After experiencing a harrowing arrest in 2019, and a tour canceled by the pandemic a year later, Young Nudy is more focused and grateful than ever.
Interview: Robby Seabrook III
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Young Nudy really wasn’t interested in music at first. Rhyming since 2012, he just did it for fun because his friends had studio time. But once Nudy appeared on his cousin 21 Savage’s “Air It Out,” then dropped his solo song, “30 Hang Out,” in late 2015, he started to draw in fans. By 2017, his SlimeBall series of mixtapes were rolling along. The rhymer displayed his unique ear for up-beat, futuristic production (alongside his close friend, producer Pi’erre Bourne) and darker-than-a-country-night subject matter. Nudy is a street rapper through and through, but his staccato delivery, recognizable rasp and consistency have made him stand out.
His late 2017 release, Nudy Land, was a huge turning point for the budding artist, where he rhymed over everything from heavy trap 808s to beats that sound something like the soundtrack for an evil amusement park. Quickly becoming one of his most beloved mixtapes, Nudy, born Quantavious Tavario Thomas, had arrived, signing a partnership with RCA Records in 2018. Along the way, he appeared on one of the biggest leaked songs ever, Playboi Carti’s Japanese pop-sampling “Pissy Pamper” in 2019, and even received a Grammy nomination for his work on the Dreamville posse cut “Down Bad” the same year.
While Nudy’s 2019 was laden with accomplishments (including his Pi’erre Bourne collab mixtape Sli’Merre), Nudy ran into a bit of a rough patch that February, when he and 21 Savage were arrested in DeKalb County in Georgia for a situation in which Nudy was the police’s target, due to a 2017 aggravated assault charge. Nudy bonded out 17 days later on Feb. 20, 2019. 21 Savage did the same a few days earlier, with it also being revealed that 21 was born in London, and was under threat of deportation for letting his visa expire. The case still affects 21 and Nudy, but they both continue to release music and thrive. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Nudy has dropped two albums, Dr. EV4L and Rich Shooter, and tore down Rolling Loud Miami and New York.
Via Zoom this past November, Nudy, 29, spoke to XXL about believing in his own talents, how his 2019 arrest changed the way he handles his career, his famous fans, which include Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and more.
XXL: When did you feel like your career was starting to turn the corner?
Young Nudy: I wanna say like, 2017. I was still kinda halfway and halfway with the shit. On some shit, one foot in, one foot out. When I seen I had a real fan base and muthafuckas wanna take pictures with me. I ain’t never wanna be up under some- body’s shadow or some shit. Once I saw that, it was like, they fuck with me, they don’t fuck with me, ’cause of nobody.
What do you remember about the first big show that you did?
My first big show was in 2016, McDonough, Ga. This was my first time performing “Yeah Yeah,” and the crazy part about it, this was like my first show, I think I got paid $600. When I came to do the show, I’m not knowing everybody here to see me. I’m just thinking I’m coming to perform like every other nigga, they just paid me to come. When I walk in the goddamn door, shawty, the muthafucka wall-to-wall, all the cameras on me, they screamin’ and shit. I asked one of my old managers, “Boy, who the hell? Somebody else must be in the muthafucka!” My manager was like, “These folk here to see you!” I perform “Yeah Yeah,” that shit just went bananas, crazy. I’m like, What the fuck? These folks like that shit? That shit was hard. I ain’t gon’ cap.
Other artists have tried to emulate your work. How did you develop your own style?
You can’t clone me, man. I just be trying to be different with my shit, ’cause I know how it go when they get to trying to label you. I ain’t got all that pain, sad music and shit, but I got the gangsta, fun music. I got some full-blown gangsta shit, too, but I like to have fun with my shit. They know the person and the music, it all match. Long story short, I ain’t no hoe.
Do you think dealing with your legal issues in 2019 changed your perspective on your career and how people feel about you?
Hell yeah. Well I ain’t gon’ say how people probably feel about me, ’cause muthafuckas been feeling a certain type of way about me before the lil’ bullshit that made the news and all that lil’ petty-ass, lil’ bullshit. Besides that, it kinda affected the way I could move with my career a lil’ bit. They really take me serious. They don’t treat me like the other people that’s committed to the state. There’s only so much that I can really do, and have so much fun like I want to, in my music.
So, the case affects what you can actually say on songs?
