We are honored to bring you an exclusive interview with Nardean, an Egyptian-Australian emcee, poet, spoken word artist, singer and songwriter, out of Sydney. She recently dropped her video "Nothing Matters" and it has been getting a lot of love from the DCWS team and the world as it has garnered over 5,000 plays on YouTube already! During our interview with Nardean, we discuss the urban music scene in Australia, as well as its parallels with Toronto PD (pre-Drake), her Egyptian culture and how it is reflected in her music, and much more.
After reading our Q&A with Nardean, be sure to follow her on social media, stream "Nothing Matters" on Spotify, and check out some other very DOPE Australian urban artists we are huge fans of -- Manu Crook$ and Sampa The Great. Last but never least, major shout out to Maggie Tra from Stimulate Your Soul for connecting us with this extremely talented artist.
If you had to describe your music to a stranger in three words who has never heard you before, which ones would you select?
Honestly, I try to steer clear of describing my music. Instead I let people form their own idea of it. It may sound a certain way to me but sound completely different to someone else. I like to keep the slate blank, it gives me more freedom to create whatever is honest in the moment.
As someone based in the United States, I look at the Australian urban music scene as bubbling below the surface similar to how Toronto was before Drake emerged. Meaning that it is only a matter of time before we in US really starts focusing on the incredible urban music coming from down under like we do Canada now. How would you describe the urban music scene in Australia right now, specifically in Sydney?
I 100% agree with the statement comparing Aus right now to pre-Drake Canada. Currently, the energy in this country is OFF THE CHARTS. So much of our music is now ON THE CHARTS! (see what I did there?). The biggest change? We're all SUPPORTING each other! There used to be a great deal of "Tall Poppy Syndrome"... if a poppy grows too tall, cut it down. That means the ones who were about to break away never got the support from their own people. But since we've become aware of this, so many of us are working to SUPPORT each other. The blogs are going nuts, there's so many more gigs on, there are now Hip Hop courses at colleges, the music itself has gotten 100x better and there's more Aussie music in massive Spotify and Apple Music playlists. I know of so many artists here who are sitting on incredible records. Its sooooo fucking exciting, the world isn't ready for whats about to happen in Australia.
Do you feel that Australian urban music artists like yourself get the attention you deserve outside of Australia?
This is a weighted question. God/Universe/Source/Alien Life Form (whatever you wanna call it) is fair. Everything external reflects your internal world. The statement "we aren't getting what we deserve" takes the responsibility out of our hands and puts it in someone else's. So, at the risk of pissing off a lot of people, I am gonna say that we got as much attention as we thought we were worth. The external attention reflected how we felt internally. It seems that for a long time, "Australian Hip Hop" was still trying to find its voice, and didn't believe it was worth other people's time. Now, we've found that voice, its loud, its diverse and its DOPE, and all of a sudden we're getting loads of international attention.
I really enjoyed your new video "Nothing Matters". It was colorful, lively and optimistic, which is sorely needed now days. Tell us about your creative process for the song itself and how you came up with the treatment for the visuals, which included some very dope animations.
Stackhat gave me the beat and I came up with the beginning of the song pretty quickly. I had no idea what to do for the rest of the song... for about 4 months, it sat there. Then one day, the line “alright throwback, four and a half billion years” landed in my head. I sat down at my laptop straight away and word vomited the entire verse as a poem onto my laptop. It came out in one go from top to bottom, no edits required. The next day, I sat with the beat for a couple of hours and made the words fit the music. It’s probably the least work I’ve ever had to put into a song, and yet it’s my favourite song I've ever written.
I actually don’t remember how I came up with the idea for the video. It was another one of those “landed in my head” moments. I just remember thinking "If life gives you lemons, make art."
It was an extremely fun day. I was so in love with everyone in that room. I wanted it to be fun and alive, otherwise the whole "nothing matters" thing could be a bit depressing...
My homegirl/mentor ALPHAMAMA suggested adding animations, what a legend! Since releasing it I've had a tonne of press, its been amazing. I'm so glad everyone loved it as much as I did.
Would you say that your Egyptian culture is reflected in your music at all? If so, how?
I'm gonna answer this with a big fat YES and tell you to wait till my EP comes out on May 9th to find out the 'how.'
I've just moved back in with my parents, so I've been listening to a lot of their old Egyptian records from the 40s-70s. Its truly incredible music and I can't wait to incorporate it more. Some ideas include: belly dancing bangers, lo-fi boom bap beats with samples from the old records and Arabic poetry.
Judging from the video, I can imagine that you put on quite a live performance. Describe a typical Nardean show for us. And do you have a favorite song to perform?
Yes.. I am definitely known for being quite the performer. Coming from a poetry background, I am used to not having any music to "hide behind," and usually laying it all bare. I try and bring the same (metaphorical) nakedness into my live show. At the end of the day, its not about me. These songs chose me to write them, and so I need to get out of my own way and do my best to serve the song. Sometimes there's poetry, sometimes there's freestyling, sometimes there's booty shaking... it is what I feel in the moment, and what the room asks of me. My intention is always to connect. Everything else doesn't matter. As long as I'm feeling it and the crowd is feeling it, then it'll be a good show.
My favourite song to perform is called Adamantium - off my forthcoming record. There is a FAT beat drop half way through and I love seeing everyone's "Holy-shit-can-you-feel-that-bass" face when it comes in.
Would you consider yourself an MC or singer-songwriter first?
I would say... neither. I consider myself a writer. The words and the meaning behind them are the most important. Then, I find the rhythm/melody that adds the right feeling to the words.
All my writing operates with this rule: If I can't speak it acapella as a poem, then the lyrics don't pass as a song.