“Our guest is a new kind of journalist…the journalist who is not detached.”
The voice of Studs Terkel introducing Hunter S. Thompson on a late night show in 1967 might seem like an odd sample to use as an introduction to a hip hop record, however the relationship becomes clear when considering the title of this opening track off the new EP from independent hip hop artists and Grand Rapids favorites, Rick Chyme and Nixon: “Words & I.” The song is an exploration of Rick’s relationship with language and music, analogous to Thompson’s year immersed in the Hells Angels – that is to say, it hasn’t been easy travels for Rick to get to where he is now. The song is stuffed with shoutouts to artists who likely influenced or inspired Rick as he traversed a new road of artistry, and from the jump the opening quote frames the chronicle of growth and change.
You can find Rick Chyme & Nixon’s music on Spotify, bandcamp, wherever else you prefer to listen to music. Keep reading for more insights into their creative minds. But first, give “&” a listen:
Rick: “I’ve had people tell me they heard a progression over time, but those releases were recorded in the same sessions. Sometimes they were made in the past,” recalls Rick. “Once a couple people said things like that, it let me know, their perception of the art is sometimes wrong. Which is fine, but I’m taking into account now. So I just never reveal when something was made.”
Nixon: “ We usually start most of our projects by linking up for a few days, with me making beats in one room, and him writing and recording in another room. We usually accumulate a batch of songs within those few days and kind of find our direction and sound from those songs. Some songs from those days make it on the project, some may get scrapped or end up on other projects down the road.”
Rick: “And of course, like most other artistries: “Another thing that could happen is, because art is disposable, one thing might take a long time to make and another might come quickly, but that doesn’t change the value of them. If I make a song and finish it tonight, that’s only cause I’ve invested thousands of hours in the past. Time is an interesting thing.”
Rick intentionally keeps certain information about projects vague, isolating each release to break that chain reaction of comparisons people sometimes like to make from one project to the next. “The point that it got created will never be revealed. I might drop a song from today, or from four years ago. I don’t want to have people frame the art in terms of old vs new. I just want to deliver the art and let it connect without those variables.”
Nixon tends to embrace this notion more so than Rick: “I’m really always changing. I don’t like to keep myself in a box. I like to dabble in all different styles so I can work with all different types of artists. When solely producing an entire project I like to create a specific sound for the whole project so individual songs within it don’t sound out of place. I believe producing an album is an art in its own and I really enjoy it. As far as a change with Rick and I collaborating throughout the years, I think we are starting to break some new ground and really starting to know what direction we want to go with our sound in the future, but at the same time we aren’t afraid to stray from that and do something different. We’ve always just kind of done what we’ve felt like no matter how different or weird it may turn out.”
Do you guys think your art will stand the test of time or be disposed of?
Rick: “That’s not up to me. Theoretically, as long as the internet doesn’t crash – it helps more people find it, but I don’t know if that’s better or worse. I think if an artist’s intent is in the right space, then they won’t regret it.”
On the New EP “&” and future releases:
Rick: “‘&’ is five songs, which are mostly story based, but some of the stories on this project aren’t my stories. It’s super interesting. This project there wasn’t a lot of stuff added afterwards…after Nixon found the samples and chopped them up. It’s just Nixon and I. No layers of vocals, all pretty much one take. It’s really raw and really human.”
“If anyone has been paying attention to our art and frustrated that more isn’t coming out, they will be silenced soon. We have a lot of music in the process, and I’m just going to get out of my own way. I think artists we hold things from self doubt or are hesitant, but if I don’t put out this EP, I’ll never know the byproducts of it. I’ll never know the conversations it will start, opportunities it could bring, how it will affect people. It can become vicious. If it all sits on my computer it’s pretty selfish. I feel very confident on stage and in full command of my skill set. Through my solo stuff and collaborations, I’m more prepared than ever to really connect with people in the studio or on the stage.”
“We have another project for February – then it’s not gonna stop, we’re always continually working.”
Rick: “I know I’m going to release more art in the next twelve months than I ever have before. Not recklessly, but because some of it has been put together and because I feel prepared to do it and inspired to do it. I’m writing and recording every single day. I’m releasing new merch, along with writing for some local outlets…I’m going to be more active artistically, on all fronts. A filmmaker wants to do a documentary about a house show tour, so I’m going to help with that. Manifest your dreams. I don’t want to just be talking and telling kids how to reach their dreams, because ideas are shit without execution and action. This will be one large step for Rick Chyme.”
On collaborating with other artists:
Rick: “The Accidentals…that turned into much more than music. These kids work harder than anyone I know, I challenge anyone to show me a harder working band than them. They play over 200 shows a year and still creating and maintaining relationships with their supporters, and they do shows, interviews, meet n greets, and I’ve never seen something like that at such a young age. There was a benefit at the Intersection, and I joined them there, and we were all really tired, and it’s midnight and I’m just laying there, and they walk in and Sav walks over to the pizza, and she starts taking two slices from this and that, and makes a pizza out of the other pizzas, so I ask ‘what are you doing?’ and she says ‘getting pizza for the security guards.’ And I know they didn’t ask her to do that. What other 20 year old do you know who are doing that for their security at the gig? They’re gonna go as far as they want to go. So it started there and we’ve done SXSW, I joined them for the California leg of their tour, and this weekend I’m meeting them in New York. This started as an introduction and I love them as family, they’ve really brought me in and welcomed me and been a great inspiring experience, but most GR musicians have a day job so they can’t tour like that – they’ve made choices to submit themselves completely to the process – and the way these kids have committed to it has really inspired me.”
Do you engage with local hip hop community for collaboration?
Rick: “Nixon produces for a lot of other people who I’ve done songs with, like Venson (Dix) and Red Pill, from Detroit. I’ve got a verse on Lady Ace Boogies next release. Once we finish our stuff, I want to make more of a point for collaborations.”
Nixon: “Working with Rick is great, he is one of my closest friends so it makes it very easy. When working with others, I usually make the beats on my own and present them to the artists, although sometimes I make them with the artist present. In most cases I like to be involved with the creation of the songs so I can adjust the song arrangements and bounce ideas with the artists to help bring the songs to their fullest potential. If an artist contacts me in search of beats, I try to create something that I could hear their voice on. I try not to make something that sounds like their previous work but I keep their flow and vocal tone in mind when creating.”
“I have a project with A1 coming out called “Black Friday.” Look out for that, he’s really dope. The project features special guest Willie The Kid, JRob, and Rick Chyme. I also produced a few songs on the upcoming Lady Ace Boogie project called “Don’t Box Me In.” I don’t think there is a release date for that yet. I am also working with the group Assorted Anonymous, producing their next album. That should be out later next year. There’s more in the works with others but those are the ones that are locked in for sure.”
On the Jammies:
“We’ve had success there” states Rick, matter-of-factly. He’s being humble, a sentiment Nixon also shares: “It feels really good to be recognized or to have an artist’s project that I was a part of be recognized.” However, these are both understatements for their recent successes.
Rick: “We’ve won 5 since 2013, winning hip hop album of the year was great because WYCE is an undervalued resource in the community, and jammies has so many performers, so many humans, and every year it gets more diverse. The win is the fact that it exists and the icing on the cake is winning. When I came back to Michigan 12 years ago, the things that they were playing, it’s so different now-in a good way. I hope more young people tune in and donate. All the programmers and volunteers makes it a beautiful thing. I would say WYCE is responsible for a lot of things I’ve done because it put us in the same room.”
Stream “&” below and keep an eye out for all the interesting things these two will be up to in the coming year.