This week at FreeInstrumentals.com we are honored to call our Artist of The Week: iLL Nicky, from San Diego, CA. Over last few years we’ve had the pleasure of watching iLL Nicky flourish into the amazing artist that he has become now! This pure blooded Italian loves life and you can truly feel the positivity just from speaking with him. His music is on another level and if you haven’t taken the time to listen to him, your ears are missing out.
His latest video:
And without further adieu….
-What is your name & what do you go by?
My name is Nicholas, 100% Italian blood. I go by the moniker of iLL Nicky. There are a few reasons on why that name took form. I used to just go by what my family called me, Nicky B. I was marketing my music as Nicky B until my boy Mikey complemented me on a verse I wrote, and said, “That was ill, Nicky. I loved the sound of it and it made sense to me and what I stand for. The word “il” is “the” in Italian, and in ancient Rome, was used to identify a man of importance. Placing it before the name, such as il Caesar, was a sign of respect and adoration. I added the second L to make it an acronym for “I Love Life.” It perfectly explains my message to the world. And finally, the most obvious reason, iLL explains that my skills are, well, ill.
-How old are you?
Old enough to rent a car.
-When did you start making music?
I started making music when I was 10 years old. My older brothers built my room at the time into a makeshift music studio. A Dell computer, keyboard, turntables, a CO1 Studio Condenser microphone, and a garage sale bought soundboard, complete with Acid Pro 2000. They also built a vocal booth out of plywood and egg cartons. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I would sit in and listen to them and watch the process. I fell in love with it. The first song I ever wrote was a remix to “Big Poppa” and the hook went, “I love it when they call me Nicky B, everybody just clap for me.” Haha. The second song I wrote was a remix to Xzibit’s “X” and that is when I decided I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. But life got in the way and I lost my initial focus. I was ashamed and afraid of what people in my white community would think of me. They thought I was a poser because hip hop didn’t make sense to a person with my skin color or social class. My father found success within an Italian restaurant and that was pretty much what was expected of me. From a young age I learned how to work in that industry but I never liked it. My family allowed me to dream though, so I never entirely lost sight of my musical aspirations. One night, I freestyled at a party over a beatbox, and my DJ friend was blown away. He immediately brought me to his studio to record some shit. When we uploaded the video of me rapping, the positive comments started rolling in. With that newfound motivation and confidence, I promised myself I would never quit, and that I would die for the opportunity to share my soul with the world.
-Why did you start making music?
It just came naturally to me. I wasn’t always skilled, I was actually horrible, But the art of it was so right for me. I absolutely loved writing different rhymes and developing different sounding schemes and patterns. I could never focus on much in school, I was always so enthralled with my own writing and day dreaming. I also grew up in a very chaotic household where people were constantly yelling. Not always bad, haha, its just how Italians talk. As the youngest, I never could really get a word in. Music was my outlet, and my opportunity to share my thoughts, beliefs, and dreams. To keep it brief, it just made me happy, plain and simple.
-Who is your inspiration?
There are too many. But I would have to say Tech Nine. He was always the most complete artist to me and he spoke so freely of his emotions. He never cared what people thought of him. He let himself be vulnerable and he lyrically and structurally pushed himself on every song. He was honest and never satisfied. That’s why his name is 9, not 10. He knew that no matter what, he would never be perfect. And that value keeps him hungry as an artist to always improve and always grow. I find myself very attracted to those qualities, and it is the way I aspire to be. Other guys like Kanye, Kid Cudi, Em, Tribe, Chance, Kendrick, inspired me to be different. To ignore the trend and invent. I hope to be known for my very own unique style.
-Do you still have that same passion?
I would like to believe that I am like a fine bottle of Merlot. My skills get better and better and with each success, my fire grows brighter. My motivation is crazy right now. I don’t sleep much, but the weird thing is that Im very rarely tired.
What is your favorite cd and why?
