If there’s anything we’ve learned about artists emerging out of Atlanta, it’s that the sounds that come out of this city vary immensely. Just this year we’ve been introduced to a surplus of new artists from Atlanta like Rome Fortune, Raury, OG Maco, and iLoveMakonnen—just to name a few—and all of them are providing a completely different sound. In fact, being from the same city may be the only common denominator.
Another young artist emerging from this talented city is Wara From the NBHD. But Wara seems to have a different advantage. Although he grew up in Atlanta, he’s originally from Brooklyn—another city known for its musical output.
We caught up with Wara from the NBHD to talk about where he draws inspiration from, how life has been since he dropped his excellent album Kidnapped, and his thoughts on the state of music today.
When did you move from Brooklyn to Atlanta?
1998-99. We moved because my pops wasn’t feeling the NYC life anymore, my brother was constantly in trouble, and my mom actually worked at the World Trade Center. I remember Brooklyn for being a bad place too, like the area I was in. But I remained coming back all the time, even still to this day obviously I’m up here every week. And ironically I always stay in BK no matter what part I’m in, so it’s home away from home.
Out of the different places that you’ve lived, which of them would you consider to be the “NBHD” that Wara is from?
Without a doubt Brockett Road which is a street/neighborhood on the Eastside of Atlanta in Clarkston,GA. It’s infamous for the strip club Strokers and the whole aura of it is different. It’s two liquor stores within like 200 feet from each other. One of my best friends Mike was murdered there when I was 16 and you’ll hear me talk him about in future music. It really just means a lot to me as a place. I say that because Brockett is where I came into my own from fighting, to having sex with hoodrats, to making a name for myself hooping, to toting my first gun, all that shit. I always felt like you’re from where you grew into a man at. My mom still lives there so I’m working hard to get her from over there. It’s a cool hood now, though.
As far as Brooklyn, I think that’s where the rawness comes from. The I-don’t-give-a-fuck trait within my creativity.
What are the differences and similarities in the ways Atlanta and Brooklyn have inspired your creativity?
Well I think Atlanta kind of genuinely forces my creativity. It makes me want to shit on everything and everybody that’s doing what I’m doing, but in a competitive way. I’m always trying to figure out how to make everything I do stand out. Most of the time it comes out effortlessly and it’s just usually me doing me. As far as Brooklyn, I think that’s where the rawness comes from. The I-don’t-give-a-fuck trait within my creativity. So yeah, ATL is like the light and NYC is like that darkness, feel me?
I read that you only started making music pretty recently. What motivated you to make that decision?
I’ve been doing music going on four years now and I truly don’t know what motivated me during the time. But I do know I just felt like I wanted to get some shit off my chest one day so I just went to the studio and recorded. I had no help, no mentoring on how to go about it, none of that shit. I just did it because it felt right. People were fucking with the songs I was putting out so I just kept going and got better. Though I do wish I would of had a little more guidance in the beginning, I’m proud of how I started because it was a natural thing, it wasn’t something I was doing because I wanted to be like other niggas. Lord knows the last thing I ever wanted to be was a rapper, but this is what it is now so I’m just trying to make history and keep perfecting my craft.
I know you produce a lot of your own music. What did you start doing first, rapping or producing?
I was rapping first, but I knew I was going to end up producing my own shit just because I’m so picky with my beat selection. I hear things that no one else does, you know? But I actually do like producing more because I’m creating something that can last forever without words. Rapping is just rapping to me. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Rapping is the easy part, I don’t even practice the shit I just say what’s on my mind and it happens to rhyme. I talk to myself a lot so I kind of process my thoughts and they usually become songs.
One thing I don’t do though is just sit in the studio until something happens. I literally can’t record unless I have something to say.
Explain what your recording process is usually like. Do you think of the beat or lyrics first?
It depends. It really varies a lot. Sometimes I randomly write and attach the lyrics to a beat, or I usually start on the production and build around that. One thing I don’t do though is just sit in the studio until something happens. I literally can’t record unless I have something to say. I have those times when I’m in the studio working on the beat and the song just pops up in my head. I record real quick just to get the ideas out my brain.
I can tell from your cover art, videos, and lyrics that cohesive concepts are important to you. How do you come up with most of these concepts?
Yeah, the whole thing about conceptual stuff to me is the cohesive aspect. As the creator, it just makes things easier on my end, and there’s something about it that holds this enigma aspect. It’s cool for the fans to dig deep and figure out why you came up with this idea or what’s so special about this story that you’re trying to tell, you know? Most of my concepts are real life situations. Whether it be the clothing, videos, covers… they all have meaning.
