It’s no secret at this point – Atlanta has hip-hop’s attention. It’s a city that has always been a hotbed for talent, whether you’re talking Outkast, Ludacris, T.I., Future – the list goes on. But there’s something special going on in the ATL right now that includes a powerful wave of young artists buzzing individually and collectively and beginning to make a measurable impact on the national scene. Somewhere in the midst of the upward-moving cell, emerging faster now than ever before, is Wara From The NBHD.
Wara, a 23-year-old Brooklyn-born, Atlanta-bred emcee, released his debut mixtape called The Ill Street Blues this past Feburary. The project has been steadily making its rounds without the assistance of any visuals, and its gritty edge juxtaposed with a true jazz influence and bluesy instrumentation has made it appealing to a wide variety of audiences.
Wara isn’t playing around, and after speaking with him in NYC while we were both there last week, it’s very clear he’s not letting up anytime soon.
Read below, courtesy of The Fresh Heir, to get a glimpse into Wara From The NBHD’s past, what’s going on for the young emcee now on the heels of his biggest video release to date, and what to expect in the undeniably bright future.
The Fresh Heir: For those who don’t know you, introduce yourself. Talk a little bit about your background.
Wara From The NBHD: I’m originally from Brooklyn. I moved from Brooklyn to Atlanta when I was like eight or nine. My father’s Jamaican, I got a real cool reggae musical background. My mom is just your average American that had a child at a young age. My whole background is really just based off of hard work.
TFH: How’d you get into rap?
Wara: Well, I used to rap when I was like 12, but I quit cause I felt like I couldn’t do it. I tried to produce when I was 13 and quit. So really man, I came back into it cause I felt like I could bring something different to the table at the time. I don’t think I really took it too seriously til my name started getting out there more, so I really would say I came into the rap game early 2011, pretty recently.
TFH: Where’d you come up with your name?
Wara: It’s just an average name, I always looked at myself as a regular guy from the neighborhood. When I was growing up, I called everything a neighborhood so my friends would call me that sometimes. When you hear the name Wara From The NBHD you just think of your average guy.
TFH: Talk a little bit about The Ill Street Blues which you dropped in February and how that all came together.
Wara: The Ill Street Blues tape… the way it sounds is in many ways dark cause I was going through something crazy in my life. I had just had my son, I was struggling, so it’s really what the title is – the ill street blues – I was just down trying to figure it out. It took a long time to get it together musically cause of all the life things that were going on. Now it’s picking up, it’s doing its thing. It’s been out since February so we’re just dropping visuals for it right now. I really feel like it’s just starting up, I know it’s gonna go crazier once the “Belly” video drops.
TFH: What I loved so much about it is that it’s so you – it’s a gritty story but over jazz-influenced beats. Talk about that.
Wara: Actually my favoritie genre of music is jazz and the blues, you know what I’m sayin’. I like a lot of Miles Davis, I love a lot of old school ’70s, ’60s shit. I feel like back then – of course they didn’t have computers and technology so everything they used was really concepted from their brain, and I kinda brought that feel back cause still to this day we listen to that type of music, so I felt like if I contributed that and put it back into what’s going on today, it would kinda balance out to be this lifelong thing you’d wanna listen to. I’m into live instruments, I think it brings out the music even more.
TFH: Talk about the cover – you’ve talked about how that’s your son on there. It’s a real jarring, attention-grabbing image. What were you trying to convey with that?
Wara: What the cover means is basically my son represents the good and the gun represents the bad. My son is a representation of me, but I got him in like this robe just sittin’ comfortably because I’m comfortable in my own skin in a way. I knew going into that whole idea that it was gonna bring a lot of backlash, but in a lot of ways I still felt like it was a positive message cause once you listen to the album you’ll know what I’m doing. I think it’s a classic cover and it’s never gonna be forgotten.
TFH: You have a favorite track on the tape?
Wara: I think it would be “Thieves Theme” because that automatically just makes you feel me. The beat is so gritty, so ill. My delivery is just so attention-grabbing I just think “Thieves Theme” is the one. That’s really my favorite one.
TFH: What’s it feel like being able to come up to NYC and run around to meetings, radio interviews, etc.? I feel like you probably feel yourself climbing every time you come back.
Wara: Yeah honestly man I feel like this is supposed to happen. I put in the work and did what I had to do to make it happen, but every time I come here there’s something new happening with my career, it’s overwhelming, I feel so close to getting to where I wanna be, and I just know it’s gonna happen soon. It’s just a good feeling man. It makes you go harder cause I wouldn’t be in certain spots otherwise, I just gotta keep climbing.
TFH: Talk about the video for “Belly.”
Wara: The idea of the video was to keep it gritty and totally to the left. We were actually taking a trip back from SXSW and we were thinking I gotta do a visual. The reason why we chose “Belly” is cause it’s that Atlanta sound but it’s me, and I’m in that city and I feel like I need something to capture Atlanta’s ear for a minute. The whole visual is based on me playing a conscience. You got these two characters preparing for a fight and they don’t know what’s gonna happen. The whole scenery is in the belly of the beast, like it’s in the grittiest part of Mississippi. The country, the boxing ring – it’s just crazy. The whole idea really came to life well.
TFH: What can people look out for after that and into the future?
Wara: People can look forward to new records, I got this record called “Plenty,” waiting for the feature to come back for it. I got another visual for “Let Me Ride”, I ain’t raelly talk about that yet but you know people are gonna get that. Just towards the end of the summer we’re gonna start focusing on the next project so I’m gonna start throwing out a lot of loose tracks I’ve been working on just to give to the people and shit.