Like today’s mainstream melodic trap rappers, Durham native Northside Rocky’s unique multi-genre sound allows him to master both singing and rapping. His radio-friendly sing-rap songs all include catchy hooks and immaculate production. When it comes to North Carolina’s independent hip-hop scene, even when he’s been on a bit of a musical hiatus, Northside Rocky has his marketing ducks in a row. His artistic professionalism and perfectly packaged industry-friendly image has helped him to build a following of 11,000 on Instagram and receive up to 330,000 views on his YouTube videos.
Northside Rocky’s music can easily be described as tunes you catch a vibe to, as the 808 drums, hi-hats, and synths create an infectious feel-good mood. His newest album, Northside, is a concise seven songs—brief, but long enough to demonstrate his versatility. Most of his lyrical content centers relationships, whether it’s the exciting honeymoon phase, the struggles and conflicts that arise, sex, or traditional hood-love anthems. Although it may be easy to compare Northside Rocky to August Alsina, A Boogie with da Hoodie, or even Roddy Rich, there is something crisp and fresh about his music. Without a doubt, he has the potential to join the ranks of Carolina MCs such as Rapsody, J. Cole, King Mez, Lute, and DaBaby. I got a chance to speak with him about his style of music, motivations, and his flawless Instagram curation.
INDY: Let’s start with you fleshing out who is Northside Rocky.
NORTHSIDE ROCKY: Northside is an acronym for Now Only Reaching The Highest So I Dream Eternal. It’s a mindset, not a location. My whole brand is about inspiring people to reach their higher selves—to reach that northside of them. I love music and started playing piano when I was five years old, started rapping when I was like 11.
When we think about hip-hop as a genre, it has morphed and changed sonically. There are many subgenres of the culture. What does it mean for you to be a genre-bending artist?
It’s been a crazy process altogether, because trying to figure out what genre is, I feel like it’s the number-one question for artists. Like, what genre am I even in? It’s kind of like when Bryson Tiller dropped, he had to create “trap soul.” I can rap bars. I have a really nice singing voice. I’m kind of like in that neo-R&B/hip-hop vibe. It’s been an adjustment, just learning myself as an artist, you know what I mean?
Are you intentional with how much you rap on a song or how much you sing?
It’s just more of a creative vibe. I’m an artist that vibes, really, off of the energy of the beat. I feel like because I play the piano and I have a foundation in music, beats speak to me in a way that they might not speak to other artists. Like the intro on my album, for instance, I co-produced that track and played the piano. The chords evoked an emotion in me that made me want to talk about my mom having cancer. There was just so many different vulnerabilities inspired by those chords. It really is just based upon the music. When I hear the beat, or I hear an instrumental, or I hear some kind of composition, my vibe and what I create is going to be based off of that, whether it be rap or melodic. Now, there are times where I may say, “OK, I can give my fans a little bit more rap.” ‘Cause that’s what they are wanting right now. But I never try and force it.
Let’s talk about the almost perfect curation of your Instagram. It’s a very polished look. What has been the inspiration behind your overall creative direction, and who has assisted you along the way?
The biggest inspiration is just not having capital to pay for music, videos, so going and buying a camera to do it myself. I shoot and-or direct pretty much all of my content that you see on my page. I never even told my manager this story, but I went to LA to meet with a label. They flew me out there, so I came prepared and ready to network. All I had was my drone camera and my homie. We ended up shooting three videos ‘cause the A&R stood me up. Those three videos are my most successful videos ‘til this day. From that, I learned to just keep going, keep pushing and never settling. The curation and what you see on my page, it mainly just comes from trial and error. Also, I got a great manager. I got a great team. I now have the necessary resources behind me that allows me to be up to do what I need to do.
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