Hell yeah. Once upon a time, I really didn’t give a fuck how I said or what I said on music. The way I would carry myself with my career. Besides extra’d out, showing guns on the inter- net… I ain’t never been with that shit. That shit ain’t the move. That shit ain’t the move. That’s for the slow muthafucka that wanna go to jail and catch them ATF charges about them guns. I had to check in every time I gotta leave the state. That shit gettin’ irritating. I always let somebody know where I’m at. It’s cool, though. I don’t really be trippin’. It’s a way to keep me out of trouble.
Have you noticed that you’ve been getting more popular over the last few years?
I ain’t gon’ cap to ya. The only way I knew my fan base growing, when I do a show. Other than that, trying to go from the internet and shit, I don’t really be getting it, because I be seeing rappers that got a million followers and shit, and they can’t even get 100,000 likes. And, I know I be getting them muthafuckas, and I ain’t got no bots or no fake shit. I got real Nudy fans. I feel like my fan base is slowly growing.
You dropped DR. EV4L and Rich Shooter last year. What was the difference between the two, and were you recording songs separately for them?
Soon as I got done recording Dr. EV4L and I turned that shit in, I had already started recording Rich Shooter because I had already kept saying I was gonna give my fans two albums. I really was giving myself a month, but I knew I was gonna have to get the songs cleared. I knew it was probably gonna take a lil’ longer, so I had to hurry up and knock that shit out. I wanted to give some of my bros some exposure, the same way people helped me get out there. That’s why you heard the Lil Harold and the 2Feet[Bino] and the Cristo[4L]. One thing about it, I need to be a goddamn rapper/A&R, goddammit. Especially when it comes to beats. I know a beat in my sleep. You can’t tell me nothing about no beat. I’m very picky when it come to beats.
Speaking of beats, you brought Pi’erre Bourne back on Rich Shooter. Your fans have been asking for you to work with him more often. What made you decide to work with him again?
It just be on some shit. I don’t wanna have my shit just stuck around where muthafuckas be like, “We just wanna hear Nudy and Pi’erre.” I be trying to let muthafuckas understand, when it comes to beats and shit, that shit be me. A producer might make certain shit, but I’m very picky with shit. The producers, they been working with me for so long, they already know what type of shit I want. I done damn near made the beat myself with them ’cause they already know what type of shit I’ma say, what type of sounds I wanna hear. I wanted to show muthafuckas this actually just me and my mind in my own lil’ world. I love sounds. It ain’t just about no Pi’erre. Pi’erre was just the first person to really figure me out. And that’s what made me and Pi’erre just lock in. Plus, Pi’erre different as hell his damn self.
During an interview with XXL last year, singer Mariah The Scientist said she loves “Zone 6,” and she told you this. How often do other artists tell you they are a fan?
I’ma tell you like this here. The shit be so weird to me, and it be throwing me off. I have some of the biggest people in the world listening to my shit. The world don’t even really be knowing this type of shit. They favorite rapper and they favorite singer, they a Nudy fan. Once you a Nudy fan, you a Nudy fan. I don’t really be trippin’ about trying to please everybody in the world. Once you become my fan, I’m here to please you. I’m not stressing trying to be the biggest artist in the world, I been gave up on all that type of shit. I just like to have fun and do what I do.
How did you find out about the Jay-Z and Beyoncé picture, in which they were listening to the Sli’Merre project by you and Pi’erre?
I see the shit. I showed it to my folk like, “Damn, that look like my shit they listening to in the background.” My fans pointed that shit out. I’m one of them type of niggas, I be happy for my shit, but I be happy for my shit on my own. I ain’t finna be all on the internet. I ain’t doing all that. But, it made me feel good to know that them type of folk listening to my shit. Shit like that kinda cool. I be lovin’ it. I’m just humble and I’m grateful for whatever Big God give me, man.
Check out more from XXL’s Winter 2021 issue including our cover story featuring the XXL awards board members, Juice Wrld's mother reflects on her son, Big30 gears up for his debut album, a look back at the history of remixing hip-hop songs, Latin trap star Eladio Carrion talks about working with Bobby Shmurda, Tobe Nwigwe's viral movement with a purpose, KenTheMan gets cosigns from 2 Chainz and Snoop Dogg, 10 moments rappers lost valuable possessions and more.