Perhaps Canadian hip-hop doesn’t get the shine it deserves. We’re here to hopefully change that. On our quest to always find underground hip-hop talent, years ago I stumbled upon a rapper by the name of Nostic out of Canada. The emcee bears a sharp mind as he raps with passion about life, social issues and much more. Nostic is usually one to adhere a boom-bap instrumental to his lyrical verses, so his old-school vibe is always a thrill. I recently got the chance to talk with the rapper over the phone and got to hear a lot about what makes Nostic the artist that he is. Check out the full Hip Hop Speakeasy interview with Nostic below, and be sure to check his music out on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.
STONE: Let’s start off, if you could just state your name, where you’re from and what you do.
NOSTIC: My name is Mike, aka Nostic, Audible Nostic from Canada, New Brunswick – we’re on the East coast. We’re maybe two hours away from the Maine border. And what I do: hip-hop, life, I do it all [laughs].
STONE: You mentioned Nostic and Audible Nostic. Do you prefer one or the other, or do they have different meanings?
NOSTIC: Not really. I put out a mixtape called The Audible, and then from there, Audible Nostic just kind of stuck. Nostic is the main name, but Jim Jones has a clothing brand named Nostic so I’m just waiting to see [laughs]. So if Jim Jones tries to come at me it’s Audible Nostic.
STONE: Oh yeah [Laughs]. So where did Nostic come from?
NOSTIC: It’s kind of like a play off of the whole Gnosticism thing. It’s just kind of a belief that there’s something bigger out there. For me, I have to have proof before I fully believe [something]; the hardwood floor’s hard because I can knock on it and see that it’s hard, you know what I mean? Whereas, instead of taking people’s opinions and taking them as fact, question things. I’m a questioner; I like to question everything I guess.
STONE: You’re a Canadian emcee. Do you feel you have any strengths or weaknesses being a Canadian emcee?
NOSTIC: I mean, yeah I guess so if we’re being realistic. I think there’s definitely a stigma attached to Canadian emcees [and] I think Canada in general that we’re nice people, maybe overly nice or whatever [laughs]. People mistake that for some sort of weakness when I don’t really see that as a weakness at all, I think that’s a good characteristic to be a nice person. But at the same time, if it comes down to it, we can be the other side, too – [like] Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We can be both sides, it’s just we chose to be one way. As far as the emceeing goes, I live on the East coast so it’s just hard to pop off what I’m doing out here because not a lot of people see successful emcees, and because they don’t see that, they have a hard time believing in that. If you lived in Hollywood, and you’re next door neighbor was a model in a Calvin Klein magazine or whatever, and the other next door neighbor was an extra on a Steven Spielberg set and they’re telling you they want to be an actor, it’s easy for you to see that because you’re surrounded by it. But up here, we’re surrounded by call center jobs and oil industry jobs and all that stuff. They don’t believe in you as much as they could I guess.
STONE: So you’re basing that off your location?
NOSTIC: Yeah, this location. There are some spots in Canada like Toronto and Vancouver and bigger places like that. I was out in Toronto earlier this year, my man ThaCapitalE lives out there right now doing his thing, that’s an U.G.L.I. fam member. When I was out there I noticed that when you say you’re an emcee, they believe you one hundred percent, and they ask you questions, they want to know more about you. Whereas here, when you say that you’re an emcee or you say that you rap, people’s automatic first thought is to go to “oh ok, do you like 50 Cent?” [Laughs] You know what I mean, they go to the mainstream artists and they kind of pigeonhole you that way.
STONE: Do you see any way of breaking that?
NOSTIC: Yeah definitely, just being dope. Undeniable, really. That’s all you got to do is be undeniable because I have done shows for drunken people, sober people…younger people [and] older people, and as long as you’re undeniable, music is universal, the language is universal – they get it. So definitely being undeniable, practicing your craft and working out all the kinks.
STONE: That’ll definitely work. Getting back to specifically you as a rapper, who inspired you to really get into rapping and who were your inspirations growing up? Who did you listen to?
NOSTIC: I wouldn’t say there’s one person that inspired me, or one group, or one rapper, or one musical act. Growing up, I was exposed to a mixture of different music, I wasn’t just on rap. And I didn’t find a lot of albums until later on in life because they were exposed out here like they were in the area that they came from [in the United States]. Like New York rap, it didn’t really hit here like it did down there. I may have heard Nas or heard of him, but didn’t hear about him until the third or the fourth album in, and then I would go back and check the catalog. So growing up, I listened to a mixture of music. But then around nine, ten, or eleven [years old], my uncle played a lot of hip-hop. He bought the albums every Tuesday, every new one that came out so he just had a bin full of new CDs. Every week I would go down with a blank cassette and make a mix of all the new music. That’s what really put me on to hip-hop. But my old man, he always played music from day one. [We] got home videos and there’s not one home video you watch that doesn’t have music playing in the background of it. So it’s been there, but the rap portion was definitely my uncle and my cousins that put me on to that shit.
STONE: So you said the area up there doesn’t really receive the music as on time as where it’s released, but what is the hip-hop scene like by you?
NOSTIC: I don’t know, man. I connect with a lot of people that do hip-hop around here, but there’s not really a scene. There are people that do hip-hop, but there’s not really a scene. I guess we create the scene. Where I live now, all the shows that I’ve been doing I’ve been putting on completely myself. I book the shows, I come up with the concept, make the flyer, promote the flyer, put the flyer up myself [laughs], put the show together, put people on the show, pay the people. I do everything now. I guess I got control issues though [laughs]. But there’s really not too big of a scene here, it’s not like people are looking for hip-hop shit to do. I just create the event and [people] need something to do on a Friday or Saturday night, so they come out to it. They enjoy it, but I wouldn’t really call it a scene. Halifax would be the next closest city to where I’m at, which is about four hours away, that would have more of a hip-hop scene, an appreciation for hip-hop than it does right around here. Right around here it’s more indie, and grassroots, and folk music. Not as much hip-hop, but there definitely is talent in the city [of New Brunswick], they’re just super under the radar right now.
