#Dabeeside exclusive interview with @definitely_nah
What up good people? It’s your boy, Trav Dave and this time I’m back with an interview straight from Canada. To me, he’s one of the dopest bloggers ever. Nahright has been a staple in the digital age of hip hop, with the OG Eskay leading the way, but this man has definitely been giving him a run for his money. Complex Mag even named this man one of the top music writers to watch out for. I’m a fan of this guys and I hope you all will be too. I’m glad I got a chance to chop it up with him, one time for my man – Nation.
What do you want NahRight’s legacy to be when the blog game is gone?
Initially, I wanted Nah Right’s name to be synonymous with the last 10 years in hip hop the same way the name Hypebeast almost automatically invokes the streetwear movement. But I think that may be too much to ask for. I’d just like people to know that eskay created a lane for so many other people: bloggers, artists, media personalities + corporations, etc. Entire empires have been built off the back of a couple blogs that started 10 years ago, without any exaggeration. I’m talking hundreds of millions of dollars (if not billions) and I’ve witnessed it all from the beginning. Sadly I don’t see much credit being given to eskay & the website for that but that’s why I’ll always be saying it the loudest.
For a long time, people outside your circle had no clue what you look like. Was that planned purposely and what made you finally put up a picture?
The idea was for the brand to be bigger than any person and people weren’t really taking head shots back then, no shots. I was also still in school at the time and I didn’t know how long this whole thing would last, so I at least wanted to have the option to go work a normal job afterwards. This was before the internet is what it’s become now and something like a “meme” account would’ve been an automatic red flag for any job candidate, it’s not so much the same now. One of the best stories out of the infamous Nah Right comments was when a commenter (D. Billz) had gotten fired from his job and they pulled up all the hour- long of his time spent on nahright.com.
By the time Instagram started blowing up in 2012 or 2013, I had spent a significant amount of time traveling around North America with Drake and by being around so much action I realized that the notion of privacy was drastically changing before our eyes so I stopped trying to fight it. It had gotten to the point where I’d be paranoid about people taking pictures during social events or whatever, but I couldn’t necessarily step out of the frame every single time. The really funny part about all this is most of my friends had little or no idea of the stuff I was doing online because I didn’t really speak about it and it would’ve been hard to explain. You got to think what the internet was like, not everyone was a blogger the same way everyone says they are now on Instagram and whatnot. A lot of people just thought I was just really passionate about rap music, haha.
Do you think blogging killed the radio star? And did Twitter kill the blogging star? If so how?
Blogging didn’t kill radio or TV, blogging was a solution that spurred because radio and TV were already dying, they were killed by programmers and politics. The same happened to blogs (a lot of it was politics) but social media then helped speed up that process for sure. Blogs were actually responsible for killing the blogging star, then streaming & playlists helped bury it, and probably rightfully so. If the game has always been about “curating”, then people were no longer deriving value from an onslaught of new releases (from blogs), instead, they’re opting to pay $10/month and be told what to listen to, sort of what the radio & TV were doing beforehand.
In either case, the big corporations were sitting around waiting for the music business to figure out how to monetize music online because they could allow themselves to forbid anyone else to come in and “disrupt” the space like every other start-up did for other industries. Now that they’ve managed to plug that hole, they can milk it and not cut anyone else in unless they feel like it. Radio and TV have always played that game well and bloggers that have bigger dreams of transitioning to those media forms also play the game. Look at The Breakfast Club and bloggers have been propelled by their social media presence. It’s about using all the tools at your disposal and guys like Charlamagne and Combat Jack are doing a good job at showing people how to use everything people throw at you – content wise & politically speaking as well. It’s all relative to your end goal. LowKey from YouHeardThatNew was always fascinated by being on the radio and took various opportunities presented to him to spread his brand with that end goal in mind and now he’s a host on Apple Radio. That’s a win to me.
Do you believe that hip hop has “gatekeepers” that make artist hot or is it just the music?
