Rhodes To Rome: An Interview With Nomis
Nomis, the talented yet somewhat under-the-radar emcee is far from a novice. He’s been on the scene for over a decade and with each album released he’s been able to hone in on his skill and craft.
From the heavily lyrical “Mouthpiece Of The Lion,” to the critically acclaimed “Rosario Dawson,” to the big sound, tight rhyme schemes and hooks on “Alpha Trion,” to his challenging and socially conscious work on “Socially Just,” Nomis is an artist that doesn’t seem to be content with the status quo. He is constantly pushing and raising the bar as he leans into his talents and gifts that he has been given. He doesn’t take an ounce of it for granted. Nomis has recently announced the release of his 5th full-length album, “Rhodes To Rome,” and he took some time to sit down and chat with us this last week.
NewH2o – Hey, thanks for taking time to talk about your new stuff! It’s been a few years since your last project. What’s been going on while you’ve been crafting this one?
Nomis – Man, so much. I’ve been through some pretty significant changes but the main one being my leap into fatherhood. As anyone with children knows, that’ll change you real quick.
NewH2o – Is it a mindset change as you’ve become a father? How have you noticed a change?
Nomis – Becoming a father makes your world shrink really fast. All of the sudden, I have to remind myself to catch up with and pray for people outside of family because so much of my thoughts are consumed with the responsibility, and the love of my son and wife before anything else. It’s so time consuming it forces me to re-prioritize how I spend my time. Before Malachi was born I had been doing music exclusively for 6 years. Once wifey went on maternity leave, I had to shoulder a new financial burden that music couldn’t cover. That directly effected my ability to create. Not enough hours in the day you know?
NewH2o – Yeah. Life changes drastically when you become a parent. My wife and I have twins 😬 😆 So.. with this priority shift did you ever lose the desire to create? What was it like for you?
Nomis – TWINS!?!? I can’t even imagine bro. Congrats! As for music, I NEVER lost the desire to create by any means! It was everything else that took a hit first. But practically, the time to create had to take the hit before other things. I needed to spend my extra time doing things to make immediate money. I pretty much stopped touring cold turkey and for the most part stopped performing as well. I knew I could make more money faster utilizing my DJ skills and my engineering/mixing skills than my rap skills. So I picked up more DJ gigs and started editing content for a large audio book company. I also knew that if I wasn’t intentional, I would basically never find time to create. At the time it felt like it would be forever though (laughs).
So I set a goal to finish (write, produce, record, mix, and master), one song a month for 5 months. Those 5 songs are the 5 songs I released last year. It’s weird, because when I released 5 songs I think it appeared as if I was doing more music than normal. Traditionally I’m the guy who locks himself in the studio for a year and records 30 songs, only for 15 of them to see the light of day 2 years later.
Newh2o – That’s great to hear how the desire has never left. Sounds like you’re made for it! Do you find the subject matter has changed since you’ve become a father? Sometimes different circumstances can change the world view.
Nomis – I don’t know if it’s changing my subject matter as much as it’s changing my approach to the subject matter. I’ve noticed my new stuff is more personal than a lot of my previous work. Instead of talking about a subject, I find myself talking about my personal connection to a subject… if that makes sense? As a result of that I’ve been talking about a lot of more personal experiences and reflecting on my journey more.
Newh2o – Do you find that fatherhood causes you to consider life in different ways? What’s been the most challenging thing for you in the process of creating this album?
Nomis – I don’t feel like I consider life any differently honestly. It’s just made me more concerned about what issues my son will have to face. Wifey and I need to be ready to respond to whatever questions he might come home from school with at all times. My greatest enemy has been time. The creative juices haven’t slowed one bit.
NewH2o – So all of this new stuff in your life hasn’t broken you while it has definitely tried. Praise God! Seems like you have some things to celebrate! Is that what we should expect on the new project? In what ways is “Rhodes To Rome” set apart from your other projects?
