Abhi The Nomad Talks About Identity, Video Games, And Social Media Hate – Features
How long have you been in Austin?
Three and a half years.
Almost at that four-year mark. Do you intend to change it?
I don’t know, I really like it here. I found a groove. I have some nice friends here. And by couple, I mean literally, like maybe three. There are a lot of talented people here, a bunch of talented live musicians. Lots of cool music. The food is amazing. Everything is fine without the governor, but the mayor of Austin is following me on Instagram now so there is no move. Once the mayor follows you, it’s time to stay.
Have you ever been understanding before tackling a new style, or have you always trusted your audience to embrace that change?
Honestly, I don’t know what they’re going to think about it every time. I feel like I have a little idea … For example, if I put out a full EDM album tomorrow, they would probably say ‘what the fuck is this?’ I feel like it varies in a way because I thought “Modern Trash” would hit a lot more than it did, and now I understand why it isn’t. So it’s just something I have to do, it’s a reactionary understanding of what happened. I don’t think I can predict or know what they expect or want.
You must bear the scars of this change. Do you have the impression that modern musicians in general are ready to make this sacrifice?
I think it’s becoming more and more common to change your style, but I feel like a lot of musicians are trying to find other ways of doing it that doesn’t dilute their fan base. For example, Chance the rapper. He has his fan base and his basic style. Even though no one was a huge fan of ‘The Big Day’, it’s still a bit similar to what he did on his first mixtape, but he wanted to do more experimental shit. So he did ‘The Social Experiment’ with his friends and it’s a bit of a different outlet for him to vibrate on stuff that sounds different. So if I ever had to do 180 crazy [degrees] shit, that would probably be through a different name or a different band name or something like that.
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I really enjoy your music because most of the time it’s really dancey and super fun to listen to, but you never sacrifice the lyrical and emotional aspect of the music. Is this a balance that you are aware of?
Yes. It’s so hard for me to skimp on lyricism. I think, even on my most cheesy musical journeys, I feel like the lyrics are still there. They make sense and they are very current. One of my favorite things to do is write songs. Writing songs, I think, is an art that not many people vibrate with right now because a lot of music is based on feel, groove and rhythm, which is great. But personally, I feel like when you can nail the two at the same time, that’s where the magic happens. It’s the kind of music that I love. I am also a hip hop fan. I’ll die on a hill on Twitter, chatting with a random anime profile picture about who the greatest rapper is.
You have already said that Royce Da 5’9 is like your favorite lyricist.
He and Lupe are the closest, who are alive and working.
What about the way they put together the words you’re trying to fit into your writing?
I have the impression that they do not compromise on anything. Like, they both use their voices as instruments. They never sound like they’re above or below the beat. They’re still riding on beat and in the pocket, and anything they say is like 10 times what most people could write. I don’t care even if it’s just like guns and shit. We do not care? It’s poetry. The poetic devices and the use of their words are simply beyond me. I feel like everyone can learn, everyone can be inspired by people who are just masters in their craft and I think that’s something that gets lost. A lot of people who are masters at their craft aren’t exactly the greatest, just toning it down and making great songs. But I like to immerse myself in all these hard ass rappers that people don’t listen to. I have a clandestine list of rappers that I far surpass, but who are so much better than me at rap and how I take their influence every day.
I think ‘Mural’ distorts people’s perception of Lupe, because people see him as too forgiving, but he can do a song, he can write a hook.
I don’t think a lot of people want to listen to older rappers. They feel like they want new faces and new brands and things like that. I also feel like Lupe doesn’t really care who is listening to her. He is established and he has done it. Although I still preach his gospel. Every time I talk to someone, I say to myself, “No Lupe is the best.” I did my high school thesis on how Lupe compares to Shakespeare and got a C- [laughs]. They were so crazy.
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Video games are another big influence on your music. You use a lot of references and aesthetics on their part. In what ways have games fueled your creativity?
