MP3: Nacho Picasso feat. Jarv Dee – “Bad Breaks” (prod. Blue Sky Black Death & Raised By Wolves)
“I’m a little more than mortal,” rapper Nacho Picasso says, unassumingly slouched on the couch with one foot up. He is relaxing at the First Hill apartment of Kingston, one-half of renowned production duo and current collaborators Blue Sky Black Death. It’s a sentiment he furthers on “Bad Breaks,” premiering here at SSG Music as the latest leak off the upcoming For The Glory: “Yes I am the man, but Nacho’s no mortal.” In person, one-third of Seattle’s BadAssYellowBoyz seems very human. He doesn’t strike a terribly imposing figure even though he’s heavily tatted. Maybe that’s because he never raises his voice and has a warm and light-hearted personality, one punctuated by a grill-enhanced grin flashed when cracking hysterical one-liners, which is often.
Yet he continues. “At the end of the day, man, I feel like I’m the son of Zeus. I approach [music] like I’m Alexander,” he explains before quickly adding, smile sparkling, “No homo.”
As a rapper the comparisons, if not a bit overblown, do fit: Nacho is a larger than life character that is both brazenly arrogant and absolutely endearing. Like the Greek gods, ancient conquerors, or your favorite gangsta rapper, his exploits excite listeners and purposely inspire envy; as Jarv Dee puts it on the chorus to “Bad Breaks,” Nacho is proudly “an assh*le.”
Still, it’s one thing to view yourself as distinguished, let alone divine; it’s another entirely for others to acknowledge the same. Luckily for Nacho, the Gods have looked favorably upon his quest for greatness and aligned his path with that of Blue Sky Black Death, giving him his best chance at securing his place in hip-hop’s mythology. With additional production from cousin and past collaborator Raised By Wolves (who produced the entirety of Nacho’s first solo mixtape Blunt Raps and several cuts from Ziploc Hip-Hop, BAYB’s debut), September’s For The Glory seeks to showcase the self-appointed demi-god to a national audience, one so far unfamiliar with the amicable anti-hero, the smiling super villain, the cackling rap Cobra Commander who has more girls than you do and can’t wait to rub it in your face in as many ways as he can.
The pairing of Nacho and BSBD is, on paper, a serious stylistic clash. The Seattle-bred rapper spits a typically un-Northwest sound, one concerned exclusively with girls, money, drugs, and guns. He says very little in the most exquisite way possible, twisting tried-and-true trap-rap tropes with clever turns of phrase and a deliberate, methodical flow indicative of a meticulous writer, but not one who will shatter current standards of lyrical complexity: “Ink spots on my body like a Rorschach test / Body marked up, yeah, like a fourth grade desk” he spits on tattoo-ode “Sweaters.”
In contrast, BSBD’s Young God and Kingston develop morose music that is lauded for its compositional excellence. Their stand-alone instrumental projects, such as the recent Noir, and album-length collaborations with national hip-hop stalwarts Jean Grae and Hell Razah display an intricacy and musicianship notable in its emotional depth; a Pitchfork review said Noir “succeeds in communicating incomprehensible hugeness through sonically detailed tracks with an almost narrative-like structure.”
The seemingly random pairing met through mutual acquaintances. Kingston is the magnetic center of the project, the one through whom all these polar opposites attracted. Living in Seattle for the past five years he became friends with Nacho’s sister. Soon after he learned that Raised By Wolves, who contributed live instrumentals to the Jean Grae project The Evil Jeanius, was also related. A friendship quickly developed. A year ago Young God moved up from San Francisco and when crashing on Kingston’s couch heard Blunt Raps. “I could tell right away he had a really charismatic voice,” he says.
It was also a chance for BSBD to do something different. “I don’t think our fans understand how random our taste in music is,” Young God continues. “We started out doing a certain type of music so that’s what they figured we were doing.”
