician from NRK)
NRK (Nobody Really Knows) is a collective of musicians based out of Atlanta. OF “odd future” is a collective of musicians based out of LA (which includes me and matt as the band “The Jet Age Of Tomorrow” and as the production team “The Super 3”)
What is your background? How old are you? Why did you start producing/composing? Why did you get involved with music? What inspired you originally? What artists inspired you to get into music?
19, ill be 20 on Nov. 11 (which is also the day im releasing my first “complete” solo album). I never really even considered making music until after hearing N.E.R.D’s “In search of…” (which was also the first album I ever bought with my own money). At first it started off as just fiddling around because GarageBand was on the Mac Mini my mom got me for my 15th birthday after we moved to Georgia from Illinois. Then as my tastes in music developed I became less satisfied with what I heard and nothing fit what I was going through or “wanted to hear” while I skated.
(Click ‘Continue Reading’ for much more…)
Jay Cue gave us his history with NRK, but how did you come to be involved with OF and NRK? Did Jay come up with the name “Nobody Really Knows”? How did all of you guys decide to start making music together?
Before NRK, there was me, kc 2.0, pyramid murdock and gloomy, my only friends at school and at home after moving here. I made beats in my basement and introduced them to garageband and FL studios. Later, in high school we added close friends Tyler Major, Jay Cue, Andre McCloud, Mables, and more recently, xavior, vela, stan, luwees, quince, and so on, I prolly forgot some people but w/e. You’ll hear more from them in the coming months. We would skate after school, 8th grade, till dark then hang in my basement and make music, and Yes Jay Cue really did change the name, he threw it out while we were at little 5 pizza. Honestly the old name was lame as fuck (idk if I can curse in this but w/e) and is kind of embarrassing so I wont even bother with it. We clicked because we all went through similar shit, being picked on, being awkward, not getting girls, being called “white” for listening to jazz, skating and wearing vans before black culture caught on to that shit and made it “okay”.
What do you do outside of making music? Is this your full-time focus? Or are you also a student/full-time worker?
Make music, skate (not as much lately), draw (ie, the heterochromia and suburbia album covers) watch porn and make music. Honestly, I dont do much. My life’s boring. I just found something im good at and it worked. Also I film all of the videos and promos and handle press kits.
What’s it like to be affiliated with two separate hip-hop/art families? How do the two intersect and interact?
Its weird. Especially with OF. Ive been a fan of them since tyler was posting beats on the neptunes forums and talking about bloxhead and the odd future magazine, pre-wolf gang. All of us at NRK have. And like I know those niggas now, im still lowkey starstruck everytime I see tyler, hodgy, left brain, and everyone else. Everyone’s really cool and welcomed me in. its caused some conflicts with NRK at times because I have to cater to both, and I cant always be there but things have smoothed out since then. Other than production and maybe features the two dont really intersect. Really im still in awe that any of this is happening and wouldnt trade this position for anything in the world, im surrounded by the future of music.
What’s with all the pyramid imagery? Why is that such an important part of the group’s aesthetic?
I cant even comment on that, its a really complex philosophy we all live by to say the least.
What has it been like to work with people like Matt? What about some of the other members of OF and NRK? How does that creative relationship work?
I just met matt like 2 years ago, we hit him up on twitter to mix our mixtape “goodwill” and he drove out to the springs and picked us up. Matt is more of a brother to me than my actual brother and looks out for me like a dad sometimes. He gets me and the directions I choose to take musicly and mentors me in decisions regarding those matters. We’re completely opposite but think as if we’re the same person, its weird, but it works. Like I said before this OF thing is still weird its like watching your bestfriends going from being a nerd to being a popular kid senior year. All of my family at NRK and OF are extreamly talented and I am thankful to just know them.
How has the increased attention on groups like Odd Future helped or hindered what you guys do with NRK? It seems like your work with Matt and OF has brought the group a little recognition at this point. How do you build on that?
Going through similar experiences, having similar influences and beginning around the same time lead to similar but different outcomes. I feel as if both paint the same picture but with different brushes and materials. Of course people compare and comment, they always will, and im past the point of caring, im sure we all are.
Why give away your music for free? What does this accomplish? Is it just about getting your name out there, getting some name recognition, and seeing where that will lead?
In the end, its about the music, not about making money, not about impressing people. Im having fun, if I wasnt id be doing something else. We know theres kids going through the same shit we went through, to know that someone else understands and gets you helps more than you’d ever know. The recognition is nice, and we plan to make a living off this but yea, idk if that made any sense.
How would you describe your music?
What is the writing/recording process like for the band? How do you compose songs (together or solo)? How do you personally compose beats and rhymes? Does one usually come before the other? Do you just have an artist in mind when you are making a beat or does that come later?
Theres no particular order or process. I wake up. I press buttons, if it sucks I trash it, if I like it I write words. As far as collaborations go, within NRK and jet age/super 3 someone does a part and emails it or if were in the same room whoever wants to chip in adds something and thats that. The beats normally go to whoever calls it unless I have a specific person in mind while making it.
What are the ultimate goals of the group (both OF and NRK)? What do you want to be doing in five or 10 years with NRK?
For me and matt atleast and most of nrk (I havent moved to LA yet so I dont know as much about OF) the ultimate goal is just comfort and being able to do what we love and make a living off of it. Oh and I want a Nike Airforce 1 made out of one diamond, with gold laces, lined with bald eagle, and to live in the forest.
What are you listening to right now? What bands/rappers/groups are exciting to you? What things can you recommend to our readers? What about some of your all-time favorites?
Personally, Bjork, Olof Arnalds, Kelis (anything before “tasty”), Sonny and the Sunsets, Gary Wilson, Quadron, Boom Clap Bachelors, Afta-1, Flylo, Lightspeed Champion, Sergio Mendez, Company Of Theives, Ethereal, Hudson Mohawke, Incubus, Mort Garson, Martin Denny, Moonraker, the “Katamari Damacy” video game soundtrack, Dam-Funk, Walter Flowers, Dorian Concept, Erykah Badu, James Pants and Fantastic Plastic Machine. I dont listen to rap outside of NRK and OF….oh and big ralph.
What is your favorite cereal and why?
fruity crisps cus im a real nigga and me no fux wif dem brand names.
Connect with Hal Williams // Twitter