Your son has been on the cover art for a few of your projects, what was the idea behind that? Do you think you’ll continue with that concept?
No, my whole thing with my covers in general is to make people uncomfortable and force people to think beyond what they see. My son isn’t there as a toy or prop and many people mistake it as such. I just know that the best artists are the vulnerable ones, the ones who aren’t afraid to let you in on their real life, regardless of what people think. That’s what him being on the covers truly represented. Plus it’s just flat out ill to me.
Yes, they might be a little harsh but it’s only because he’s a kid that it “seems” harsh, but for me personally that’s when I saw the worse shit—as a kid. So it’s not about the age, it’s more about the world we live in, and what you’re going to face in the world. Growing up in black communities—as much as I hate to say it—that’s how shit is. So those covers were more of reality than just a kid on it. As of now, he won’t be on any more covers but my covers are going to get even realer because mothafuckas not putting out ill covers no more. Niggas just put out bullshit and call it “art.” But art is something that’s real, not copy and pasted. You’ll be surprised how many publications secretly don’t want to post my shit because of my covers.
How do you think you’ve matured artistically in the time since you dropped Ill Street Blues to now after releasing Kidnapped?
Man, I was just talking to my friend about that the other day. I’ve matured a lot in the sense of being more patient, perfecting my music, and just learning to accept opinions on certain things because all advice ain’t good advice. But everything’s a learning process. I’m definitely a legit businessman now, all the way to the core. Got to be about your business, nah mean? [Laughs]
How are you feeling about the reception of Kidnapped?
I fucking love the reception from it. When I set out to make it my goals were very high, but we definitely exceeded those goals. Once it made the New York Times I knew it was real because shit like that is historic. I don’t even know how it got to the writer but fuck, I’m glad it did. It’s nothing wrong with having a critically acclaimed second project. Can’t wait to see how far these next projects take us.
I’m not here to make anyone comfortable or to please people. The only people I care about connecting with is my homies that don’t have a voice and the real fans.
What do you hope fans will learn about you after listening to your music?
I hope that fans will not only learn, but see a true creative. I care about the messages that I give off because these past few years it took a lot for me to realize that my voice and everybody’s voice is powerful if they use the shit in the right way. Everything that I speak of is real and genuine, it’s really how I feel and sometimes I know it can either touch mothafuckas or upset mothafuckas but as long as they feel it, that’s all that matters to me. I’m not here to make anyone comfortable or to please people. The only people I care about connecting with is my homies that don’t have a voice and the real fans. Its’ just music at the end of the day anyway, accept it or don’t.
In an industry that can often be full of phony personalities both behind the scenes and in the spotlight, what inspires you to keep going?
Staying true to myself and overcoming all the phonies.
What are some things that you love/hate the most about the state of music right now.
I really hate the majority of the music videos that are broadcasted out there. It’s like the whole industry got the same fucking shot list and weak ass directors constantly putting out that sorry shit over and over and fucking over. Oh my god, its annoying! As far as what I like, I fuck with the fact that it’s more youth-driven now. Everybody knows there’s no future without the youth.
What do you say to yourself on days when you feel like giving up?
I truly don’t know, some days I want to quit this shit [Laughs]. I get depressed about real life issues and it can affect my work ethic sometimes. Then some days I want to shit on everything music-related. I think it’s knowing that in many ways I’m one of a kind, maybe the world needs that. So it forces me to stay inspired and keep pushing because at the end of the day, if you’re doing something for so long you can’t go anywhere else but higher. If that’s not your case, then obviously you just suck. But knowing that these ideas inside of me have to come to life is what keeps me inspired, for sure. To everyone out there reading this shit, don’t give up man. The best thing someone ever told me was, “You don’t fail until you quit.” Keep fucking rocking out niggas!
A lot of doors have opened for you this year—what has been your favorite moment so far?
It’s so many, man. Labels are on me now, I’ve had a taste of three different tours. By the way, I played a show with Black Milk recently and yo, he has the best live show you will ever fucking see, I promise. But yeah, I feel myself getting closer to them millions. Our label Playin Four Keeps Records released its first official independent album which was Kidnapped so that was probably the best part of the year musically.
What’s next for you?
I’m about to release my EP, the project before the big album. It’s entitled If Guns Could Speak and you guys are the first to know that. So yeah, that’s what I’m focused on right now. Other than that, we are getting a tour together so we can finally get out here and touch these damn fans for once.
What do you hope to accomplish by this time next year?
Musically? I want to put out an number one album, maybe get my first magazine cover. I don’t know, I just want to go even higher. There’s no limits with me.