Today on Deejaytakeover artist one on one we feature our full exclusive Q/A with music hip hop veteran songwriter – producer Emcee N.I.C.E. His resume in the industry spans over 2 decades. He’s written and produced hits with iconic artists including Nas, Tupac Shakur, and Prince to name a few. He has now successfully crossed his hip hop brand over to the gospel world with the release of his first Gospel- Hip Hop album ‘Praise’ (which he has just received The Stellar Award nomination for ‘Gospel Hip Hop Album of The Year’). He’s truly an overall talent with no limits on what he has and will accomplish in the industry. Read Emcee N.I.C.E. full Q/A below as we talk his life and music. Also listen to his full interview on The DJ Jay Erica Podcast Worldwide Takeover Show streaming now on Spotify & iTunes Podcast below.
Q) Tell me about yourself how did you get your stage name, where are you from, where do you reside etc?
A) A lil about me, well I am from El Paso, Texas although I was born in Los Angeles, California. In search of a stable life my mother relocated us, (me and my brother) at a young age. It was there where I learned how to rap. My rap name in the secular world was Novelist, but now it’s Emcee N.I.C.E. Emcee being that I am a true hip hop lyricist first and N.I.C.E. meaning N-Novelist I-Is C-Constantly E-Evolving, I feel like everyday I am evolving as a person, business man, and an artist.
Q) Let’s talk about your recent project Praise which has been very success on the gospel, hip hop , and R&B charts. What made you decide to create an inspirational gospel project?
A) Well Praise wasn’t meant as an inspirational project but more of a Christian Hip Hop / Gospel project where I went back to El Paso to record it. I initially started as a Christian rapper a while back, but at the time, the church wasn’t really checking for Christian hip hop/rap. Ultimately, I went into the secular world, gain some big time success & notoriety and when the likes of Kurt Franklin, Mary Mary, and Lecrae blew the doors off, it allowed me to come back to the genre. Now CHH and GHH is more readily accepted and the culture is thriving, with a host of stars, that are just as dope as a lot of the secular artists today.
Q) What’s the story behind your single ‘I Got Angels’?
A) I Got Angels was the last record added to my album Praise. As I was sitting down with my producer at the time Sam Peezy aka “Tony Factory”, we knew we had a good substance laced album, but we needed to find a signature single. Angels originally by Mr. Richard Smallwood, was a record that Factory was sitting on, as it was music created that help him his family deal with a personal loss and when he shared it with me, I felt it right off and I wanted to channel my thoughts with a classic flow, an I Got Angels was created. We shared it with Mr. Smallwood and he stated that “it would go places that he couldn’t imagine”.
Q) How did your collaborate with Fred Hammond happen on the single ‘Glory to God’? Do you have a video out yet? If so, Who directed and shot your video for the song? If not, when can fans expect the visuals for that?
A) The collaboration with Fred Hammond came by way of manager Vonzell “VZ” Washington whom at the time was in the studio with both Bishop Cortez Vaughn & Fred Hammond. VZ was sharing with both of them the records I’ve done and my success to date. VZ reached back to me and asked what I could do with Glory to Glory and he’ll play it for Fred and Bishop. They liked my flow and we mutually agreed to work together. So I got with Tony Factory on the Glory record, he laced the beat, I hit a rough of them vocals and VZ played it for Fred and Fred was with it. While on my press tour on SiriusXM in New York, Baltimore & D.C., I got the call that Fred was open to do the record and I immediately went to Dallas, we recorded the song and the rest is history.
Q) What was it like to work with Tupac? What was that whole experience like. What songs have created with him?
A) Although I met Tupac prior to being on his album, my work with him was posthumously. I actually got on the record in the last moments of production. I had a business partner who was actually producing 10 to 12 songs on the album “Better Dayz” in the middle of Modesto, California doing the songs under armed guard. I initially had one song on the album with Tupac feat. The Outlawz that did not make the final cut, but it was banging though. Hahaha! However I was instrumental in the acoustic version of “Thugz Mansion” that became the signature single to album and garnered critical acclaim at the time.
Q) Which artists inspired you the most growing up? Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?
A) There are a few artists that gave me crazy inspiration while growing up, Rakim, KRSOne, Redman & Jay Z all lyricists and crafty storytellers that had stage presence and incredible vocal deliveries. A dream collaboration would be on with Rakim, Jay Z, and Sade all on one track.
Q) What was it like to get Prince approval to remix his song?
