Nafe Smallz

Ticket to the Moon is the latest offering from rapper Nafe Smallz.

The album comes off the back of his sold-out show at KOKO last year, where he had the likes of Krept & Konan, Chip, M Huncho, and many more join him on stage.

The 15-track project is a collection of songs with lyrical themes, yet somehow all connect to produce his most experimental album. Tapping into influences from the 80s yet still bringing through the melodic trap style melodies he is known for, Nafe shows how he is still an artist evolving and developing nearly ten years into his career.

The album features guests from the likes of Lancey Foux, AJ Tracey, and Aitch, to name a few. All of which contribute to the vibes and energy that he already brings to the project. Having been in the music game for up to a decade now, there have been a lot of shifts and changes in the landscape as a whole, yet he is somebody who has continued to stake his place in the UK Rap scene despite all the challenges and experiences he has faced along the way.

Ticket to the Moon is a new chapter and phase of his career that he embraces with both hands. Set to take the stage in April at The Outernet, this album and its upcoming show display how far he has come in his career. The melodic trap-style rapper is offering his fans and audiences something very different than what he has previously been known for embracing his versatility and reaching new levels in his career. 

With the release of Ticket to the Moon, 1883 speaks about creating the album, UK hip-hop, social media, collaboration, music evolution, creativity, and so much more. 

So, first things first, what was the inspiration behind the album? 

My last headline show I did at KOKO in London was the inspiration for the album. The energy was unbelievable, and the connection with the fans was second to none. I had a bunch of other artists come out and perform, and even a title was just inspired by that show and taking it to the next level. The title also means the music will take you somewhere else. It’s called Ticket to the Moon because when you take it in, it feels it takes you to another dimension. So yeah, that’s where it came from.

This was a huge moment in your career, tell us more about the experience?

It was a sick moment for me. My whole family was there, my mom, dad, brother, sister, all of them. So, everybody has been around to see the beginning when I was doing little shows with 50 or 60 people. For them to come and see the growth made it an extra special moment for me. All the artists that came out, I grew up listening to and I ended up working with. Sharing the stage with the likes of Krept & Konan, and Chip was a moment for me. 

What was the process behind making the album?

It was actually very fun. For me, music is very serious, it’s not something I’ve done just for the sake of it. It’s really like a diary to me. That being said I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself about making certain types of music. I just like to go with the flow and enjoy the process. So yeah with this project it was just fun, especially working with all the artists that I did. I’ve never worked with Lancy before. So, getting into the studio with Lancy, was great, I rate his music a lot so getting him on the song and doing the video as well was great. I’ve also worked with AJ a lot, but we haven’t released anything together yet so it was good to lock him in get to put something out. Everybody who worked on this project suited the vibe of the project, artists, writers, and producers. They all killed it. 

Musically this album is quite different from what your fans expected, how differently did you approach this one compared to your previous albums? 

I take inspiration from different things, such as life and music. And it’s always fun to experiment and make different sound styles. With this one, I worked with a few new producers I wanted to get in with. I worked with Ebenezer one of the producers on this project. We got to do a couple of 80s-inspired songs, which was refreshing. I don’t like to hear or do the same thing for too long. It’s more interesting and exciting when we switch it up. And, I don’t like it when the fans know what to expect. I prefer to give them the shock when they hear the music so they can be like I didn’t know I needed this in my life. Switching up the production and the producers is critical as well, working with many different creatives allows me to explore different sounds and vibes.

How did you maintain balancing your traditional sound while trying new ideas?

It’s being true to yourself. I like all types of music, and I’ve never limited myself to just one genre. People typically know me for doing things that sound more trap, however, I always like to explore and experiment with the sounds and have fun. Anytime I go into a project, it’s based mainly on what I’m going for at the time in my life. So that’s what everything stems from. Wherever I’m at in that moment, I don’t always look back and say I want it to be better than this project. I let it flow until it feels right. And then, once it feels right, we lock it in. Nine times out of ten, I will start a project without the title or concept. I’ll start by making the music, and then everything else follows. But this last one started with the idea of doing a massive show in London this year, like the biggest one I’ve done so far. I am making it a special experience for all the supporters because most of them have been with me for seven or eight years, so I wanted to do something that shows my appreciation for them. It’s all about the vibe of the show, and then the whole concept of the show is going to be special. And we’re going to make it like a full-on theatrical experience. So yeah, that’s what guided this one. 

