New York rapper River Nelson was once part of the rap group The Boogiemonsters. He released his debut album which is produced by legendary producer Lewis Parker 'The Rise and Fall of River Nelson' in August 2010. Jai Boo catches up with River to find out more.....
You've just released your debut album 'The Rise and Fall of River Nelson' which is produced by legendary UK producer and rapper Lewis Parker. How did you guys hook?
I met Lewis at an industry record release party in New York. At the time I was looking for producers to start a new project, as I already had the Rise and Fall concept in my head and wanted to explore it. My publicist at the time introduced us. She is from the UK, and knew Lewis from her days working in the UK music industry. Lewis gave me some music on CD, and I took it home and was instantly hooked from the first track I heard. His music sounded like the album I had in my head and wanted to make, and this was after hearing beats from many producers in the months prior. Once I heard the tracks, I immediately went to his house in Queens, and we just vibed. I spit for him, he played me some more stuff, and we knew the chemistry was unique, and felt we could put together an album that didn’t sound typical or run of the mill.
You were signed to Arista Records and now signed to The World of Dusty Vinyl Records. Why has it taken so long for us to hear your debut album?
I was actually putting out songs independently, as well as playing out as much as possible within the US, and doing these things were really my focus just to build my skill level, my music relationships and overall brand. Also, after I lost my deal with Arista, I went through many years of lean times. As many artists, I was spending my time trying to make another crack at the industry, while spending time just trying to survive on a day to day level. The goal was to always take everything that I’ve been through in this industry and put it all into a cohesive album. I was also looking for the right situation to present an album on a global level. I think releasing the album now, served us well, as it seems the timing for a lyrical project like ours is perfect. It seems Hip Hop is going back to that now a days.
The Rise and Fall of River Nelson has had a lot of great reviews, can you tell us what inspired the concept of the album?
It’s my belief that most things we try and do in life is through a trial and error process. There are very few areas of our lives that we have complete mastery over. Whether you’re trying to excel in your professional, personal, or spiritual life, you have wins, losses, rises, and falls. To me, there are a lot of stories in that pursuit of trying to attain something bigger or better. Most people have had a dream or strong desire at some point in their lives. Some chase their dreams with vigor, some chase them with half-way-effort, and some have given up on their dreams completely. I’m interested in all of those stories, and wanted to create an album based on that theme. Before I even began really writing for this album, I purposely initiated many conversations with family, friends and strangers, about their desires and overall dreams, and what their experiences were within that chase. In doing that I was really able to see some commonality between everyone I spoke with. Everyone had stories of successes and failures. Some people have let those failures kill their pursuit, and some were able to dust themselves off and keep trying, so The Rise and Fall of River Nelson is about all of their attempts, and all of mine as well, and how to persevere through the many times you will inevitably fall.
Today November 8th you release your new single 'Beautiful Life' can you tell us about the single and why you chose to release it as a single?
I would say there are two reasons as to why we went with Beautiful Life first. First, it really received great feedback from everyone Lewis and I were playing it to. Before we gave the album to industry people, we played it to a lot of fans and music lovers. We played it to those who are really into Hip Hop, and those who are not. It seemed most people, including myself, agreed that Beautiful Life was the song that gave a glimpse of what the album sounded and felt like. Also, I felt it was the perfect record to introduce the entire theme of the album, which I felt was very important to do.
Over the years the music industry has changed so much, artists are now able to interact with their fans through social networking sites etc, some artists are being signed not necessarily based on their skills. What are the good and bad things that you think has changed the Hip Hop industry?
