Rapper Nana wants to “inspire and save lives” through his music, and that ambition is evident throughout his first two releases. As one of the most talented emerging artists out of Los Angeles right now, the success of Nana’s latest EP, From The District To The World, has fans excited for what he’ll deliver next.
The rising star took a few moments to chat with REVOLT to discuss the project, his approach to music, wanting to save as many lives as possible, being inspired by the youth, and more. Get into our exclusive Black History Month interview below.
What’s good, Nana? How are you feeling?
It’s going good, man! Chilling out on the East Coast. How are you?
That’s great. I’m good, man.
A couple of months ago, you put out From The District To The World. It’s a great project. I’m starting to hear your name a lot more in the “who’s next out of the west” conversation. Personally and professionally, how would you describe your 2022 so far?
Man, blessed honestly. Coming out of the pandemic, it was tough to really get moving and really be out there boots to the ground. So just to be out and being in person and being able to see and feel the love, move around, do interviews and be able to see people outside of Zoom. It’s been refreshing compared to 2021 or 2020. So, it’s been great. It’s definitely been a ride.
What have been some of your favorite moments?
Performing at the Roxy in Los Angeles in January. That was probably one of my favorite moments. And just having a lot of small milestones that I’ve kind of been looking forward to for some years now. Doing ‘COLORS’ and doing freestyles on the radio, things like that. It’s been exciting and full of stuff that I’ve had on my short-term goal list for the most part.
Talk to us a little about how you got your start as an artist and how that led you to where you are today.
I’ve always been in love with music. When I was in middle school, I remember walking home, listening to The Blueprint on a burned CD and being in love with the music … being a fan first. My passion for music grew as I grew, and I just started to find different ways and healthier outlets to express myself, you know? I loved playing basketball growing up. But once that kind of just fell to the wayside after high school, I really started getting deeper into the music and recording.
It took time, trial and error to figure it out, but it’s something that I’m grateful to have had. Because I think for me, just seeing where a lot of my peers that I grew up with from middle school to high school are — not tapping into anything that they were passionate about — I saw how that kind of led them down a dark path. Honestly, I feel like music found me. It’s just having that outlet to express myself and to be able to help other people as well. It’s been amazing. It really made me realize why I do it.
Who are three artists you’d say inspired your style or how you approach music?
I would say Nas for sure … this is tough. Nas, Tupac and I would say Game. Yeah, Nas, Pac and Game.
That’s a great three to pull from. I remember seeing your “Bars on I-95” freestyle a while back and obviously you just had the L.A. Leakers joint. With that being the go-to freestyle platform right now, what was that experience like?
It was dope because the Leakers are like a staple out here in Los Angeles, so that’s something I always wanted to do. Their platform really grew for that. When I started getting into music, the Leakers were deejaying all the dope hip hop parties. They’d always host album release parties and stuff like that at a spot in Hollywood called the Blu Monkey Lounge. They were always those guys. So, just getting that invitation to be able to go up there and do that as their platform has grown to what it is now was amazing. It was dope. It was everything that I imagined it to be and to be able to get that love on the receiving end was even better, man. From Los Angeles to even New York, people show me love for that … even the ‘Bars on I-95’ freestyle. That was a dope experience as well.
Both freestyles showcased not just that you can really rap but the passion you have as an artist. Two-part question here: If I wanted to put somebody on to your music, what’s a song you’d suggest? Also, what’s your favorite track off of the new EP.
I would play ‘Heaven & Hennessy.’ It’s one of my favorite joints. That’s off of Save Yourself, which is my first project. One of my personal favorite songs off of the new project is ‘Live From The District.’ Just going back to what we were just talking about, that’s one of my favorite songs because it provided the space for me to talk my shit and just go in, you know, and it’s been a heavy favorite. It just kind of gave me the space and opportunity to not just go in, but kind of paint a picture visually and tell the story along the way.
What else is inspiring you right now outside of music?
Good question, man. I like to re-inspire myself. I get inspired by everyday life — speaking to people, you know? I went to my old middle school the other day and just seeing the kids and how ambitious they are but at the same time how much they need us to help them, inspired me. I like to differentiate people that do music into two categories. You have rappers and you have messengers. I want to be more of a messenger.
The message that I want to continue to tap into is to give some sort of inspiration. When it comes to the younger generation I want my message to be for them to not give up hope. Because a lot of kids that go back home, they don’t have nothing. Some of them don’t even have the proper guidance at home. So, just kind of seeing that and speaking to a lot of the students definitely gave me a boost of inspiration.
Talk a little more about the message you want fans to take away from your music?
As cliché as this might sound: just to be yourself. Not to put a ceiling on what it is that you want to do and what you feel like you can be one day. I vividly remember one of my teachers telling me that I wouldn’t be anything. Like, I vividly remember that. I remember her name and everything, and I remember how that made me feel as a kid.
It’s like, excuse my language, but what the fuck type of message is that as an adult to give to someone younger? So, the fact that I remember that so vividly and it stuck with me, just goes to show you how kids pick up things and how things stick with them. Messages stick with them. It’s just important to continue to plant seeds that uplift so when my nephew and my niece hear my music, they can take something away from that. And they can not only be proud, but they can be confident and encouraged. They can be somebody important in this world and not end up in somebody’s penitentiary or cemetery.
Definitely, man. That’s so important and honestly why a lot of us fall in love with music in the first place. What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I’m back in the studio working. I have a show that I’m doing next month at Catch One. It’s actually my first headlining show in Los Angeles. Very excited for that. To be able to do that … to have somewhat of a homecoming type of show and be able to see and feel the love firsthand is something that I’m really looking forward to. So, just putting that together and getting back in the studio working on the next thing.
In a perfect world, who’s on your short list of artists who you feel you need to collaborate with in the future?
Kurupt. J. Cole. Kendrick. And … I’ma say Drake.
It’s still relatively early in your career, but what’s your ultimate goal as an artist?
Man, my ultimate goal is to save as many lives as possible, bro. Simple and plain. To continue to provide hope for people. There’s people going through real shit every day. Everybody might not be going through it, but somebody else is going through it. Somebody just lost a mom and dad, somebody is on the brink of suicide, and a lot of people are just not mentally well. Being able to provide hope and inspiration for people every day. That’s more of a lifelong mission — so yeah, that’s my goal beyond just music.
Photo Credit: Kayla Reefer