Meet Nemzzz, Manchester’s Bright New Rap-Experimenter
We caught up with Nemzzz to discuss how growing up in the hood of Gorton, Manchester, helped shape him, his Jamaican heritage, and why his phone stays on DND.
“My phone’s always on DND; I’m very anti. I’m more like an introvert and I tend to keep to myself a lot,” confesses 19-year-old Manchester native Nemzzz.
This reclusive and reserved approach to life, fuelled by ambition and driven by an unwavering commitment to music, has left a trail of remarkable achievements in the rapper’s wake. In the midst of a competitive music industry, with only a handful of singles out since his arrival on the scene in 2018, Nemzzz has relentlessly chipped away at his craft, carving out a lane for himself like a mountain climber scaling a steep face—inch by inch—to reach the summit of success.
Ever since his 2021 breakout hit, “Elevate”, which blew up on TikTok and resulted in him racking up over 54 million streams on Spotify (and counting), Nemzzz’s name has been on the lips of every UK music critic. He responded to the success of that single by releasing “2Ms” at the top of 2022, a song which showcased his unparalleled artistry. With a skittering production style and a glacial flow, Nemzzz has now released his first EP, NEMZZZ TYPE BEAT. The 8-track project sees the on-the-rise rhymer take fans on a journey through his evolving realms of musical expressions as he unveils his boundless versatility throughout; from gliding over the mellow, smooth keys on “Last Time”, to lacing the triple kick drums and staccato samples on “Back That”, his way around a beat is effortless and awe-inspiring.
We caught up with Nemzzz to discuss how growing up in the hood of Gorton, Manchester, helped shape him, his Jamaican heritage, and why his phone stays on Do Not Disturb.
“Coming from that tough environment gave me some type of beast mode and hunger to change my life, and that’s what I want people from Gorton to take from me.”
COMPLEX: You started your music career initially at the age of 14. What influenced you to start rapping at such a young age?
Nemzzz: My family has always made music, so I was always around it growing up. But one day, I saw my dad doing music in the studio, and I was like, “You know what? Let me try a thing, too.” I tried making a tune, and it wasn’t all that, but it gave me a buzz. I must have played it for one of my friends and he thought it was hard, even though I thought it wasn’t [laughs]. You know how it is—you get gassed because your friends are gassing you, but then I just knuckled down and kept working at it from there.
How would you compare your art from the age of 14, when you first started out, to your art now at the age of 19?
I feel like, back then, it was all trial and error. I was trying to find my sound, establishing what works for me and what doesn’t, and now I know what lane I’m going for and what I’m gonna stay in throughout my career.
While most of Manchester has benefitted from economic growth over the years, you grew up in the deprived area of Gorton, which has continued to decline, with the area being in the top 10% of most deprived neighbourhoods in Britain. How do you think the hood shaped you and how you approach life?
I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen in and to Gorton so, for me, it’s motivated me to get out of that environment and just be different and set an example for other people who are lost on their way, trying to get somewhere and make something of their life too. Coming from that tough environment gave me some type of beast mode and hunger to change my life, and that’s what I want people from Gorton to take from me.
How do you think your music contributes to the cultural landscape of Manchester? What message do you hope to convey to your audience through your work?
I talk about many relatable things going on in Manchester because I’ll see something happen, or I’ll be talking to my friends—or they’ll tell me about a situation in their life—and I’ll just throw it into a song so that it’s relatable to us and our experiences in Manchester.
What’s your proudest moment to date so far as an artist?
When Drake followed me, that was probably the maddest moment. I’d like a feature with him one day, but only when the time is right.
I look forward to hearing it! So, NEMZZZ TYPE BEAT, your debut project—what’s it all about?
I wanted to give the fans a bunch of music because I’ve noticed that I haven’t put out a collection of music since I came into the game. It’s always been “wait for the next single.” Nemzzz Type Beat is just for the fans, man. I’m not taking it too seriously, do you get what I’m saying? I’m just trying to give the fans what they’ve been wanting.
“From being around my dad and family all the time, I’ve always picked up on Jamaican culture and I understand it to the max. I’m definitely looking to implement it more in my music in the future.”
On the project, a running theme I noticed throughout is how your phone is on Do Not Disturb a lot. Can you explain why that was important to talk about?
That’s how I am in real life [laughs]. My phone’s always on DND; I’m very anti. I’m more like an introvert and I tend to keep to myself a lot. I am not outside like that. From my first song, people picked up on it when I said it, so I just ran with it. Some people think it’s just a catchphrase, but it’s really how I am… You have to know me personally to understand.
You’re good at using social media to market your music—you’ve got millions of views on TikTok, for example. How do you go about promoting yourself? Is there a specific strategy?
You know the maddest thing? I need to learn how to use TikTok properly. I have people who help me to do it. Sometimes I sense what people will like, so I post it in specific ways where I’m not doing too much. But it’s just organic, to be honest. I don’t really put mad thought into TikTok and things like that.
You’ve been quite experimental with your production choices over the years—from drill to Jersey Club to straight-up rap—and people have put you under each of those sounds too. But how would you personally describe your sound?
I’m more chilled and laid-back. I try to be hyper with it, but my overall vibe is more chill with a mixture of drill and trap music. I just like to experiment with different sounds.
What message do you hope to convey to your audience in your music?
Be original! Don’t follow trends or follow people. Just because you see a certain way work for somebody else, doesn’t mean you need to follow in their footsteps. That’s what I want people to take from my music, and from me.
Can you speak to any specific moments in your life or career that have shaped your understanding of your culture and identity within music?
When I made the song “2Ms”, it showed me a lot. When I made it, I never thought anything of it. It was just, “Yeah, I’ll fight for two million streams and that.” But the way that people gravitated towards me—everyone was on me after that—it showed that I had a cultural impact at that point.
How do you think your Jamaican heritage has helped guide you?
It’s been a part of my success, for sure. It’s helped my personality grow over the years as well. From being around my dad and family all the time, I’ve always picked up on the culture and I understand it to the max. I’m definitely looking to implement it more in music in the future.
Do you have any plans on helping other young, aspiring talent from Manchester thrive and succeed like you have?
I need to finish what I’m doing and establish myself before I can fully help people from my city, but it’s definitely something that I wanna do. I’ll start co-signing artists, get them in the studio, and make sure they’re around the right people. My journey’s just beginning but I want to put on for Manchester as much as possible.