The Five Faces Of Dorkness, Part Three: The Miseducation of Majin Buu, or Noa’s Art!
A Five Part Interview Series Focusing on Nerdcore Hip Hop
by Rick McDowell
San Bernadino, California. For most, whenever folks talk of California, it brings to mind coastal cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland. Oceans. Palm trees. What one usually might catch from television and film. Despite dominating pop culture as a unique sandbox for story telling, rarely does a narrative involving the Golden State stray far from the beach. Maybe one might talk of the northern Humboldt region, but typically not as a background for an interesting story. For many aspiring artists, the Inland Empire, consisting of a stretch of cities including Sacramento, Bakersfield, San Bernadino, and Barstow is its own unique oasis in a sea of artistic ambition.
Noa James is rooted here. A man of unbridled heart, he’s hitting up local coffee shops and getting flyers out, spreading word about upcoming events. On his rounds, he takes time to accept hugs and exchange pleasantries with friends. Revered for his unabrashed kindness, and his commitment to his city’s scene, it isn’t surprising for Noa when a routine thirty second poster hanging turns into a thirty minute cypher.
While this series, to date, has focused on primarily around artists primarily involved with Nerdcore. Noa James’ art is an exception to this rule. While it was the Nerdcore community that brought Noa to my attention, his music can easily be perscribed as a style that borrows from Nerdcore, as a Post-Nerdcore style that also borrows heavily from the Inland Empire’s elemental hip hop scene, Trap, conscious rap, and the blues. Noa represents a taste of things to come for the genre: how its assorted themes will evolve, and be broken down as components with other styles to create a unique sonic menagerie that separates itself from previous generations. While light on the comic book references, and 4chan vernacular, Noa’s music frames an all-too real struggle with many connecting fans of nerdcore, such as troubles with obesity, the angst of loneliness, and creating self-value and happiness in a world that more often than not, puts outsiders at the stage exit, opposed to on the pedestal.
We attempted to catch Noa while in Aspen, while on tour with independent hip hop legend Murs, and after a hiccup here, and a message there, was finally able to get a long due interview. We touch base on his recent tour, on his anime-influenced single Majin Buu, and how his life experiences have molded him into the variable hip hop veteran he is today…
Peep game at Noa James’ extensive soundcloud history, below…
CGP: So, for the uninitiated reading this interview, who is Noa James, and how long has Noa James been blessing the mic?
Noa James: I’m a 400 pound man that likes to laugh, dance and make people do the same! I’m a granny’s boy. I’m a big brother. I’m an artist from the Inland Empire on this journey with the love of my life and muse Lesa J. I’m a loving person that been hurt a lot but never let it dim my soul, but because I’ve been hurt a lot my music can be very dark at times. I like to embrace people. (Laughs) I’ve been rapping since I was 13, and didn’t learn how to write a sixteen (bar verse) until I was 20 years old. I didn’t really start to pursue music until i was 24.
CGP: You hail from San Bernadino, CA. As far as West Coast Hip Hop is concerned, San Bernadino is a sort of Mecca for the crossroads of Underground Hip Hop. Guerilla Union is based out of there, with their Rock The Bells festival starting out regionally in San Bernadino. How has hailing from that area shaped your own art?
Noa James: Its help me open my mind a lot. My flow is offset but unique because of my area. In high school i was into battle rapping and at the same time my homies was introducing me into music like Sublime, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down. I would find opening in some of their tracks to rap on. Because (Inland Empire) is a melting pot of cultures, i was blessed to come across unique people that shape my art into what it is now.
CGP: You’ve done shows with the late Sean Price, Murs, and others. Who else have you opened and toured with? Anybody out of the new generation of emcees you’d jump at the opportunity to work with?
Noa James: I have opened for Action Bronson, Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, Hieroglyphics, Visionaries, Jurassic 5, Dipset, Evidence, Blu & Exile, Pharaoh Monch, Talib Kweli. Ive been on Paid Dues three times. I toured with Murs twice, and I’ve put 3 tours together myself. I would like to work with Ab-Soul again, Denzell Curry, Action Bronson, Tyler The Creator, Run The Jewels and my favorite producer Alchemist.
