Since her appearance on the 2011 BET Cypher, and long before, Nitty Scott, MC has been busy. Within a two year span, she’s released two mixtapes, done scores of interviews, opened for big names like Odd Future and Rah Digga, and became increasingly more visible in the hip-hop world. One day before her trip to perform at the Royal Arena Festival in Switzerland and two weeks before the release of her commercial debut, The Boombox Diaries, Vol. 1, the ambitious independent emcee sat down with us to discuss the EP, compare iPods and boomboxes and clarify the words from her “Monster” freestyle.
RESPECT: You recently performed at Peter Rosenberg’s “A Night of Real hip-hop.” Do you agree that that was a night of “real hip-hop?”
Nitty Scott, MC: Yes. I most definitely do. I think Peter reached into the scene that’s really buzzing right now – the New York scene and beyond that – with the headliner [Odd Future] and that’s hip-hop. Everything that night was in the spirit of hip-hop: kids were moshing, people were throwing…Action Bronson was throwing weed nuggets into the crowd, there were stages dives. It was a hip-hop show. I was just really glad to be apart of it. And I felt really embraced by the crowd. It was definitely dope and I think it was a night that everybody there is going to remember.
How do you feel about the phrase “real hip-hop?”
I go back and forth with that. While I do understand why the phrase itself generalizes a lot, I think it’s more about being clear about that definition of real hip-hop and what people are actually trying to say. I don’t think it’s as black and white or basic as “real hip-hop” and “fake hip-hop.” There’s a lot of different things that go into it. Are you talking about things musically? Are you talking about the sound? Are you talking about the subject matter? I think you just have to be more specific when you say that anything is real hip-hop to you. As long as you’re able to back that up with whatever you mean – the term itself is just so vague and subjective. So it’s more about the term. But I think if you’re comparing eras…you just have to be specific.
Your EP comes out in two weeks. What kind of progression can we expect to see on it?
The EP, I think, just represents growth in every way. On a business end, being an artist that is officially active in this hip-hop industry, everything I’ve put out to date has been free. It’s been mixtapes, freestyles, hopping on other people’s beats and displaying skill and showing people what I’m about. This is my first commercial release. It’s going to be available on iTunes and other music retailers. That’s a big step for me. Musically, I think I’m moving in a certain direction. There’s more of a cohesive sound: it’s one body of work. The records themselves are solid records. They’re not just long, “beast mode” freestyles. A lot of them are conceptual. I played with different types of song structure and things like that, so it’s progressive in that way. Also, the way that I align myself with both producers and artists that I think are like-minded to my cause – getting together with Kendrick Lamar, working with Soul Khan, working with AraabMuzik, Ill Mind. It was all me finally taking that step to just show people who I’m feeling. I made it a point to stand on my own two these past two years and I really didn’t want to be affiliated with anybody to the point that it overshadowed my own talent or my own situation. On this one I wasn’t afraid to link up with people who I think are dope and bring their own element.
So you really crafted this EP?
Most definitely! It’s been something that we’ve been working on for about two years. It’s a real cohesive project. I wanted it to be an experience. I didn’t want it to just be a bunch of tracks thrown together. It’s all very strategic in the way that it flows. I wanted to show people that artistry beyond the bars and being able to craft a nice freestyle. I wanted to really present myself to the world with this EP.
In your interview with Special Sundays, you said that this EP is everything. What exactly do you mean by that?
I feel like I have been trying to put this out for my entire life. I conceptualized the whole idea of the Boombox Family and the movement and the kind of music that I wanted to make. And it really hasn’t come to fruition until now. Everything up until now has been a lot of groundwork and a lot of developing and just answering to the demand. The Cassette Chronicles was originally thrown out there to feed this growing fanbase that came out of nowhere. When we uploaded the “Monster” freestyle it just went crazy viral. I started to gain this fanbase, so I put those projects out there to just remain relevant and show people I’m out here. But at the same time, we don’t microwave anything. We slow cook, we take our time: it’s about quality. I’m always growing as an artist. I can look at material I wrote two months from now and want to change it or improve it because I’ve gotten better. There was a lot of that with this EP, just getting progressively better and wanting to show that. I would readdress the EP a lot, to the point that sometimes Jules (Nitty’s manager) would have to stop me and go, “It’s fine.” And I’d be like, “No. I want to tweak this one little thing.” I was just very meticulous about it.
You mentioned your “Monster” freestyle earlier. In that you said that were “made in 1990 but you bring the 90’s back.” On “Express Yourself” you said, “This ain’t the 90’s. I ain’t trying to bring it back.” Aren’t those lines are at odds? Were you just rapping?
I was. Okay: peep game. I got frustrated with some of the lines like that [made in 1990 but I bring the 90’s back] and it was just me making my 90’s kid statement. But then when some people started to think that I was like stuck in a certain era that all I had to offer was like me on “Deep Cover,” I was like, “Oh no, y’all have no clue what I have in the fault.” Like I said, we dish it out in a way that we plan out. So I guess that line [“This ain’t the 90’s. I ain’t trying to bring it back”] just came out of frustration and feeling like I’m not just a 90’s boom-bap girl. I think I most definitely embrace the spirit of the 90’s and remind people of that, but we’re about progressing the culture as well as preserving it. It’s more about balance than it is about saying, “We have to resurrect the golden era.” It’s just about having respect and not forgetting the roots and the artists themselves who are still alive and well and creating and touring and contributing to the culture today; it’s just trying to be a part of that generational gap, just trying to bridge and show people that it doesn’t have to be “us vs them.” We can move forward with these people as mentors, as partners.
I think calling your fans the “Boombox Family” might add to the confusion.
The boombox is a 90’s thing, so people might be confused about whether you’re progressing or preserving.