Nomis – As for a celebratory album, that’s not really the theme of “Rhodes to Rome”. I’m just recently realizing how much we’ve conquered as a family over the past couple years. This album is about me fighting through it all. But fighting with hope and not accepting defeat. That’s the main difference in this body of work.
I’m often shedding light on certain issues, but this project is more of me talking about my experiences within certain issues. I’m giving my audience a peek into how my brain works. I talk about my failures, my adolescent years, and my unconventional relationship to both the world and the Church.
Newh2o – Is the soundscape gonna be more comparable to “Socially Just?” Im sure sonically you’ve got some treats in store for us. You’ve been able to collaborate with some dope artists in the past, talk about what to expect with RTR.
Nomis – This album is completely different from “Socially Just” sonically. SJ is very tense for the most part. Even the more laid back songs feel heavy and at times uncomfortable. RTR is much more vibey. I do have a few collaborations on this project as well. My brother Sintax (Deepspace5), the newer homie Joe Ayinde, and the local homie Raplh Quasar. Every rapper on my album is nothing to play with on the mic. I’m surrounded by some serious talent.
NewH2o – That’s exciting. Man I can’t wait to hear it. What’s the meaning behind the title “Rhodes To Rome”?
Nomis – There’s an old idiom that states, “All roads lead to Rome”. Meaning, the same outcome will be reached from a multitude of methods or approaches. For a long time I struggled with the set backs I’ve faced in my career. By the time I reached the position in life that I’m at now, I was expecting to be able to provide fully for my family through music alone. In those past transparent (and sometimes depressing) conversations with myself I would often think, “man I should’ve done A, instead of B,” or “What if I didn’t do this thing at that time, but instead did this other thing first?”
I would go over these alternate choices & outcomes in my head until I drove myself nuts. Then one day at the close of one of these self-deprecating sessions I shrugged my shoulders and thought, “Maybe this was my lot in life.” “Maybe I was going to end up here regardless of the decisions I made.”
Now I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but the thought of that possibility was the first step to me accepting my station, counting my blessings, and enjoying the craft again like the 16 year old version of me who picked up a mic for the first time.
Once I landed on the idea of “all roads leading to Rome”, I realized that the 5 songs I had already recorded for it all had a Fender Rhodes keyboard somewhere in the beat. It’s always been my favorite keyboard and it somehow kept making its way into my tracks while I was producing. All that to say, there is a Fender Rhodes in EVERY song on the album.
NewH2o – Rhodes is a great sound. You seem to have a terrific musical ear, no doubt these instrumentals will impress. I’m assuming you’re the main producer of RTR?
Nomis – Hey, thank you for the kind words. That really means a lot! Yeah, I produced the whole album with the exception of two songs. I really stretched myself on this album production-wise with songs like, “Act of Love” and “Chapters.” Both of those songs utilize live instrumentation and a second ear to bounce ideas off of while creating.
Jordan Santana did some of the keys on “Act of Love”, and my dad (Jeff “Sly” Simon) played bass on both of those songs. With that said, I also was very intentional about channeling some things sonically that are in the vein of the Hip-Hop I grew up on with songs like, “Theory of Self” and “Foreshadow”. There’s really a large spectrum of sound in this album, but that consistent Rhodes really keeps everything cohesive.
NewH2o – This is absolutely terrific. There’s a lot here to wet our appetite for this new music! Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap it up?
Nomis – I’d just like to thank you and the readers for your time. There’s a million things thrown at our faces daily asking you to “follow the link.” For everyone who chose to follow this instead of something else, I sincerely thank you.
Also, it would mean the world to me if folks pre-ordered the project on iTunes. I’ve never charted on iTunes before and it’s kind of a personal goal of mine this time around. The pre-sales really help that! If you decide to just stream and not purchase, no love lost. This album is my offering to you guys. You can consume it in whatever way works for you. Know that I’ve worked long and hard to get this album out. No short cuts. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
NewH2o – Perfect! Thank you for your time!