I always like to escape reality in any way I can. In college, I used various other methods that I will not list. But today, as a grown adult with rent and bills to pay, it’s the fastest portal to another world. I love one of the tech frontiers that looks like these little games you can play. I think it’s so cool. I will send screenshots of Red Dead Redemption 2 and they’re like, ‘Is this a movie?’ I’m like ‘No, it’s a game! This is what they did! This is fucking crazy. Being able to explore these worlds we can’t even imagine is such a cool idea. I like games that create worlds for you, like an album that paints a picture or describes a feeling. Games capture that same feeling and immerse you in it. It is one of the few immersive arts in the world. You are you when you play a game, that completes the art. I hope that one day there will be some kind of evolution in music where the audience becomes the other piece. I really want people to be in music like they are in games.
you made a Metroid Prime freestyle lately, what made you want to rap on that soundtrack?
Nintendo never hits with music. You know, every song in every Nintendo game is right on top. Even the music on the Wii menu is crazy. It’s crazy. You can sample any OST from any Nintendo First Party title and it would snap.
The Super Smash Bros. series has been one of your favorites for a while, what has always spoken to you about this series?
Honestly, just blowing up with the homies in the dorm and playing there for eight hours. Over time, I became pious. Then I was like, “I just have to play this game now. This is the only fighting game where you can die falling off the map and it’s fire. It’s incredible. What a cool concept.
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Your love for games is evident in all your interactions on social media, how important do you place social media as a promotional tool?
Less and less over the years. I’m starting to make it a billboard or billboard rather than a place to promote my brand. I would prefer it to be just like an art gallery. If I weren’t a musician, I probably wouldn’t have a lot of social media. I’m not a big fan of Tik Tok, nor a big fan of Instagram. The only app I really fuck with is Twitter. I think Twitter is the best self-promotion tool where you can be yourself.
Although you hate it, you have had some success on Tik Tok.
A little, yes, but you have to do it every day to stay in the algorithm. Which, first of all, is fucking obnoxious. No one should post about anything every day, regardless of the purpose. I have the impression that it is unhealthy. Also look at the conversion rate. You could have a million subscribers on Tik Tok and still not be selling a show in LA. I have a million monthly listeners on Spotify and only 34,000 subscribers, which seems slightly off balance to me. But I’m grateful to everyone who follows me and I think the reason more people don’t follow me is because I’m not a social media content machine.
How do you feel about the fan engagement?
Discord. The reason I set it up at the start was because I wanted to try it out. Now this is the place for me to assess who cares. All these people who are active on the server really don’t care. Last night I had a private listening party to the album with all of my Twitch subscribers. I played the album for them in this subscriber-only voice chat. This is where fan engagement suits me, I want it to feel like family and I want it to feel like it’s giving you what you give me. It became such a tight-knit community that people designed EP covers for me. The last EP I did was designed by someone from Discord. All of this, this album would not be possible without them. I talk to them every day, and we hang out and play games every day. That’s where my fan engagement lives right now.
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You recently started a podcast and are making vlogging style videos on YouTube. How do these allow you to express yourself differently?
The podcast is so much fun to do. I love to cut it. Me and Harrison [Sands] have known each other for over a decade now. He performs at every show, he does backing vocals on almost every song. So we’re like friends from the first day. I’m not trying to diversify my income, I’m just trying to do some cool shit. The podcast is just the funniest thing. It’s a music and tech podcast. Harrison really loves music and I am obsessed with technology and gadgets. We just go out there and love to talk about all the cool shit that’s going on, act like fucking idiots and play this game called 20 questions where you have 20 questions to guess which musician the other person is thinking of. It’s a blast, man. Vlogging is fun to do because I stream every week. I’m just cutting the gameplay and giving my opinion on the games, that’s exactly what I’m doing anyway. I’m just trying to legitimize my daily activities, I don’t even try to monetize them.
Last question, this is something I knew I had to ask. Who will be this last Smash character?
Dude, that must be the Doom Slayer, but it could be just another fucking Fire Emblem character with big boobs.
‘Abhi vs. The Universe ‘is out now, get it here