What sort of music influences and references did you look to for the project? 

I listen to all types of music, and sometimes I get bored. So, when I’m listening to trap music, for example, nonstop, when I get in my car, I usually don’t feel like listening to it for extended periods. I listened to a project called “Alone at Prom” by Tory Lanez. When I heard it, I went back to the ’80s references, and I knew I wanted to take some of these sounds and make my version of what I was hearing. It was different and refreshing. Initially, I wanted to do a full project with that sound, but I thought it would be good to start with a couple and see how people feel about it but I have a quite a few songs I did in that style so I might do something down the line.  

You’ve been a figure in the UK rap scene for some time now. In your experiences, what has been the most significant change in the industry? 

The country has become more experimental and unafraid to step outside the box and try something new. Socials over the last ten years increased the reach for artists. The UK has always had talent, but it wasn’t always put on a platform for the rest of the world to see. So now, with TikTok and all these kinds of things, it’s given kids the opportunity to showcase their talent, and obviously, the rest of the world is taken in, so it’s a sick it’s a beautiful time for UK music and UK artists.

As you mentioned about social media, what role do you feel it has had in how UK Rap has grown over the years? 

For me, I started music just out of the love of music. My dad’s a DJ, so I’ve always had music around in the household and stuff. I was never becoming an artist for anything other than that; however, with time, I have realized that marketing on these platforms gives you a further reach. For example, if you play a song or put it on YouTube, only those who know about you or are locked in will hear it. With TikTok Instagram, people worldwide can take one swipe to come across your music. It is good, especially when your music connects to many people; these platforms make it easier for people to access it. As for making people’s careers in it, you got some artists from the UK that grew overnight on TikTok, and now, obviously, they can do more for their family and community and contribute. It’s a good thing.

“BE A HOE” was the first single taken from the album with Lancey, how did that come together and why that was the first single?

A producer called Eight, with whom I work closely, and Harry Beach went to stay in a big house in Birmingham for a week to create some good new sounds. Sometimes we switch up to the environment that we record in just for the different vibe. We stayed an extra day, and we made “BE A HOE”, and we started with some drums, and then we found the sample, and then when I came back to London, I shouted Lancey because I felt like his style would compliment the song, which it did. 

You followed that up with “GEEKIN” with AJ Tracey, tell us more about that collaboration process? 

AJ and I have more songs from before that have yet to come out, but we are both friends, so we link up in the studio and create all the time. The one we did together suited the project, and the position I’ve got on the mixtape compliments the journey of the project well. I wanted to make the project almost like an adventure. It’s like a roller coaster. There are highs, and then there are lows that you can sense. They are reflective songs about life, and then some songs make you feel good. So yeah that song came together naturally in just how we work together and it was fun doing that with him and it actually made it onto the project. 

What has fed your creativity and allowed you to keep growing musically over the years?

So music is just part of my everyday life; it’s like a diary and therapy. Even if the songs don’t come out, I’m in the studio expressing what’s happening and what’s going on in my life. For me, it’s easier to go to the booth, get on the mic, and talk about things than to call someone and explain what’s happening in my life. So, for me, it’s good for my mind and soul. It’s a blessing. 

What music do you like to listen to when you need a cleanse and a break from hip-hop?

All genres do something different to the brain and the body, like when you hear different frequencies, and I feel like I’m in a house music phase right now. I watched Skepta DJ, and seeing so many people come together for the music was inspiring. It’s not a lot of lyrics, but it’s more so the vibes of the music., so we’ve been in the studio, making some different kinds of house sounds and, yes, inspiring. Reggae music is very therapeutic, just like on a Sunday when I’m chilling or cooking or whatever. It’s good for the soul. 

What are you looking forward to in the next chapter of your journey? 

It’s just creating more music with more creatives. Every time I release, it attracts new and familiar people. So it’s like as soon as excited too many to see what comes off each project. So, yeah, every time I drop it just inspires new people, that’s a big part of it for me. People send me messages like your music took me out of a dark place or saved my life. So yeah, that’s it. It’s just helping more people and spreading the vibes more and spreading the story more, and that’s it. 

Ticket To The Moon is out now

Interview Seneo Mwamba

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