STONE: Yeah, I was going to ask you about any other areas around you that might have scene. Do you ever see yourself going to another city or another zone that may have more of a scene?
NOSTIC: Yeah definitely, if the opportunity presents itself, then I’m there. In life, you make your opportunities, I don’t wait around for opportunities to come to me. Going back to the control issue thing, I have a specific point of view and a specific way I want to do things, and I’m just starting to embrace that now instead of reaching out to other people. I’ve been trying to learn things myself and do everything myself because I feel like if I know what I want and someone isn’t on the same page as me, I don’t want the shit to be done half-assed. If you go to a dude that does music videos, or he doesn’t even do music videos, he just has a camcorder and he likes to shoot videos. But he doesn’t have the same vision you have, or he doesn’t have the same long-term goal or the long-term vision of what you want to do, then it’s hard to connect with those people because they [may not] have the same kind of drive and passion that you do, it’s hard to match that. That goes back to me trying to do everything myself.
STONE: I hear that. In that regard, would you ever consider signing to a label or would you rather stay independent?
NOSTIC: I think as of right now, independent is the way to go, at least at first. I think the further along you get, you get to a certain level and hit a ceiling. You get to the point where you just can’t do that much independently without certain people helping you out. But I guess [for me] we’ll just cross that bridge when we get there.
STONE: Ok, moving on to your actual output, your first album was The Audible back in 2011. Do you remember what it was like to make that project, went into the project, what led up to it?
NOSTIC: Yeah, I wouldn’t really call The Audible an album, it’s more of just a mixtape. It’s got a mixture of original beats and [industry] beats on it. These projects that I’ve been putting out have been just for fun; just me taking beats when I can get them and writing songs when I feel like [it] and then putting them on a project and letting people know that I’m still alive and still doing this. More recently I’ve been trying to send [music] out, get it out to different people and really working on the quality of the music and making sure that what I want intertwines with what people want to hear, too [without] compromising. I put out a couple different projects. Way back in the day, I was in a group One Mind, me and two other dudes, and we put out a few mixtapes. The way I sounded and rapped on those was completely different than now because there’s this whole growth period. And then I put out this whole tape out over 9th Wonder beats because I was really feeling 9th Wonder at the time. So I picked like fifteen of his unknown beats and rapped to them, and then I put out The Audible. During the process of The Audible, I wanted to make that [higher] quality than any other projects [I had made], but I think that’s the trajectory I’m going in [in] general. After The Audible, I wanted to do something better than that. After The Audible we did the #UGLI project, which was all original beats and the quality of it was a lot better in my opinion. Each time [I] try to outdo [myself]. Even that whole process there was just fun, it’s when a lot of my homeboys were around, they weren’t living in different cities scattered all over the place. We were having fun.
STONE: You mentioned the U.G.L.I. movement a few times. Can you explain what that is?
NOSTIC: Yeah, U-G-L-I, “U gotta love it.” A lot of people think we’re a group, which they’re not completely wrong, but we’re also all [individual] artists. We’re all from the same city, we all grew up together, and we all got similar goals. Anytime we link up and do music, we say it’s U.G.L.I. so people know that we’re all connected and that we’re all trying to do the same thing, we’re all on the same page. We’re three different emcees, three solo artists, we all sound different, but the content of our music is essentially the same; as in we talk about life, what we want out of the future, what we want out of the present, we talk about our family and friends, you know real life experiences and stuff like that. There are more people we can bring in and call them U.G.L.I. too, but as of right now it’s just me, NapzMeka and ThaCapitalE. Those are my homeboys right there.
STONE: So you released The Audible, you have the U.G.L.I. movement, you made that album with them as well, and over the years, we here at The Hip Hop Speakeasy have seen and heard a lot of your solo tracks. Is there anything you’re working on currently, and do these tracks have anything to do with your future projects?
NOSTIC: I find with music I go through a lot of ups and downs, lefts and rights. I feel a lot of different things, so I got to embrace them when I feel them. If I get into the zone or I get into a certain vibe, then I’m going to capitalize on that vibe. I don’t really consider myself a certain type of artist or that I talk about certain things. If you talk about life as a certain thing then yes, I talk about certain things: life. But if it hits me, it hits me. Before the #UGLI project, a lot of the tracks you would have got at first would have been the ones I did with VStheBEST who’s out of Philly. I linked with him over the net; he was liking my shit, I liked his shit, so we linked up and did a bunch of tracks. We have a couple of tracks right now on the backburner that no one has ever heard. He’s out doing his thing right now; he just did the project [Ready To Juxx] with Ruste Juxx, so he’s working. Right now I’m working on a project with a good friend of mine who’s from [New Brunswick], as well. It’s kind of the first project I’ve ever built from scratch, where we sat down and our sessions consisted of talking and telling stories and [my friend] would be like, “Hey, man, you need to go read this book.” So I would read the book and then we regroup and talk about that, and from that comes a beat, and from that beat comes a verse, and from that verse comes a song. I’ve never really done it that way. In the past it’s been kind of dry where producers would send me a beat and say, “Here’s my beat – rap to it.” Then I’d lay verses on it and be like, here’s the song, you know what I mean? It’s just very dry. But this one is very hands on, it’s very organic, it’s a concept album. I don’t really want to give too much away right now because we’re still working on it and shaping it. It’s probably going to be my best work to date. It’s going to sound the most natural, it’s going to sound the most organic, and it’s probably going to be the most personal that you’ve ever heard.