Kingston agrees. “People think because we make this ‘intellectual’ music that we only listen to sh*t like that. I’d rather listen to Clipse than Talib Kweli. That’s what I grew up on.”
For The Glory is not a complete sonic departure – the darkness is still there on most songs – but the producers were conscious about toning down the complexity to make beats ready for rapping and slightly shifting styles to fit this particular brand of hip-hop. For the most part the reception from their national following has been warm, though there has been some head-scratching – a 2DopeBoyz blogger for the “Numbnuts” video gave a “Nacho who?” in his post and there is even one proclamation on HipHopDX for the “Sweaters” premiere of BSBD “selling out.”
That particular accusation is off base: it’s hard to imagine For The Glory becoming a Clear Channel staple. That said, BSBD are intent on leveraging their contacts in national media and the general goodwill they’ve garnered over the years to give Nacho Picasso widespread exposure.
“I brought [Nacho] to these guys knowing if we all got together we could take it to the next level,” Raised By Wolves says. “That was the vision: to make it bigger and better.” He was particularly hopeful BSBD’s studio expertise would elevate their work, which previously had been conducted entirely by Wolves, who had little experience running an entire production. They feel it did, in large part due not only to Kingston and Young God’s experience but also Nacho’s eagerness to improve.
“Despite him being a total sh*t-talking MC, [Nacho] has no ego when it comes to actually recording,” Young God says. “Most MCs are super egotistical. When you give some constructive criticism, they’re not able to take it.”
“I have a huge ego, just not in the studio,” Nacho agrees. “I’m just thankful that I’ve got good cats f*cking with me.
“I leave the ego at the door. It’s waiting for me when I leave.”
His cockiness need not be put in check for the album’s videos, of which there are currently five, with those for “Numbnuts” and “Sweaters” already released. Kingston, a rookie director and editor, helmed the visual supplements to heighten the cinematic qualities of For The Glory. They are especially impressive considering he filmed and edited them with little prior experience, mostly through admitted “trial and error.”
“Numbnuts” the video underscores the murky, melancholy quality of the production itself and its syrup-slow chorus, filmed at an abandoned church with Jarv Dee purportedly acting as a human smoke machine. The most tantalizing offering I witnessed was the video for “Marvel,” which will be dropped in conjunction with For The Glory’s September release. With a backdrop of rapidly flipping pages, Nacho does just what the chorus says (“smoking reading comic books”), lounging with a blunt intently studying Wolverine. He lets loose classic Nacho-isms throughout, unusual and often hilarious similes like “Call your girl Professor X, she good from the neck up.”
In keeping with BSBD’s usual steez, though much of his content is not too serious, Nacho’s lyrics have a dark undercurrent throughout to match that of the production. Every anti-hero has a chink in the armor, some painful past that inspires present attitude issues. “I’ve been a bad guy, since my dad died,” Nacho spits on album opener “Bad Guy,” before adding in juxtaposition, “I’ve been a b*tch dream since I was 16.”
“My birthday’s the day before Halloween. I’ve got jack-o-lanterns and sh*t tattooed all over my body,” he says. “I’ve always been kind of dark. That shit blended right in with me.”
And like most bad guys, he can have a superhero streak. At a recent BAYB show at the Faire Gallery, Nacho cut their headlining set short to stop a lopsided fight occurring directly outside the venue, saying something to the effect of “We can’t let this happen” before making his way through the crowd.
After For The Glory drops next month, Nacho, BSBD, and Raised By Wolves plan to lead the charge with more music: BSBD are contributing tracks to Jarv Dee’s upcoming solo debut, and Wolves has an upcoming solo album (a talented singer, Kingston swears he sounds like M83). Nacho will head his new crew Moor Gang, named after the great conquerors that left a lasting legacy throughout southern Spain, whom Nacho appreciates for their influences in architecture, culture, and their immortality as history-makers. Plus one more key thing:
“They had hella b*tches,” he says, cackling with twinkling teeth.