• Vallie

Shaolin - Interview

1. Tell us your rap name and where are you from?

I go by the stage name of Shaolin, and we're NSP, or New School Pioneers. We're from Los Angeles, California, in the 818 of the San Fernando Valley.

2. What made you start making music?

Originally, my boy BluntWraps and I just started doing it for fun. This was back in 2017-2018. We were making basic beats and somehow came across some Fort Minor instrumentals, and we were really feeling 'Petrified', so we wrote and recorded the first version of 'Shenanigans' to it for fun - I think that version is still up on YouTube somewhere for anyone interested. Later on when we became more serious we re-recorded to our own beat and removed any copyright issues.

3. Who are your influences in rap?

My primary influence is Atmosphere, which I think is evident in my heavy use of story tracks. Bliss N Eso were our first influence, and the group that really started getting us rapping (and where we got our name New School Pioneers from). Beyond that there's a lot of underground influence from groups like Jedi Mind Tricks, Gang Starr, Styles of Beyond, etc.

4. What is your take on the underground rap scene right now?

My take is kind of split. On the one hand, we have all these platforms that allow artists to showcase their work, but on the other hand the majority of content that gets plays all sounds the same. I'd like to see the underground flourish more like it did in the 90s, when it was a badge of pride instead of a knock. I know the undergrounds out there, its just finding it these days is a bit more challenging, especially when everyone is chasing numbers.

5. As an artist who has to compete with thousands of others for streams/plays, what makes your music worth people clicking on?

I think people listen to me because I'm real. I try to keep most of my songs (except for the token generic rap singles) meaningful and true to real life. I don't rap about money and cars and being strapped. I talk about struggles, addiction, mental health, and I tell stories from my life and those of others. I try to keep as much of my music genuine as I possibly can, and I think this separates me from most other rappers today,

6. You have 1 person to thank, who would it be?

Well this is going to sound cheesy af, but I have to say my parents. They don't support my music, and have never listened to it, but through my life my parents have instilled a deep sense of musical love an appreciation in me, and exposed me to many many different artists and genres when I was younger that I don't think I would have experienced otherwise. This really cultivated my love for music as a whole.

7. What is your process for recording music ?

My process is pretty erratic until I get in the studio. Generally, I listen to the beat and write pages of bars in one of my notebooks. Then I go through and choose the best bars and rewrite them in a logical, flowing arrangement. (Story tracks are usually front to back). Once I have that done I write it out again for a recording copy where I iron out all the details. That's what I take into the booth with me. Usually I like to try to record until I get a verse down in one take, but if I know I have to chop it up I'll record a bar or two several times before moving on to the next. It really depends on the track.

8. Any upcoming projects or singles fans should be getting ready for this year?

I have a single ready to drop in January called 'Rise Above' that deals with verbal abuse and has some heavy samples in it that should really resonate with some people. Additionally, I'm working on my third album right now, which is being produced by Wulf Banquet and will have 6 tracks. This is my first collab album, and it is dropping near the end of the first quarter, but as I'm still penning tracks I don't have a release date yet.

9. What keeps you motivated and on path towards your goals for music?

My motivation comes from what I get out of releasing tracks. For me, the process as a whole is a release, and that keeps me motivated to do more. From writing, to recording, to engineering, I enjoy the entire process. I can honestly say I make music for myself first, and I know that means I'm not for everybody. I will admit some days are harder than others, but when it comes down to it motivation comes from doing what I love.

10. What impact do you want to have on the world?

I honestly haven't thought about any sort of impact. If someone hears one of my tracks and identifies with it, that's enough for me. If just one persons hears 'Reasons' and takes time to reflect on suicidal thoughts and consider the message of the song, I've made a difference and I feel like that's success.

11. What's your best collaboration experience with another artist or producer?

Id say there is two. First, the best experience I had with another artist has to have been Virus Oprstu. The dude came into the studio and laid down the vocals for 'Open Late' in one take without missing a beat. It was insane. He is talented af. And the best experience I had with a producer has been working on my upcoming album with Wulf Banquet. He is a great guy, super organized, and has nothing but fire to work with.

12. Who does all of your cover art or do you make your own?

I actually do all my own cover art. All logos, designs, and covers have been in house, so to speak, as I don't put as much emphasis on visuals. I usually just try to come up with something that is simple enough but speaks to the track.

13. Who makes most of your beats or production?

Until now, this has been half and half. We use a lot of our own beats, but as we go, more and more we have been branching out and working with other producers. Our next album will be produced fully by Wulf Banquet - we're excited to release our first collab album!

14. What can we expect next from you in 2022?

Coming in January our single 'Rise Above,' first quarter our album produced by Wulf Banquet, and then we will be hitting more singles and planning our next move! Stay tuned!

15. Link the fans to your Twitter & Instagram @ Below so they can follow you!

We're actually not on Instagram, but you can find us for all news and release dates on twitter: @NSP818SFV

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