I think the boombox does have a 90’s connotation, but at the same time it’s also a universal symbol. It’s something that you can show to someone in a remote village in India and they will associate it with music. Beyond being something that Radio Raheem carried on his shoulder, it’s also a way to play your music. So it’s just as universal as a record player or a CD, but even more. I think people just associate it with music. Also, I just have a strong affinity with boomboxes. So I think the boombox transcends the 90’s.
I know that in general as an artist, you want to make good music that reflects your skills and your beliefs, but what are your specific goals as an artist? Two years from now, what do you want to have accomplished for yourself and for hip-hop?
I want to have broken barriers, first of all. I want to be a barrier breaker. I feel that I’m already in the process of doing that. My presence at the BET Cypher, being an artist that is independent, not co-signed or affiliated with anyone, a minority, a female, with two mixtapes out and being able to still be on the same platform as people who are very well-versed in the industry… I was representing many different types of people at that exact moment and it just proved the stages that pure talent and organic buzz can get you to. I feel like I’ve already started to prove my point of just being very resourceful within our own community. We don’t have to rely so much on a system or corporation to progress our culture. We already know that these corporations are money-driven. Not that there’s no place for a label – we’re not anti-label– we’re just pro-us. I want to be the female face of that. I feel like that’s lacking right now. Even just in my approach, being the homegirl, the around-the-way girl, being relatable. It’s not to say that you can’t be the vixen or the diva– it’s just about balance. It’s about being able to fill that void for people who feel like they can’t relate to what’s going on in the scope of women in hip-hop. It’s a lot of things. It’s what we’re trying to contribute culturally, but also through this indie venture. We’re not chasing these labels, looking for them to give me an opportunity to share my music with people. We’re very DIY. We’re a part of this generation that says, “Why break bread with someone who’s not necessarily concerned with my art when I can do a lot of these things myself?” We’re just trying to show people that it’s possible.
But also I want to occupy that lane as a female. You have your Mac Miller and your Curren$y and your Kendrick Lamar, artists who can dwell in this middle ground of staying true to their core audience and also break barriers for the underground while still having the same opportunities as mainstream artists. You get to have your cake and eat it too. Within these two years it’s going to take a lot of work on the business end as far as releasing projects via Boombox Family Entertainment and releasing more projects of my own so I can get a nice, healthy catalogue under my belt. That’s pretty much the vision.
When it comes to wardrobe decisions at shows and public appearances and videos, what do you do to ensure that your physical features don’t interfere with the image that you want to present as an artist?
Honestly, I don’t put too much thought into it. It’s more about being comfortable than anything else. The message isn’t that everybody should look and dress like Nitty Scott. I want people to feel that you can be yourself. If that’s a chick that likes to rock red bottoms and mini-skirts, that’s cool. If that’s a chick that wants to rock rocksmith tees with sweatpants and some kicks, then that’s cool too. I keep it feminine because I am girly, but I definitely don’t exploit the physical. I don’t go out of my way to gain attention in that way. I never want that to overshadow what I’m bringing to the table. I never want people to be easier on me because I’m a girl. I never want them to be like, “Yo, that joint was whack. She was looking bangin’ in that video though!” I don’t want to be amongst artists – which is male-dominated – and nobody is concerned with what I have to say. So yeah, that’s definitely what that line was referring to. I wanted to be like, “Thank you.” I wanted to acknowledge being attractive; I’m not going to act oblivious. But at the end of the day I want you to listen and not look.
In a lot of interviews you’ve done, the “Monster” freestyle came up a lot. The most common question was, “Were you dissing Nicki Minaj?” You said no, and I believe you, but some of the content was pointed toward her. Would you say that you didn’t sit down and say, “I’m going to diss Nicki Minaj,” but when you were writing, since she’s the biggest icon in rap as far as female rappers – her image is overrepresented – her image is just inadvertently what was referred to?
I feel like I was describing what I saw and was observing in the current hip-hop scene and I was just giving my take on that. If at the end of that freestyle, I’m saying all these things, general things,about how I feel about what’s going on and at the end of that you gather that I was talking about Nicki Minaj, the only conclusion that I can draw is that that’s how you feel about her. If I say, “Eff bad rappers!” and you’re like, “Why are you talking about Nicki Minaj?” then you think Nicki Minaj is a bad rapper. I didn’t say that. I said what I don’t support, what I’m not feeling. The other thing is that when you really break it down, the things that she represents, I feel like there are several women now and before in hip-hop that represent the same thing. I understand that at that time and currently she was the biggest and the most relevant, but why would you automatically hop to that when I could have been talking about Trina or Foxy or Lil’ Kim? I was talking about an over-representation of one facet of women and me having an issue with that. That’s really what it was all about. I definitely never sat down to write anything directed at anyone specifically. I was actually inspired to write that verse after I heard Kendrick Lamar’s “Monster” freestyle. I don’t listen to the radio, so I’m very into my own playlist. I was aware via the blogs and everything that there was a record out called “Monster” with Kanye and Ross and Jay and Nicki, but I had not listened to it, to be honest. I heard Kendrick Lamar’s freestyle before anything and I was like “this is so dope.” And that’s when I began writing. There are some coincidences; it’s a beat that she was on, but that was the furthest thing from my mind when I wrote it. I was really not aiming for that at all.
If you could join a contemporary rap group, which one would you join and why?
You wouldn’t? Not even hypothetically?
No. I don’t want to be anybody’s first lady. I don’t want anybody to put their arm around me and say “She’s dope. Listen to her.” I’m not against a co-sign, but I want to stand on my own two feet. I want to be the face of my own movement.
Okay, so how about this: what if you could form a rap group?
Okay! Me, Action Bronson, Slaughterhouse – all of them – and…that’s it.
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