Well I think the good changes are the internet, and the social networking sites, because artists can really jump start their careers on their own, where before, you had to seek out a record label to even get your music heard on a wide scale. Also, because of advances in technology, artists don’t have to spend a fortune in music studios to create a quality sounding project anymore. Today, there are way more opportunities to control your music and your fate in this business. But, I also think all of those good things, are also some of the bad things about were Hip Hop has gone to. For example, because high end recording equipment is so affordable, and the internet is a great and free marketing tool, it allows for people who aren’t serious about the craft or genre, to make music and put it out there. I don’t believe everyone’s meant to be a rapper or singer, and we are so celebrity driven as a culture, that sometimes being famous is the motivation for people wanting to make a crack into the music business, which can make for bad music.
Do you feel fortunate that you've just released your debut album and you can get an instant reaction from your fans through social networking instead of waiting months to see reviews, records sales etc.
Absolutely. To have that instant feedback is something very useful and inspiring. You can also really communicate to your listening audience, and have a dialogue with them, which is crucial now days. You’ll find that fans really appreciate you speaking directly with them, to let them know what’s going on with you and your projects. But, although the internet is a great tool for artists, you still need to use other means to get your music and message out. The social networking sites should be a part of your game plan to promote yourself and your music, but not the only strategy.
Do you want to shout out your websites?
Yes, Thanks. You can purchase the CD, or digital version of the Rise and Fall of River Nelson at www.myspace.com/rivernelson , you can also hit me on twitter at, twitter.com/rivnel. And Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/people/River-Nelson-Album/100000715766067
What artists or producers are you feeling out there at the moment?
There’s a lot of exciting music coming out right now. I love the stuff Jay Electonica is doing especially the tracks with Just Blaze. Kanye West is making some great boundary pushing stuff. The Roots, and Eminem have really strong albums out. I also love the stuff B.O.B is doing, and I’m feeling Drake’s material too. I also like the rapper Blu, from Los Angeles. He’s a bit under the radar, but his skill level is out of here. There’s a bunch of other artists I’m listening to now too. It’s really a great time for new music.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
So many people of all genres. I’ll start big. I’d love to do something with Amy Winehouse. Like most, I’m in love with her music and voice. I’d also love to work with Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, and I would also love to do something with Andre 3000. My dream song is myself Andre 3000, and Mos Def. I can already hear that song in my head. I’d also like to do something with the British Rapper Ty, and I’d also like to work with some great indie rock bands that I’ve heard both here in the States and in the UK. I’m really loving the indie rock scene right now too.
I know this is a hard question to answer....but what are your top 5 albums of all time?
That’s a great question, it’s always fun when I try to compose these kind of lists. First I would say that you would really have to establish a criteria for such a list, because depending on what you’re rating the albums by, it could differ. But just off the top of my head I would say:
5- O.K. Computer- Radiohead
4- The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill- Lauryn Hill
3- Love Deluxe- Sade
2- Songs In The Key of Life- Stevie Wonder
1- Low End Theory- A Tribe Called Quest
What advice would you give an artist trying to make it the Hip Hop game?
I would say the first thing is to really focus on your craft, and discover what your sound or niche is. Since there are so many rappers and producers out there, you really want to decide what you’re offering to the market place that doesn’t already exist. Second, you really want to familiarize yourself with how the business works, in terms of how to maximize your product, how to promote yourself, and how to build relationships amongst your industry peers. Most importantly, you have to be relentless in your pursuit of trying to get your music heard. I know a ton of rappers with good ideas, but not all of them are successful in carrying them out. They let the challenges of life get in the way of their plans. Everyday you should be contributing time to your overall goal, and limit your time spent around those that hold you back, and try to sidetrack you with discouragement.
Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, is there anything that you would like to add or give a shout out to?
Anytime, thank you. I really encourage everyone to listen and own a copy of the Rise and Fall of River Nelson, because you will find it is not just another rap album. It contains extremely relatable themes, and it will provide you with inspiration to conquer the sometimes harsh aspects of life, and it will remind you of life’s beautiful aspects too. It’s also consistent in terms of quality throughout the entire album, so there are no “skips”, and you can listen to the album back and fourth straight through. The album will make you move, think, feel, escape, and be inspired.
Interview by Jai Boo