Nafets’ new single ‘Jones’ may breeze by in a calming drift of sunny keyboards, percussion and haze, but there’s an important message beneath its dreamy late summer lilt. “It’s about not losing track of who you are and where you come from,” says the 21-year-old rapper, who knows a thing or two about that battle, having grown up the son of Trinidadian parents who emigrated to Maryland when he was young. America bends and breaks people of color from their heritage, he says. “We’re taught to look for it in open and violent ways, but it also manifests in subliminal, hypnotic methods, meant to consume you without you even realizing it.” ‘Jones’, he explains, is about “recognizing America’s siren song and steering clear, not letting it suck you in but instead letting your roots run deep and keep you grounded.”
Having recently signed to Los Angeles imprint 10K Islands, Nafets – hailed by Complex, FACT, The Line of Best Fit and more – has a genre-busting sound, bouncing between production of his own and a musical alchemy with trusted producer CPSL0CK, with whom he shares a near-telepathic connection. The result is a fiercely eclectic blend, but then again, what did you expect from an artist with Clint Mansell’s Requiem For A Dream sheet music tattooed down his arm, whose first musical love was an Iron Maiden VHS, and whose record collection is made up of equal parts metal, British indie, psychedelia and hip-hop? “ I truly just love music, and I want to make as much of it as I can. I always want to get weirder with it, and never limit myself” he adds.
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“For me, rapping began as a way to unravel my depression, which I’ve lived with since I was young,” says Nafets, who now lives in LA. Years later, music’s not only his own form of self-care, but a way to establish space. “Capitalism teaches us to box artists of color into safe, neat little consumable products and in doing so deprives artists of their voice and space in the world. We’re taught to hold in our emotions or feelings for the sake of being palatable or marketable.” Speaking on recent single ‘Redefine’, he goes on to say “Art should lead us to rethink what we’ve been taught to value, and bring forth new ways of representing, understanding, and celebrating blackness, and self.”
Likened to Earl Sweatshirt and Chester Watson, Nafets has more on the way. “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and use the space to create something all to my own” he says of his impending EP, The Death Of Mr Ramen. Expect the impact to be out of this world.
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