CGP: It’s staggering how impressive a resume like that is! You’ve really put in some hard work to get to such a great point! Speaking of hard work: You got an underground music festival coming up, COMMON GROUND MUSIC FESTIVAL. Tell us more about what’s going on with that event…
Noa James: It’s not really a underground music festival, so much as it’s a celebration of independent music. I have all type of genres on the line up, that’s why the name of our event is The Common Ground. We been doing Common Ground for six years now. This year been pretty successful and we want to end the year with bang with dope artists and local clothing brands.
CGP: One of your long-standing sayings associated with your art for the past five years has been the “Orca Life” creedo. You’ve stated on tracks that the Killer Whale is a kindred spirit animal, of sorts. What was your response to Keith Ape’s Trap Anthem “It G Ma”. Did you flip wig a little bit over the Orca Ninjas Go Rambo hook?
Noa James: It’s actually pretty tight because I branded myself so well with the Orca Life theme, that I caught a part of that wave. I didn’t really flip a wig when I heard it, but it was something very interesting.
CGP: Speaking of Trap, your most recent single is a Trap-style cut with Nerdcore sentiment. It’s called “Buu’s Hungry”, and it is, of course, a reference to the child-like villain featured prominently towards the end of Dragon Ball. What inspired that song?
Noa James: I’m a big Dragon Ball Z fan. Majin Buu is one of my favorite characters. When Aye Brook sent the beat I didn’t want to do a basic trap song, I wanted the concept to be about something I really love & I wanted the listeners to also love it without having to know where the concept came from. There are a lot of Dragon Ball Z fans out there and the people that I’ve met that aren’t fans, become interested after I tell them about Majin Buu and his role in DBZ. The inspiration came from my all around love for anime and wanting to share its message.
CGP: What other pop culture are you a big fan of? What stuff really helped inspire a lot of your own art over the years?
Noa James: As for pop culture, of course I’m a big fan of anime, also wrestling & 90’s television shows. Life in general has inspired my art, all the pain, love & random conversations I’ve experienced. I embrace a lot so I get inspired by everything around me.
Track: Buu’s Hungry by Noa James
CGP: I’m a big guy, myself. And, at one point, I used to do Hip Hop. Looking back, it was very hard for me to keep up that momentum personally. My band mates were all better looking than me, and naturally, they caught all the attention of women. And, I was always on the grind, so partying took a back seat to long nights in the studio, pressing merch, and doing research. Over time, I found myself stepping away from music all together, because the anxiety and self-defeat was too much for me. As one big homie to another, what do you do personally that helps you rise above those negative feelings and continue grinding? What have been some of your biggest challenges that you’d care to talk about in your path to self-enlightenment?
Noa James: Everyone in my family is pretty big, my grandmother always told us “all fat ain’t ugly, all fat ain’t lazy & all fat ain’t stinky”. So, at a very young my confidence was already being built. I still had little insecurities about my body, I remember being twelve years old, and already knowing that I had man boobs. At that time, my biggest fear was taking my shirt off at the public pool; one day, for some reason I decided I was going to take my shirt off. Since that day, I’ve been free from a lot of the insecurities big people go through. Also, when I first started rapping, I started in the battling scene so fat jokes were typical, which made me have to be confident and (develop) rebuttals. Nowadays, I take my shirt off in front of hundreds of people!
CGP: You’ve done a couple tours with Murs. I remember you telling a story about how you and him would tell each other “Have A Nice Life” as a form of goodbye. I thought the sentiment behind that was beautiful. Would you mind breaking down for the casual readers the story behind the phrase “Have A Nice Life”, and the meaning behind that?
Noa James: During the Road to Paid Dues tour, Murs would casually tell us “have a nice life” but in a threatening type of tone, but playful! (Laughs) Even though we’d feel threatened, we’d just tell it to him right back, sometimes in a threatening tone also. Or genuinely. It’s dope to share that with Murs as a type of inside joke for the Road to Paid Dues tour.
CGP: Doing this with you here today has been a sincere pleasure. I’m looking forward to following your work going forward!
Noa James hasmusic up on his BandCamp for sale, the BUU’S HUNGRY single, his most recent full album ORCA, and much, much more. Pick up a few of these digital releases.
While you are at it, add Noa James a like to his FaceBook page!
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Rick McDowell, AKA Comic Geek Punk is a writer, blogger, and gentleman adventurer. His credentials include being featured on an Adult Swim bumper at two in the morning, and having captured all 720 Pokemon through six game generations. You can reach out to him through any of Blueswade Cartoons various online media, or check out his stuff at facebook.com/comicgeekpunk.