Interviews

All Hail YBN Nahmir, Rap's Reluctant Boy King

The 18-year-old's breakout "Rubbin' Off the Paint" has already gone platinum. With a new project imminent, we catch up with the rapper to talk about what's next.

by Nate Louis; photos by Tom Keelan
12 July 2018, 11:48pm

If I were to, for a moment, compare the current rap zeitgeist to art history, I would probably point to the impressionist period as the correlating reference for understanding the way this period of rap fits in the timeline. If you don’t know anything about art history, just understand this period was considered the first distinctly modern movement in painting. The impressionist period saw artists focus on how to capture their images without detail but with bold colors. This was a less formal approach that emphasized specific styles and impromptu takes.

Much like with rap nowadays, it feels like the impressionist art movement in which art is being created through layered ad-libs and infectious production tags over the traditional approach of carefully constructed 16 bar pockets; an emphasis on the broader strokes of the track’s personality and less on the structural details. There are no longer any rules. And I said all that to say, yes rap may be in it’s impressionist art movement but it still slaps all the same and YBN Nahmir is another pinpoint of proof. When Nahmir shared his Worldstar exclusive breakout hit “Rubbin’ Off the Paint” last September, I don’t think he ever imagined it amassing over 120 million views and garnering platinum status… but it did and this kind of success has served as the only marker of credibility necessary. That and a whole lot of Christian Louboutins for the 18-year-old rapper, born Nick Simmons, from Birmingham, Alabama.

Nahmir, Mr. Bounce out with that .44, along with YBN Almighty Jay and YBN Cordae, make up the trio of rappers within the young boss niggas collective. They all met playing video games like GTA on Xbox live years ago, which people (including myself I suppose now) continually use as a talking point when discussing the group of rappers, which is particularly weird given this is no anomaly for a generation of kids birthed from the internet age. But anyhow, Nahmir at the head features a style that certainly feels Bay Area influenced with consistent dabs of the South’s unique snares and loops. And look no further than "No Hook" featuring compadre YBN Almighty Jay to find Nahmir in his most comfortable element, effortlessly trading gravitational pull like quicksand bars with Almighty Jay.

When Nahmir received news of "Rubbin' Off the Paint" going platinum, it was also around the same time last month when he found out he wasn’t going to be able to walk in his high school graduation which sparked the #LetNahmirWalk hashtag. Nahmir took to Instagram to post after the principal of his school, Clay-Chalkville High School, informed him he would not be allowed to walk after the rapper had left tour and donated money to his community in hopes of a fulfilling graduation homecoming for him and his family.

Speaking with Nahmir, you can tell this is an 18-year-old whose life has accelerated in the last nine months at a pace he didn’t ask for. His tone is honest, and it’s weighing on him how fast and drastically life can change but he’s also thankful to be in the position he’s in: A feeling that replicates that of a gift and a curse. Continuing to build off "Rubbin' Off the Paint," Nahmir has dropped impressive singles like Automatic (RIP FREDO!), "Bounce Out with That," "I Got a Stick and a Bail Out" as well as getting big look features on tracks like G Eazy’s "1942," Bhad Babbie’s 'Hi Bich [Remix]," and Yung Bans's "Ridin'" featuring Nahmire and Landon Cube. Now Nahmir is preparing to drop his YBN compilation tape.

On the upcoming project (which is yet to get a release date), Nahmir is finding himself, growing up, flexing hard as ever but also trying to talk about his real life experiences and learn from his mistakes while doing it all in the public eye as an 18-year-old. And for what it’s worth, whether Nahmir will have sustained success, only time will tell but it certainly feels like he may be one of the lone Teen Titans in the rap game with the wherewithal to actually become a DC Universe fixture. We spoke with Nahmir about the new project, the rest of YBN and what life has been like since blowing up.

Noisey: When did you start taking the music shit serious?
YBN Nahmir: When "Rubbin' Off the Paint" starting blowing up.

YBN Almighty Jay seem like he’s that wild boy in the crew and you’re the more reserved one, how did y’all find that balance and become that dynamic duo you guys give off?
Jay always been a dumb nigga bruh just being a dumb nigga but he can get away with it [laughs] and everybody knew me for always being cool and laid back and shit, I don't know this just always been how I act like, I always just been myself that's why mostly everybody fuck with me I guess. But that nigga Jay he just a wild nigga so we go together cause I'm a calm nigga, Jay a hot nigga, and then we got my nigga Cordae & he just in between both of us.

How does it feel seeing that energy transferred from having that platinum record to seeing people actually respond to it live?
Yeah bruh that shit crazy in itself. Like when you go to a show or hear somebody riding past in their car with yo shit playing, it feels crazy especially when everybody knows your shit.

Did you think "Rubbin Off the Paint" was gonna blow up the way it did?
I mean hell yeah I knew it was gonna blow up a little bit but I ain't know it was gonna blow up how it did. I always had the mindset that it was going to hit a million but I ain't never expect it to hit 2 million, so shit it is what it is, now that hoe blowing up it's like at 110 million on YouTube. The number 1 most played video on WorldStar.

