Nelson Down [Interview]
“I’m not really focusing on what’s going on right now . . . I’m someone who, if it’s right, if it sounds right then okay.” – Nelson Down
Ottawa, ON – A few years ago HipHopCanada interviewed Nelson Down as one half of Ottawa’s hip-hop super-group, Deuce-Deuce. Today, amid the demise of the ten-year old group, he, and band member Harvey Stripes have ventured out on their separate ways; each exploring music through their own experiences. While neither has given up hope for a reunion, they both tell very different stories of where they are off to next. This past summer, Stripes told us of his drive for success and leadership as an artist. Now, Down tells a different story of a new journey, of that of a grounded artist seeking a strong connect with listeners.
HipHopCanada: The last time that you talked to HipHopCanada you were half one half of the group Deuce-Deuce. Now you have gone onto your own project. What is different about your music as an artist in a group, to now as Nelson Down?
Nelson Down: Working with a group you always have to cater to the next person, the band members or your partners. Me as a solo person, I make my own decisions. That comes down to the music, the business. Everything. Even fashion. Sometimes we would cater details of style so we could put out a certain type of image as a group but now I find especially musically I can just be full out creative with my ideas and my music. Now I have a full songs on my own where I can say as much as I can about the concept of my record.
HipHopCanada: I get the sense that both you and Harvey Stripes (of Deuce-Deuce) very different goals and views on music.
Nelson Down: Yeah definitely. We grew up together and we had experiences a lot of similar things but as far as family and real personal things as far as my background, were a lot different from his. I wouldn’t say I came from a poor family but I would say that we never really had anything I wanted. So a lot of things I went through were a little more, of a struggle. You can hear that in the music because a lot of our fans or even our crew would say to me, “you’re the more conscious kind of rapper, you’re the one who is straightforward and bold with what you are saying.” Whereas, he was a little different. It’s like the ying and the yang-where two opposites attract.
HipHopCanada: If at one point Deuce-Deuce represented the ying and the yang, where did the decision come from to go your separate ways? I’m assuming it wasn’t over anything negative because you both seem to have only good things to say about each other.
Nelson Down: To be honest, I think it was a matter of just growing apart and getting older. We were kids before doing our thing and we’ve grown into young adults in our mid-twenties. What you got to understand is myself and Stripes, we never spoke. Well, we spoke but we never chilled, the last two years prior to the situation. And that has something to do with the music. If we had studio time, a meeting, or had a show those were the only times we kicked it. Now what happens in that case is, you start growing apart from somebody if you only come together for business. It really creates distance between you and your business. To be honest, a lot of other little things had happened in our team with people around us that really influenced this situation. But I mean, we can sit here and break it down at the end of the day it just not clicking, beside music. And we decided to move on and do our own thing.
HipHopCanada: Harv said you each were 50/50 in Deuce-Deuce. What part of the 50 have you taken onto your solo project?
Nelson Down: I think I took more of the things that people can relate to. Like I said, my style is more of the conscious struggle and the realities of life. I think that is what I have personally taken. You could go through all of my records and ask me what I meant in every one of my songs, or verses and I could tell you what it meant to me or what I’d experienced. Everything we did in Deuce-Deuce was compromised, so most of the things we are doing now it’s stuff we would of probably done now as a group so it’s hard to get in depth of what I’ve taken from Deuce-Deuce.
HipHopCanada: Do you see a possibility of a reunion somewhere down the road?
Nelson Down: As of right now, no I can’t say there is. Just because it is still too early in the stages of our own solo careers. In the future, possibly there could be, but as of right now I can’t really call it. We both haven’t put out official albums or singles. It’s crazy because I haven’t spoken to him in over a year. Last time I actually spoke to him was a year ago, today. So it’s still real early to determine and I’m not really focused on that right now.
HipHopCanada: So now you’re focused on being ‘Nelson Down’ and the name comes from Nelson Mandela and ‘Down’-
Nelson Down: Down for being just a down ass dude. You know you get your nicknames growing up; it’s just kind of the name that was given to me.
HipHopCanada: So then what are you ‘down for’ these days?
Nelson Down: I’m down for whatever! I don’t mind to take risks. That’s really what it represents the most. Right now I’m down to just survive and put out hot music, real music. Down in my business, just down to live life to the fullest, make money. Down to get it in.
HipHopCanada: Right now you have a song out called, “Call Me”. Can you tell me about the type of music you are making now?
Nelson Down: When I officially launched my website, I put out three street records and “Call Me” just happened to be the one catching the most buzz. I’m not officially putting out an official song just yet; I’m in the studio banging out records. Just trying to build my catalogue. I’m actually also in the middle of a video treatment for the song though, and it’s one of those records where I just went into the studio and came up with a record speaking about the streets and what goes on in the streets real metaphorically. I’m surprised it’s getting the response it is, because if you really listen to it people will say, “How are you going to make a record about that kind of stuff?” I like that though, I want to be one of those artists who puts out the songs he wants not based on what’s hot.
HipHopCanada: So what you are saying is, “Call Me” is different than a lot of the other music you are making in the studio.
Nelson Down: Yeah, I mean a lot of things I’m working on right now, there is really no limits. I’m not just making songs for the radio, or the underground. I’m just going in there making songs that I think are hot, I’m not really focusing on what’s going on right now. You won’t catch me using auto-tune. But I’m also someone who, if it’s right, if it sounds right then okay. But not just for a response. I don’t have a formula. If you listen to the three songs I got out right now-“Call Me”, “Play Your Position” and “Whip It”-all three songs sound different and could appeal to a different crowd.
HipHopCanada: This impression of you as being a real, easy-going artist and that you speak from the heart is really heard in your music. What do you think it is that makes you so real?
Nelson Down: I don’t want people to hear me or hear something I say and see me in real life and be like, “that’s not you”. Most important before all that is, I have to keep it real with my roots. So I could say something on the record and then one of my family members or friends hears it on the record and is like, “you’re misrepresenting where you come from” or “that’s not you, why you saying that?” You know, so I got to answer to my family before I answer to my friends so I guess that’s really one thing that keeps me sane and true. That’s how I think people can relate to me because when I say things I make sure it is really true. It’s important to be real with yourself and with this rap shit.
HipHopCanada: So what are you presently working on?
Nelson Down: I’m working on a mixtape right now and I’m also working with a company who is putting out a tribute album for the great late Michael Jackson. They reached out to me and wanted me to do a verse on a couple of their productions. Michael Jackson had a great influence on me and played a role in a lot of the things I’m doing in music today so I was willing to put my verse on it and contribute. [NOW AVAILABLE – click here to download the project for free].
As for my own music, I spend at least half of the day in the studio. I’m just trying to build the Nelson Down super-discography. There are a lot of things going on for me as a solo artist. Which is another thing about being solo, you can always rely on your partner to be there when you can’t be. Now my days are just booked 24/7 business wise.
HipHopCanada: If people want to hear more Nelson Down, where can they check you out?
Nelson Down: Check out http://www.NelsonDown.com where I’ve got all my social networks up and running, or the company that I’m working with at hdsgnsindustries.com.