I am not really a hip-hop fanatic, nor have I historically listened to a lot of it. Recently, however, it has been invading my iPod. If you were to look at my top 25 most played songs of the year, you would see it populated by the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs, Tyler, The Creator, Domo Genesis, Mike G, Das Racist, and some older-school stuff like People Under The Stairs, Cannibal Ox, and Living Legends.
Singer/rapper/producer Jay Cue and the boys from the Nobody Really Knows collective are the latest to enter this list. I downloaded Jay Cue’s recent album, Pyramid Life, when it came out earlier this month and I was instantly hooked. Much like Odd Future (featured in the series I did on them last month), Atlanta-based NRK is a group of like-minded musicians and artists who are pooling their collective talent into a greater whole. Mr. Cue was nice enough to consent to an interview which follows here. (NOTE: all misspelling is the work of the artist.)
Introduce yourself and your group (like a newspaper personal). What is NRK?
Sup. I’m Jay Cue of NRK. NRK, standing for Nobody Really Knows, is a group of musical ingenious artists that all happen to be teenagers.
What is your background? Why did you start rapping/producing? Why did you get involved with music? What inspired you originally? What artists inspired you to get into music?
People call me JQ. They’re my initials. Jay Cue comes from that. I’m 18. From Atlanta. I was actually a singer before I was a “rapper.” I grew up with a singin ass family. Momz sings, sister sings, brothers sing, it was only a matter of time before it was passed down to me. I started seriously rappin’ around like middle school. I used to battle on this fuckin’ rap forum for fun, and I used to listen to nothing but Cassidy, my favorite rapper at the time. Dude influenced me a lot when I was younger. I didn’t really start producing until I joined NRK. My pyramids made me want to start doin that shit.
What are the members of the group? How many people are in the group? Give us a little NRK introduction for those of us who are new to the game. Who plays what, who produces, etc.?
It’s Me, Pyramid Vritra (aka Hal Williams of The Jet Age Of Tomorrow/The Super 3), KC 2.0, Tyler Major, Andre McCloud, Gloomy Pyramid, Heterochromia, Floyd Mables, Quince, and Gizmo. N We’ve got the NRK homies that have been down with us since the jump, such as Jarred, Zach, Quay and Randy. We’re pretty deep dude. Almost all of us produce. We rap, we sing, we produce, we innovate, and we create. Just a bunch of talented kids who do what we love to do.
What is the history of NRK? Where did the name come from? How did all of you guys decide to start making music together?
I met these niggas like, junior year in high school. I was really startin’ to get serious with music, and I was a fan of theirs on their myspace page. These dudes had tapes and demos out, a blog, all that shit, so I knew they were as serious as I was about music, and I liked theirs so I decided I needed to join up with them. We all became cool like THAT and slowly evolved into a family. When I joined, NRK stood for Nada Rec Krew, but it changed to Nobody Really Knows when I suggested it at a pizza place in Lil 5 (a neighborhood in Atlanta). Historic moment right there.
How do you reach out to fans in other regions? How has bandcamp and other sites (like Tumblr) made it possible for you to reach out to potential listeners?
The bandcamp is the reason I even know we have fans out there. All those email addresses we get coming from like, Japan, France, and the U.K. leave me in awe. I’m thankful for everybody who listens to us, especially overseas, that’s crazy to me.
How has the increased attention on groups like Odd Future helped or hindered what you guys do with NRK? It seems like Hal’s work with Matt and OF has brought the group a little recognition at this point. How do you build on that?
Matt’s the big bro. We met him while we were still in high school. He n Hal started The Jet Age Of Tomorrow, and their music is amazing, if you hadn’t noticed already. Hal’s work with Matt made people put 2&2 together and turn their heads in the NRK direction, but people seem to appreciate the good music all the same.
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?
It’s because we love, and live this shit. We just want people to hear the good music we have to offer. The fact that people out there actually listen to, and enjoy our music is satisfaction enough. I’m sure they’ll be opportunities for us to gain some income from it, but we’re just doing what we love, and sharing it with people.
What do you do full-time? Work? Is music your full-time focus? What do you do outside of the group? What are some of your hobbies?
I’m in college, but i’m not fuckin’ with this place. Music is what my heart, and mind is set on. There’s nothing else in the world I want to do. When I’m not making music, I’m either skatin’, playin’ video games, or just kickin’ it with the pyramids.
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?
When I write, I kinda just go into a zone and think about shit based off of my emotions, and words just start to come to me. Production wise, as a whole, sometimes we make beats and just send ’em to each other, sometimes we collab, sometimes we make specific beats for a certain artist in the group cuz we think it has that person’s sound. Myself? I’m pretty good with melodies, so I usually start with that. Improving my drums as the days go by.
What are the ultimate goals of the group? What do you want to be doing in five or 10 years with NRK?
Some of my brothers have different individual goals, but overall, we all just want people to listen to, and enjoy the music we make. In five or 10 years, I wanna be doin the same shit I am now; makin music with my NRK family.
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?
Odd Future. Been listenin to them since the OF Tape was new. Uhh, N.E.R.D., J*DaVeY, Machine Drum, Mayer Hawthorne, Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, and NRK. I can’t really name everything I listen to, it’s really a shitload. I recommend everything I just stated haha. All-time favorites would have to be Pharrell, and OLD Cassidy, I mean 11 minute freestyle Cassidy.
What is your favorite cereal and why?
Cinnamon Toast Crunch cuz it GOES OFF.
I am a really big fan of the phrase “awesome sauce.” What does this phrase mean to you and how did you come to name a song after it?
I name my beats random shit when I save ’em. I recorded the song over the randomly named beat I made called “awesome sauce,” n didn’t know what to call the song after I wrote and record it, so I just kept it as “Awesome Sauce.”
Jay Cue // Awesome Sauce [mp3] from Pyramid Life
Your bandcamp lists both you and Hal as producers on your album. How did this dynamic work?
I had some old beats I made that I was going to use, and a couple from fellow NRK member Tyler Major, but I ended up scrapping those songs, not because the beats weren’t tight, but the songs just didn’t fit. I made newer ones, once I started improving production wise, and Hal started sending me some. Let me note that not only is Hal my best friend and brother, but he is one of my favorite producers. Ideas just flew around my head listening to the stuff he sent me, and I used the ones you hear on Pyramid Life for…well, Pyramid Life.