Most rappers who get their name from battling usually make albums rivaled only by Kobe Bryant’s “K.O.B.E.” single and/or B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret. It’s not that they are terrible albums (they are), it’s just that we as consumers and audience members have already assigned these folks to one task and skill set. We are not eager to divert from that agenda, whether it be assigning MC’s to an eternity of verbally undressing fools off the top of the head rather than hook masters and conceptual storytellers, or casting Gary Payton as The Glove and not “Living Legal and Large”.
Los Angeles and now Oakland-based emcee Nocando made his bones as a breathless lyrical peacemaker–NATO style. Coming up from the legendary Project Blowed camp in LA and handing out L’s in Cincinnati at Scribble Jam like he was promoting lesbianism on Showtime, it’s safe to say Nocando wasn’t expected to do much but wow hip hop crowds with indestructible battle credentials and flawless freestyles. Supernatural has been paying the bills like that forever. No risk, high reward.
Jimmy the Lock, his debut album via Alpha Pup Records, goes against the safe bet every which way possible. Songs about (gasp!) women take up more time than songs about rappity rap rappin’. Beats that would make your kid sister cough up ringtone money make you forget about true school boom bap ethics. There are actual hooks and tight concepts instead of self-indulgent 105 bar odysseys.
In short, Nocando made an album that acts as if his famous pedigree never existed. And he won.
When I met Nocando in LA for Passion of the Weiss’ Spaceland show, he turned out to be humble, funny, and a lover of the word “hella”, something you’d expect from a west coast artist more versed in Suga Free than 36 Chambers (something blasphemous to even consider being a lifelong east coaster). He is concerned with being great in all facets of The Emcee. From rhyming while running wind sprints to build up breath control as a young bol, to peppering his live sets with beats like “On to the Next One”, Nocando talks it, backs it up, and then gets even better.
It’s time for Nocando to learn you something. (Apologies ahead of time for the italics on questions 1 & 2–Wordpress is acting real bitch right now)1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I realized it slowly over time. After every open mic night, studio session, battle, cypher, concert, mixtape and ep. The deeper I get into it the more it becomes a reality that wraps me up socially and adds purpose to what would be a very run of the mill so cal experience.2. How has LA (and now Oakland) shaped your sound or molded you as a MC?
L.A. Made me aggressive and quick to the point where my style bordered impulsive and scatterbrained. The Oakland made me more introspective and calm. They both make me progressive and rebellious as fuck!!
3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
Rhyming Ridd from CVE was my first rap mentor and he helped make me such a rap nut. We would freestyle and record when we kicked it. Never any other bull shit.
4. With everything you’ve learned thus far, what do you wish you could have told yourself at the beginning? Would you have done anything differently?
I would have told myself to balance the scene and the studio a little better @ a young age and get business savvy now boy!!
5. What’s hard for you? What do you struggle at?
I really don’t find anything bout the art hard. I’m a Husband and a father of 2 so being a teen dad was hard and trying to keep an immature relationship together for the sake of strong family values is hard. Making music is fun.
6. Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major label. What are the first 3 things you would do as the boss?
First thing would have to be is to find out why the last guy was let go and never make his mistakes. Second thing would be to look over the artist roster, staff, stats and figures then see what improvements can be made and the third thing would be throw a cracking ass office party after I fire all of the dead weight. That was my favorite thing about the old 9-5 ahh office parties.
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
Nocando Jimmy the Lock
Rakim and Eric B Paid in Full
Dj Quick Safe+Sound
8. What is inspiring your work right now?
Fans are inspiring my work. I had fans before but it was all people that I have personally met. Now I am loving the fact that strangers appreciate my work. I know there is very little bias there.
9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
No rules!!!!!!!! Do whatever you want fuck popular opinion and unpopular opinion. I repeat no rules!!!
10. Any words to live by?
No I’d like to live by actions.
Nocando vs. Franco. 2007 Scribble Jam Championship Round. Please do not battle this man.
Nocando “Exploits and Glitches” from Jimmy the Lock
Nocando f/ Busdriver “Two Track Mind” from Jimmy the Lock