Now with this tape, what was the inspiration and approach behind this project?
Shit, everything. All the experiences, how me and Jay linked up in person finally in 2017, it's a bunch of shit too like stories and what not, you just have to listen to understand. It's finna go crazy for sure.

Getting Gucci Mane, King of the South, on there was fitting, how'd that happen?
Hell yeah, I already knew Gucci was gon hop on some shit, him being from Alabama too it was like mandatory that he got on there. Obviously he ain't have to do the shit but it was like mothafuckas already knew that shit was coming.

Something I was really interested in when it comes to you guys is the versatility in the music.
Yeah exactly, Cordae is like the lyrical type of nigga, I'm the nigga that's gonna go in the booth and talk my shit, but to a certain extent and Jay just gonna go in there and go crazy and say what he wanna say and that shit gonna sound hard.

What's your favorite tracks off the upcoming tape right now?
My shit probably would be "Think Twice" and "Porsches in the Rain."

Oh yeah, the track "Porsches in the Rain" stuck out to me to. It’s really a beautiful concept within a flawed setting, something like us humans to this world, where did that come from?
"Porsches in the Rain," it was just different shit like nigga nobody talks about no Porsches in the rain so I was like fuck it Ima talk about some Porsches in the rain. Not one person you could think of who would name a song Porsches in the rain like where the fuck did that come from. So it's just some different shit.

You're really honest on parts of the project. What was the root of that?
I feel everybody expected me to write about violence, but I wanted to take a more political angle. Chris [Brown] created the hook to speak about how police just see homicides in the hood as just another man down rather than a tragedy. It made me think about one of my homies who turned his life around, but still fell victim to murder, and it happened to be the police ...not even a gang member or anything like that.

"Letters to Valley" is a really intense & intimate series of tracks too. Who was he to you?
A close friend of mine that had a heart attack.

What would you say your main motivation is going forward, do you want to expand past just the music?
Hell yeah that's what we're doing now. We got the gaming shit coming, we got some movie shit we're doing coming soon, we already going crazy with the rap shit, so a bunch of things coming soon and mothafuckas just gonna have to watch and find out.

It's been almost nine months now since you blew up, I'm kinda interested in how it's been personally for you dealing with fame and what not?
I mean it feel good but bruh [long pause] shit gets tiring.

Does it ever get overwhelming?
Bruh it's crazy and I think we get it more than normal everyday people because it's like it's more stress than who you was before [the fame]. Like I ain't even gon cap, it's cool doing all this shit but being broke and being who I was, there's no feeling like that. I always had that joy and shit, it's like nothing can bring back that feeling I have with my family. But just knowing I could provide for them now makes me feel good though. Just growing up and knowing shit will never be the same, it's just different for me now.

What do you usually try to do when it gets to be too much?
Hell yeah. Bruh that's how it is right now matter of fact, shit I just be lowkey bruh I don't know. You see how everybody else be in TMZ and all that extra shit niggas be doing, I don't got time for none of that shit. I just be in my own lane & I don't give mothafuckas too much of me because nigga if you give too much, niggas gon get tired of seeing yo ass, so I just be coolin' in my own lane.

What's the process for you making music now that you're building bodies of work even though you're on tour, are you going to the studio at night or making music on the move?
It depends on how I'm feeling that day, I ain't been to the studio in a minute. I been on tour and shit but we just be coolin' in the studio when we go, it's not really hard to make a song cause we some hitmakers lowkey I ain't even gone cap. I'm finna start going crazy again when shit drop.

What does the future look like for you?
Nigga, crazy! Gettin' more money, getting more fans, building more relationships, then we gon take this YBN shit off to a whole nother level.

Any advice you'd have for any other artists out here tryna get separate themselves from the pack?
Shit, all they gotta do is be their self. If you be yourself, you're good. If you try to be somebody else you gon KO your whole career in a fucking second. Nigga you gotta be yourself, matter of fact, you gotta be yourself period no matter what you doing. Cause if you not being yourself, it's not hard to tell.

How's your family been receiving all this? Are they happy?
It feels good, it feels good. I actually just went to go see my family in Connecticut, I had a lil mini type family reunion. I surprised they asses and pulled up on em. Everybody was happy as fuck to see my ass. Like I ain't see they asses since 6th grade and nigga I'm 18 so everybody was turnt, that felt good. Cause I was in New York by myself feeling depressed and shit so I had to go see they asses, I couldn't not do it.

Those the kind of moments that bring you back down to earth?
Right bruh, like I was thinking about it like I was just sitting in my hotel room in New York and I'm like bruh I got family in New Haven, Connecticut, I could go see my family, I don't gotta be sitting here.

Is everything kind of numbing at this point since you're doing so much?
Yeah it's just like 'okay, I don't even care bruh like cool'. I think I'm just so used to the shit like I got used to everything too quick. That's how it be though, shit I mean it is what it is.

Last thing… Since you’ve referenced both in your songs and videos, if you could be in one or the other, which would you pick: Spongebob or Rick & Morty?
Shit, Spongebob cause I know that nigga. Rick & Morty, them niggas came out of nowhere, Spongebob I knew that nigga my whole life.

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This article originally appeared on Noisey US.