I believe hip hop HAD gatekeepers (The Source, Hot 97, BET) for a while but there aren’t any teachers left teaching from the old school anymore. When I came in the game, there would be an exchange of information: people like Miss Info, Elliott Wilson, Noah Callahan-Bever would all pass down knowledge and in return, we would kick up info about how to maneuver in the tech space. They’ve all done very well for themselves and so have all of their mentees. Nowadays, the “old guard” has moved on to greener (i.e. more profitable) pastures, and reasonably so, thus the generation that came in the middle either scattered or are still trying to make it happen but still fail to recognize talent or trends until they’re already taken off worldwide via an Instagram video, a Twitter video or a Youtube video.
I don’t think the so-called gatekeepers have any of the right incentives anymore. Whether it’s financial, respect (credit) or being given opportunities (that they’ve helped create) down the line. Once in a while, you’ll get an ASAP Yams or a Taxstone that will be able to shift the needle in their favor, and then hope to get their due when the artists are in better financial positions themselves later on. But it takes a bit of knowledge of how the music business works (which Yams had from interning for Dipset) and a bit of street etiquette (which is what Tax was known for) that a lot of music journalist nerds don’t really have the stomach/knowledge or wisdom for anymore. Look at how many different movements have birthed from those two examples, from NY only. Realistically now whether you’re old or younger, people just wait to see how you use social media or what your technique is now and they try to bite it right away. The big guys/corporations too. It’s a lose/lose unless you have a big company behind you or have some sort of movement in the street.
I know this is your interview but how important is Eskay to our “Culture”?
Quietly, eskay is everything. Without eskay, there wouldn’t be what we call blog rappers – which is the era the genre is still living through in right now. There would be no resurgence/renaissance that sprung online, the other personalities that are flourishing right now would not have gotten the same opportunities, to begin with, let alone gotten a shot or any shine, because it’d be Nah Right who would notice all the same people you see now when they were starting out. There wouldn’t be the same podcasts and Youtube shows we have now, or if there would be they’d be different or different people. I’m saying what I’ve seen with my own eyes as a fan first and then as someone who’s seen the growth of the website and surveyed all the movement(s) and online culture for the last 11 years.
Have you had beefed with any rappers over anything that you have blogged before?
All the time. Another reason why so many feel the music game we love so much is at a standstill and media people are voiceless. I was never trying to be the greatest “music journalist” either. It was only when I realized I was making people like Elliott Wilson nervous and was getting wisdom and direct mentorship from some of the greats that I realized what was at stake and I started to take everything more seriously. I’ve squashed all my rap beefs, though.
The day So Far Gone dropped was actually supposed to be a night, that turned into a late night, that turned to morning then afternoon. I remember being geeked that Drake had shouted us out in a preview video Ben Baller had posted of them driving through LA while the project was being finalized, it kind of solidified our “firstness” before the project even came out. It was sort of like Kanye mentioning Nah Right and my first blog during his Graduation press run or JAY Z talking to eskay about the Nah Right comments at the American Gangster listening session. I felt like I was a part of something big at the time, bigger than me.
I remember staying up all night until very late in the morning so I woke up late to see 40 had just posted it on the OVO blog. I think I have one of the top comments on their post actually. I then posted it on Nah Right right away, burned a copy to CD (because we still did that back in 2009), my friend came to pick me up and we just drove around in the snow that day playing songs on repeat, picking our favorites… “Lust For Life”, “Successful”, and by the end of that weekend I think “Uptown” was another favorite. Although I don’t think a lot of people outside of our internet circle cared, because it was still the very early days of music blogs. I was just sitting patiently, trying to document every single move because I knew one day it would matter. I got called every single name in the book over the years but it turned out I was right all along. Some pretty big music execs have admitted to me that they first heard Drake on Nah Right, that’s always a very proud moment for me, for sure.
Drake, later on, admitted that they were kind of scared that weekend that maybe they had made a mistake or something because it was so quiet, which is pretty funny when worded that way. Maybe he was being humble about it because I didn’t see it that way, but maybe to him, it was too quiet for the quality of work he thought he was delivering and all the effort that went into it. In later conversations with him, he’d lean a lot on what I had to say about not paying attention to the Nah Right comment section or what the net/bloggers/critics had to say which led to the shout out I got on stage from him in Chicago. All I know is it set the tone for “mixtape” releases following that and definitely became the benchmark for a new artist(s) that follow. All these moments are cemented in my head and were really special at the time they happened because I was probably like 20 years old.