The House With No Pressure. Its my baby. I am very proud of it and I want the world to hear it. It is every part of my soul in musical form. And I had the help of some awesome producers and collaborators that helped bring my vision to life.
What is your favorite song and why?
I have a few favorite songs. Brother Ali- Forest Whitaker. Andre Nickatina- Razor, Gangstarr- Mass Appeal, Chance The Rapper- Prom Night, Kanye West- Family Business and Spaceship, Eminem- Hailees Song, DMX- Where The Hood At, Pac- Changes, TQ- Westside, Led Zeppelin- Over The Hills. My taste is very diverse. But I love songs that encapsulate a moment and an emotion and flow so organically on record, like it was effortless for the artist.
Where is your favorite place to perform?
I think Porter’s Pub at UCSD in San Diego. I have performed there over 20 times and it has become so familiar. Im cool with all the workers and they always show me so much love. Its always perfect too. The most perfect underground hip hop venue that brings a diverse crowd together. I network with everyone when Im there. They bring in a lot of big names too, Kendrick, Schoolboy Q, KRS, Too Short, Mac Miller. Cool vibe though and real solid sound.
-Do you like to do collaborations?
Of course I do. I love people and I love growing my network. And while I respect everyones craft and art, I only work with people who have earned it. I’m sorry to sound big headed, but I can’t bring myself to work with someone who hasn’t worked very hard for his or her spot. I’ll have fun and freestyle with literally anyone, but to make a record, every song is extremely important to me. And there are so many hard working and ambitious artists out there, that I don’t want to waste my time with someone just dabbling. But yes, I love bouncing ideas off of other talented artists and collaborating with unsuspecting artists like saxophone players or gospel choirs.
-Did someone have to push you to make music?
No not really. I always personally wanted to make music. But, I definitely needed to be convinced that I was good enough to make a career of it. Guys like DJ Decon, Sean Powers, Mikey Ceaser, James Furderer, and my brothers were huge in my development.
-Will you ever retire?
There are some who start their retirement long before they stop working. Haha that’s a quote my Pops always told me. I am doing what I love, so I don’t feel like Im working. If I do retire, Im not really looking forward to it.
-Does going platinum matter to you?
Going platinum doesn’t matter as much as being given the opportunity to compete. I want the world to hear my music. I will always work my ass off to get better and better, but the title doesn’t matter to me as much as the forum. I just want to play.
-How do you feel about bootlegging?
I don’t feel good about it. Have I done it? Of course. When I was younger, I didn’t have any money, so I would have done anything to get my hands on the hottest thing that was out. As Ive grown into my own artist though, I have first hand, witnessed what its like to struggle with sales and views. I put so much money, time, and effort into making the music and putting together live shows, that it hurts when someone can’t spend $10 to support my craft. So I usually like to buy independent artists music, just to give them an incentive to keep grinding.
-Where do you see the industry going in 5 years? 10 years?
The astronomical Age of Aquarius started in 2012. Before that we were in Pisces. I believe things will start to change dramatically. The way we view things, people, music. I believe we are the new age hippies that are all about love, unity, respect, togetherness, and peace. My music promotes all of those and I truly believe that the easy listening and melodic music that I create will be huge in the coming years. It has already started. People want change, and especially in hop hop, are ready for something more positve.
-What is your favorite line from one of your rhymes?
From the song “Love Is All Around”
“Once in a while you notice that the people are on your side/
And you just gotta be cautious by the evil that divides/
And the ones that get so pompous cuz they need it to disguise/
Should free themselves cuz everyone is equal in His eyes.”
Pretty much embodies my mission.
I like getting a little more lyrical tho, so I really like this part in “Classic” that goes:
“I’m constantly spitting awesomely positive beats/
Bars like incarcerated convicts that are armed at the teeth/
Locked up for weeks in the orange garments that are causing them grief/”
So they march the hallways, hitting targets, killing guards and the chiefs, Bars.
-Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m always dropping new music and videos on Youtube!