A) Getting approval from Prince was the icing on the cake indeed, but meeting Doctor Fink, co-founder of Prince & The Revolution was just as incredible when you think about all of the songs and stages he has rocked with Prince along with the studio sessions, it was so surreal having them admire what we did with a classic the likes of “Pop Life” that it was one of the first records accepted on “Doctor Fink Presents Revolution: A tribute to Prince” compilation.
Q) How would you define your genre of music? What can new supporters expect when listening to your music?
A) My genre of music is Christian / Gospel Hip Hop all the way, through and through. However, I think my music relates to more mature CHH fans, you know for consumers that aren’t millennials and people under 50 that still love hip hop. I’m not the type of artist that’s going to dance, hop around (although I might give you a move or two) Hahaha! But I hit them with classic melodies that the audience can chant and or sing to, with lyrics not overly complicated and or corny. I am trying to bridge the gaps and mend the fence so that CHH would be able to expand and level up.
Q) What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date?
A) I have two, One is being an official Stellar Awards Nominee, the fact that the members pushed you through and then the fans voted, high honor. Number 2, Creating the first ever all CHH & Gospel Hip Hop Radio Station on Dash a platform with 10 million monthly listeners. GH3 Radio is also a Stellar Awards Nominee, making it the first ever Christian Hip Hop radio station to be a nominee in the Stellar Awards 34 year history.
Q) How did you find out about your stellar award nominations? How does it feel? Did you expect to get nominated?
A) I found out I was nominated for 2 Stellar Awards on Facebook, watching the announcement on the Stellars page. It feels surreal because I didn’t expect to get nominated as I am not widely known in the gospel circles and like every other genre, there is a political hierarchy or the gatekeepers that if they do not like you, it is hard to get in and get nominated for anything. So I applaud the SAGMA members for giving me an opportunity and my fans the ability to vote, and here we are.
Q) If you could cover any song what would it be?
A) That is a great question, I think it would have to be “Check Out My Melody” by Eric B & Rakim, throw some church melodies on that with a hip hop choir and go in!
Q) What are the most challenging things you experience as an Gospel/HIP HOP artist in today’s industry? What changes would you like to see in the music/ entertainment industry?
A) In CHH I had to navigate some rough seas coming in from the secular world with most assuming that I was in the genre to get a quick buzz and then get out. Pretty much judging my character without even speaking to me or knowing my walk. Also the fact that I came in understanding how to market records and thinking outside of the box when it came to marketing, caught a lot of people off guard. However, as people get to know me they find an individual that pours into various artist and give them strategies on how to amplify their music ministry.
There are a whole lot of changes I would like to see in the music/industry concerning the recognition of CHH & Gospel Hip Hop, from having an actual category in the Grammys to more than one category with the Stellar Awards. But I know in order for that to happen, the CHH membership in those various organizations have to be way up and that’s about getting the artist to understand how important that is to expand the base and become members.
Q) Do you think there’s a double standard in the industry, or in entertainment in general?
A) I don’t know about double standards, I just think there are teams within it and everyone wants to win the Super Bowl!
Q) Do you have any new projects on the way or any performances occurring, any events? What’s your over plan for the next few months?
A) For the next few months I am going to prepare for the Stellar Awards. I have a new single out called “Lift Me Up” featuring Bishop Cortez Vaughn, who won the 2018 Stellar Awards and Billboard Award for song of the year “You Deserve It” with J.J. Hairston.
Just came off a performance on the first ever CHH & Gospel Hip Hop cruise on Carnival that went to the Bahamas brought to you by RWMS Group and God’s House of Hip Hop Radio. On the 21st I will be performing on the Gospel Stage at the Martin Luther King Junior Parade in Los Angeles presented by Touch the World Entertainment and KJLH.
Q) What do you do in your free time? Any Hobbies?
A) In my spare time I write and work on new animated properties, I am a published author with a book entitled 50 Shades of L.O.V.E. – “Learning Our Various Emotions” and I am currently writing my second book that I hope to have out by the end of the year.
I am also one of the co-creators of the first African American Animated music series to debut on Neftlix entitled “Da Jammies”, we are currently working on a series of Holiday Specials. Da Jammies airs on Comcast xfinity, Apple TV, Roku, and Hulu.
Q) Who shot your photos for this feature?
A) Christopher Starr from CSP Music Group
Q) Anything else you want to add/ Any Shoutouts? your Social Media?
A) Yeah can follow me on TW & IG: @EmceeNICELA, and facebook facebook.com/emceenicemusic
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