Wara from the NBHD (NeighBorHooD) is a long-time Atlanta residing, BK-born rapper. He’s the face of Playin Four Keeps, an LLC that he controls with his close team of creative advisers and contributors. Together, they’re hard at work collecting sounds, initiatives, and performances opportunities to grow as a culture and brand. This brand is neither a solicitation nor the misplaced analogy that we find in many of the crews built around rap these days. Instead, PFK as a brand is an exploration of their work together, accumulating substance as Wara poises himself for his next major release, Kidnapped.
Here, you’ll read the stories of Wara’s efforts to remove some of the opacity of his artistic presence. One of his most recurring battles is with the idea of musical quality being affected by the need for quantity (in order to stay relevant). This pushes him to remain tasked and active not only in order to prolong his career, but to use his career as a way to accrue the most from what life has to offer.
RESPECT : What’ve you been up to since the second version of The Ill Street Blues dropped?
Wara : Well, we hit the road, we actually started to do way more shows, and I started to develop a bigger fan-base. You know, being that we dropped in February, a lot of times, people forget by the next December. I’ve heard of more people waiting on my music, even at this point in the year. We’ve gone through so many transitions, though, lately. To be honest, I’m the type of artist who doesn’t like to revamp shit, I just wanna keep it movin in the same direction. If I keep doin my work, and keep evolving, I think people are gonna have to go back and hear what I sounded like at the beginning. Everything’s been positive, and as far as my life, not much has changed. Just the same bullshit. Every day is pretty repetitive. Back and forth to the studio, every day, just really trying to figure out what our next move is gonna look like.
What’re some of the options you’re weighing?
We’re planning a tour for the next album, but in my mind, 2013 was my coming out party. Now, I want 2014 to be a year where I make a bigger impact with my music. As I’m putting out music, I force myself to grow. That’s really it. I need to make sure that I’m focusing on looking back at things to change anything in my sound. Like every time I put music out, I put out quality music. But I go back and look to mistakes I may have made. Even in terms of the politics of releasing music, I find some mistakes. When a new video comes out, we always feel like we could’ve done so many little things to improve exposure and whatnot. Not necessarily that you HAVE to learn from your mistakes, but you have to figure out what you DIDN’T do. That’s what counts sometimes.
So what’s been your biggest realization so far?
I feel like I have this two-week cycle thing. I might put out a song Monday, and it goes crazy that week, but then the next week it just dies down. People’s attention spans are even shorter than that, sometimes just like three days, and there are so many things that I can do to keep my music pushing forward, and in the front of people’s minds. So to keep my relevance, I’m gonna have to keep my shit coming. But people go out of their way to support my music. People are happy with the output so far, and I like that they anticipate the next release.
And what about the next project. What’s the name?
What other details can you give us?
It’s probably gonna have like 13 songs on it, pretty standard. I’ve done a bunch of recording for it already, but I need to go back over some of the production. When it comes down to release time, I wanna have a lot to choose from. And since I had so much to get out, my first tape was 17 tracks. But I wanna make this album way more tight. Like I wanna get my message across without saying so much. This one has to be way more musical. The content is gonna be there. I’m confident about my content, but I just want my production to be on point.
When we last spoke you said that you actually started producing yourself. Have you put anything out yet that’s been produced by you?
Not yet. I only started during the process of Ill Street Blues. But I wasn’t ready yet. I was lowkey studying this whole year. A lot of the production is gonna be from me, but the live instruments in the background, I’ll have to bring people in.
Do you wanna try to describe your production so far, or do you wanna wait for it to drop first?
I would say that my production is really gritty, but it’s more cinematic than that. I tried to study Neptunes and RZA recently, so that’s how I try to frame my production. I like the beautiful chords in the Neptunes’ work, and how colorful the beats are, and how RZA perfected that gritty, raw typa shit. I would say that’s where I want it to come from. It’s not an exact sound, but it’s cohesive. I aim for that, but sometimes other things come out.
You also recently said that you were tired of rap. Why is that, and why do you even continue if that’s true?
I have those points in time where I feel like there’s nothing else I can do for the rap game to make it different and fun again. Nowadays everyone’s a rapper. Back in the day, if you went up to someone, and they told you they were a rapper, that was some real shit. That was a skill or a talent. I’m not gonna say it’s oversaturated, because who am I to say that?… Since I guess everyone has the chance to rap. But I feel like I got tired of rap when I started to characterize my work, because I don’t like lyin’ about my life.
But my life has been repetitive! Since the last album, I’m still in the same hood, doin’ the same things, but I don’t wanna talk about that no more. My mind moves faster than I naturally do, and I gotta make sure that I stay focused and close to reality. It’s not really fun, you know? I love the music so much, but rap has become boring to me, since there was nothing new for me to talk about. I wanna get out there and tour and play shows and have more experiences to feed my creativity. But I’ve been around niggas that made it. I been around niggas that went in and they have the best job in the world now. But I need to figure out what they did to get where they’re at. I think I have talent, I just need to make the right moves to get myself headed in the right direction. I’m at the level where I should be, but I’ve felt like that for too long.
So tell us about some of the shows you’ve done so far.
I wanna thank J Dirt for what happened with CMJ and the Fader Fort. He definitely helped me get that extra leg through the door. Making it and killin it was so surreal. Because two days before, my pops told me he was about to get deported, and he needed help with some money. He’s from Jamaica, and he hadn’t paid his fees or whatever. And my mom didn’t have money to pay the rent. And I’m up in New York broke as fuck, and I was about to play the show of my life, but everything at home was blowing up. But I new I couldn’t lose my head, feelme? My focus had to be on point. And we was up in SOB’s, and I was so mad bruh! I sat down on the bench, and had to shed a fuckin tear the night before what felt like my big shot. I’m on my high horse, and when I get back to Atlanta, it’s back to the same shit. I got no time to waste now. If I’m not gettin a better show every time I perform, and if I’m not gettin to a point where I can sell records, then by the times I’m 25, it’ll be time to take another avenue here. I’m not the type to wait around and wait for it to happen like that. I don’t have to do those hole in the wall shows no more, right now I’m up in better venues. But when I get a budget, people are gonna love the shows that much more. I’m mad that the moment at CMJ died out.
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