YBN Collective mainstay on his influences, his approach to the studio, and his incoming album...

When Nicholas Simmons - better known as YBN Nahmir - helped to forge the YBN Collective in 2014 he did not know how significant it was going to be in 2019.

The blistering, creative journey of Birmingham, Alabama’s 19 year old rapper is still in the early stages but so many groundbreaking events have already taken place.

One of Nahmir’s tracks took on a life of its own when it went viral. The attention surrounding the release of ‘Rubbin’ Off the Paint’ in 2017 signifies a huge milestone in the young rapper’s career, and it has now reached more than 160 million views on YouTube.

His success has since set off a string of events, and it looks as if nothing is going to stop him from repeating this as well as take things much further.

Last September the YBN Collective released their first full-length project ‘YBN: The Mixtape’ featuring collaborations with artists like Gucci Mane, Lil Skies and Machine Gun Kelly. The mixtape has achieved gold status in the US, and YBN Nahmir also became part of XXL’s Freshman class for 2018.

Having just delivered two massive live shows at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, it is clear that his live performances are also going to play a vital part in growing the demand for his music and popularity in the UK.

Clash spoke to the rapper in the artist area at Reading Festival on Sunday afternoon, just before he was due to appear on the BBC Radio 1Xtra stage.

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What has your UK visit been like this time?

It has been cool, I like it. Actually, the last time I was in the UK I didn’t have a lot of time to explore but I have had more time to see some people this time. I’m enjoying it.

How did your performance at Leeds Festival go?

The Leeds show was amazing. Everybody was just going crazy. The tent was totally full, and people were trying to come in during the whole show.

You have played a number of live dates in Europe, what shows stand out?

Yes I have played a few countries in Europe including Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy. I like Amsterdam a lot. The people there are really cool, and everybody is just chilled. I also did a show in Switzerland. It was really good, and the people were going crazy.

You have built a fanbase in the UK. Are the fans different here?

Yes they are different. It is different here compared to my own country. It is really cool when you discover that people know your music.

‘Rubbin’ Off The Paint’ has been a huge success. Tell me about making it. Was the video based on your idea?

I made the track when I was 17. It was a really important moment, it was when I realised I wanted make music every day. I thought ‘I don’t just want to be sitting around’. I didn’t wanna go to school no more so I was just like ‘I can go crazy with this music stuff if I want to’.

I did the video for it. The song had blown up over YouTube before I had even dropped the video, so I was like ‘alright let me drop this video’. I really put my heart into it. I came up with the idea for the video in my house. Everything was focused on it. Everyone got behind me, it blew up and here I am today!

Did it get a lot of views straight away?

Yes right away. It got a million views in a day, every day it was getting a million views. First day it got one million, second day it had two million, third day three million and then the fourth day that’s when it changed to five million! That is incredible.

What is the song about?

Some people think it is about rubbing paint off the wall but to be honest it is about the serial numbers of a gun, when you scrape on them, or but when you feel them, glide over them.

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How would you describe your musical influences? Is it fair to say that you are inspired by the West Coast scene?

I am inspired by everybody to be honest. I am inspired by the Detroit scene, scenes in Florida and LA, even scenes in New York and Texas. Everybody really, I pick up from everything. I don’t really have a favourite artist but I listen a lot to $uicideboy$.

It is clear you have your own sound. Did that come natural or was it something you were conscious of developing?

Yes it just came natural. I never really try to come up with a certain sound or try to be like somebody else. I don’t want to come in and be like ‘I want my sound to be like this or like that’. I want my sound to be me, and the music I make is for myself.

How did you learn to rap? At what age did you start out?

I was just like messing around. Since when I was a kid I was always trying out stuff. But the first song I remember hearing already had a rap in behind it and that’s the first song I knew how to rap fully. I was very young and I was rapping. I started when I was six or seven years old. At the age of 13 or 14 I was getting really serious about it. I don’t rap every day but I write a lot. I write every day.

Do you go to a studio when you want to rehearse?

I usually go to a studio once every month and I record a bunch of songs in one day like six or seven songs. I don’t need to go to the studio more often than that. Some of the time I just chill out, relax and enjoy life, hang out with my family or I do my shows.

YBN Collective also features Almighty Jay, Cordae and more, how did you all come together?

At first it was just me and YBN Glizzy we were hanging out like 24/7. He is like a brother. I was on a game with him on Xbox. I met him in 2017 but I have actually known him since 2011.

It was like ‘we have gotta come up with something, what do we want to be? We can’t just be sitting in the house all day. We wanna be bosses and we don’t wanna work for nobody’. I knew I didn’t want to work for nobody. Then everybody else starting coming around one by one, and Cordae came around a little bit later. 

What’s next? Can you reveal if you have plans to release an album?

Yes I am releasing an album. It will be at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. It is going to be amazing, it is going to be something very different. I recorded it a long time ago, so there has been enough time to work on it every day. I worked with a few producers.

What else can you tell us about it?

I am going to call it ‘Visionland’. It is a name of a park in Alabama. I used to go to the park. This was always my place but then they started changing the name and everything. I always wish I could go back to what it was at first. I have been reminiscing about it and a lot of other stuff.

I just wish it could go back to being Visionland but things change and that’s just the way it is. But that is why I am naming my album after it.

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Words: Susan Hansen

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