It’s hard enough to make it in America as a rapper. But Kingston, Jamaica’s Nomad Carlos has had to work twice as hard to make a name for himself in a country whose Hip Hop scene is still developing. With no mainstream outlets or local market to support, Carlos and his fellow Jamaican MCs have used a grassroots grind to create an organic Jamaican Hip Hop movement in the land of Dancehall and Reggae.
Carlos’ 2012 project “Me Against the Grain” got love from blogs in the states after listeners recognized his genuine talent and dedication to Hip Hop culture. Mechanical Dummy spoke to The Creator at the end of 2012 to discuss his influences, his dreams and his plans for 2013.
Words: G. King
Mechanical Dummy: What’s the Jamaican Hip Hop scene like right now?
Nomad Carlos: One thing I can tell you is that the Jamaican Hip Hop scene is still in development. I wouldn’t say it’s fully developed at the moment, but there’s a lot of rappers out here doing their thing. We’re still trying to unite the whole scene so that we can actually move as a community. I’d say it’s still in development and it’s getting there slowly but surely.
MD: What role have Dancehall and Reggae played in Jamaican Hip Hop’s development?
NC: Dancehall and Reggae, that’s our culture. That’s the Jamaican culture of music. The thing is, in Jamaica, if you’re not Reggae or Dancehall, it’s pretty hard to break in. They don’t go out looking for local Hip Hop or local Rock music. Dancehall and Reggae are mainstream in Jamaica, so we really have to grind to make people see us. Some people don’t even know that the local Hip Hop exists. We just have to do our part to make them see us and make some noise.
MD: How did you get into hip-hop from out there?
NC: Growing up here, naturally the first music I can remember hearing is people like Buju Banton and Bounty Killa. Those are some of my first memories of music. We had cable TV, that’s how I got exposed to Hip Hop. The first album I ever bought was Busta Rhymes, “When Disaster Strikes.” That’s the first album I ever bought for myself. I was probably like 11… I used to fly to Miami all the time to visit my cousins and stuff and they were into Hip Hop as well. (I listened to) Biggie, Nas, Mobb Deep, Snoop Dogg and Big Pun. Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony is my favorite Hip Hop group, personally. I remember around 1998 in Jamaica, that’s when Puff Daddy was doing his thing with “No Way Out” and you would hear that a lot. A lot of people in my generation, they became exposed to Hip Hop through just Biggie and Puff Daddy doing their thing. So I think that had a lot to do with it as well.
MD: Do you want to take your career ourtside of Jamaica or are you determined to make it happen out there?
NC: There’s no lane in Jamaica for Hip Hop, so I pretty much want to take it to the US and Europe. That’s where most of my fans are. Recently, the people that have been reaching out to me, they’re not even Jamaican really. But yeah, I intend to take it outside of Jamaica for sure because that’s where the market is.
MD: How are you building an audience outside of Jamaica?
NC: I just have to use the Internet to my advantage, really. Just communicate with different outlets and fans through the Internet. It’s really the Internet that’s been helping me get out there at the moment; Twitter and Facebook and social media. The last video I released, I managed to get it on KevinNottingham.com and OkayPlayer.com. A lot of people noticed that and they started taking it more seriously. When people see me and see “Jamaican Hip Hop,” they don’t expect it to be as authentic as it is.
MD: What’s driving you? How do you maintain your ambition when your spirits are low?
NC: What’s pushing me to keep doing it is this is what I wanna do with life. I wanna make music. I have to do what’s necessary. I feel like it’s my calling because I love music and I feel like I’m good at it. I really want to be able to tour the world. Life in general inspires me to make music, just experiences and living in Jamaica, I feel like I have a story to tell. It just inspires me to be good… There were times I felt I wanted to quit. Just the frustrations we had to go through. You can’t really get through to outlets and they’re not returning your calls and nobody’s noticing anything. I’ve definitely been frustrated, you know? But at the end of the day, somehow I always get back to it.
MD: Contrary to Jamaican stereotypes, I heard you don’t smoke. What’s your creative process like?
NC: I don’t smoke. I just have to hear the beat. I just like to be in the studio with the producer. And once I hear something that I really like I just get it going from there. I just start rapping, freestyling, and we just discuss the concept and work with it. Sometimes I drink. I usually drink when I’m writing the song and thinking of the concept.
MD: Do you enjoy performing?
NC: There aren’t many performing opportunities for Hip Hop artists in Jamaica, but recently we started putting on our own shows. Me and the local artists, we came together because we need to create our own outlet and our own space so that people can come see us. Everybody pulled their resources together for a show and we put on the show called “Pay Attention.” It’s really to help promote the local Hip Hop scene and get it out there. So we put a lot of local artists out there and it’s just basically to experience local Hip Hop.
MD: What’s your ultimate dream with Hip Hop music?
NC: I just wanna go as far as I can go with it. I just hope people really catch onto it. I really hope to be touring the world and performing my music. I’d even love to start a label in the future that can bring Jamaican Hip Hop to the forefront of the industry in some way. And bring a new sound and bring a new movement to music. Something that I think is interesting and that I believe in.