Speaking of Drake how is the rap scene different now in Canada compared to when so far gone dropped?
For a while, I think everyone thought they could be Drake, so they tried to be him. Or they thought they deserved the success more than him like they had put more points into the hip hop bank and they weren’t reaping any of the benefits. A lot of people also copy what Drake, The Weeknd, and other big names have done here, from sound to “aesthetic” to roll-outs and even trying to copy being mysterious. But when these guys did it they were being somewhat original, they weren’t directly copying someone else, that’s what made those things cool when they did it.
People didn’t understand the context in which an artist like him could become a star: a TV star (thus he already is starting off with fame/fans/recognition), who’s signed to the biggest rapper at the time, who’s in a group… All these things along with being in a post-Kanye 808s & Heartbreak world, Jay was one foot in with the music and one foot out to the business… Eminem was M.I.A., etc. Nah Right was a top 50 blog in the world during those years. A lot of stars had to align.
Although I will say that right now the rap scene is kind of booming creatively (maybe not financially, yet) in certain Canadian cities whereas before I think it was kind of more of an underground thing, you had to be up on it or seek it out to know. I always compare the old “Canadian hip hop” scene to something like Boston’s hip-hop scene. If you’re familiar with them, you’ll understand. We’re kind of close to NY so it’s always on the North-East tour schedule for big acts, which influences and creates a lot of similar sounding music and sheer love for music but has difficulty creating or recreating excitement because of a lack of population or maybe for other reasons. Montreal has its own sound (beat-wise) and it’s a French-speaking city so it’s a special case on its own. FADER just wrote a piece about the language barrier I believe.
Since the rapping thing is tough to convey from Canada, acts like Daniel Caesar (from Toronto) and KAYTRANADA have popped up and set themselves apart from the rest of the pack because they don’t sound like others within the scene thus they can benefit from everything the art scene, music machine, and art worlds have to offer.
Your top 5 bloggers of all time?
Oof. I don’t know who still chooses to identify as that from the old pack. I’ll say eskay for sure. I’ll throw Dallas Penn in there for the style and language we all continue to borrow from him and for what it did for me personally by just replying to my emails when I was coming up and that meaning everything to me. I like what Combat Jack has flipped the game into, so by default we have to mention Byron Crawford even though I never really read him, but I am aware that he was one of the first. I liked Fresh & what Angel @ Concrete Loop was doing, they paved the way for that lane for sure. The XXL blogs too. 2dopeboyz. Young Legend at OnSMASH. Miss Info. XclusivesZone. ILLIONAIRE. Lowkey’s Twitter feed when he’d be at industry parties getting in trouble/drunk, etc. Andrew Barber. The people who really cared. There’s so much that has happened that we’ve pushed to the back of our memories. We’d need a mini-series to really get to all of it.
What is your greatest achievement outside of blogging?
You know that Kanye tweet from last year that said: “please do everything you can in one lifetime”? I feel like I’ve done everything I could with this platform, I’ve pushed it as far as it’ll possibly go and I would hope that I’ve also been able to help as many people as I possibly could and have used every conceivable tool/idea/connection to provide opportunities for others. Outside of blogging, other internet endeavors have greatly satisfied me and being able to say I’ve worked with some of the greatest artists in our era is something I cherish greatly. I’m very happy with the last 10 years. I’m beginning another chapter that will hopefully last for another 10-20+ years.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. As always, you have been a big inspiration to me and countless others without realizing it. Please tell the people how they can get in contact with you and any shout outs?
Thank you for your questions and the kind words. I’ve never done anything that’s been this in detail so it’s been interesting to see what comes up. My email is up on my Twitter: firstname.lastname@example.org you can reach me if you send me a real human e-mail although I can’t possibly open every music submission I get. I’ll be publishing more stuff on Medium, you can check me out here: https://medium.com/@nation. Shout out my family first and foremost. To the cartel, all my amazing mentors I’ve been fortunate enough to have throughout my career: Minya, eskay, Noah, Paul Labonté and of course all my friends that are just finding out about all of this for the first time hahaha!