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Hip-hop journalists can be dicks, especially where independent rap artists are concerned. It’s difficult to get us to listen to your albums or cover your shows, and when you do manage to convince one of us to stick a tape recorder in your face for a few hours, the resulting article is rarely the piece you envisioned. We don’t focus on the things you find important, don’t shout out your various labelmates and team members, and refuse to include your e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and Web sites in our text.
But the 20-something Petworth rapper Nile “the Mayor” Nu’Man, who has been releasing albums and mix tapes since 1998, doesn’t need reporters: He does his own damn interviews, both administering and answering the questions.
“It separates me as an artist. Some people spend all their money trying to buy their way into the game; some may kill somebody—whatever people do to get famous. I interview myself,” he says. “It’s something different, it’s me, and you get to know [me] on a personal level.”
A couple of times each month, Nu’Man sends out these interviews to the thousands of people in his e-mail address book. The pieces discuss his upcoming projects and performances, as well as whatever else happens to be on his mind, such as in this entry from March: “Q. Are you getting burned out? A. Hell NO. I just wanna get on hot 97 in NYC. I wanna hit other markets. Im independant not local, no point in just being here.”
Nu’Man started the self-interrogations in 2004, after a couple of articles focusing on him, his Grown A$$ Man Entertainment label (aka GAME), and the group of artists he’s affiliated with, the G.O.V., were killed by a local magazine.
“We had like a Benzino/Eminem thing,” he says. “The writers wanted it published, but one head guy never let it out. After that point, I interviewed myself about the dispute—I didn’t wanna just say, ‘Fuck this magazine,’ so I said, ‘I heard you did an interview with a magazine—what happened?’ And I answered.
“It didn’t come out as biased as I thought it would,” he adds. “It was almost objective.”
Another interview session took place a few months later, after what Nu’Man says was an e-mail campaign driven by people—“Mayor Haters”—who were “attempting to assassinate my character.” “Instead of being an Internet gangsta, I interviewed myself about it,” Nu’Man says. “I asked ‘Why people hatin’ on you?’ then said, ‘It doesn’t upset me. I know who I am, you know who I am—it’s insignificant.’”
From there, distribution took off. “There were funny ones—I did one where I got into a beef with 50 Cent and interviewed myself,” he says. “It became a marketing tool. Not everyone will read an eight-page e-mail about what we’re doing, but they’ll read the interviews.”
Nu’Man says the e-mails are one component of the grind that has enabled him to push 25,000 albums in the past eight years, including Nu’Man’s My Life, My Way, which has been re-pressed in several different iterations since its 2004 release. But the interviews are only one component in a large arsenal of guerilla tactics the rapper employs to generate buzz.
Nu’Man and crew have done everything from crashing the studio audiences of video shows like BET’s 106 and Park and MTV’s Direct Effect to setting up camp outside of Hillcrest Heights’ Iverson Mall every day to sell CDs. Nu’Man also made an impression on Texas rapper Chamillionaire during a recent meeting by taking a cockier approach to the typical “please listen to my demo.”
“He was at Iverson Mall signing CDs, and I was there selling CDs,” Nu’Man says. “I walked up to him and gave him a poster and a CD. And I said, ‘That’ll be $10.’ It tickled him—he had to buy it. And he’ll remember that.”
This year Nu’Man is hoping to release his next CD, Politically Incorrect (Keep It P.I.), featuring himself and fellow G.O.V. artists such as Jay the Gov-Na and singer Nina Ross. It’ll come out, he says, on either his own label or through Russell Simmons Music Group—the rapper met the mogul in March and now has his sights set on a major deal.
Although Nu’Man contends that a lot of rappers try to get by on slipping their work to major artists, selling CDs out of their trunks, or politicking with hip-hop impresarios, he says the one arena without competition is his Q&A. “Nobody else can interview themselves,” he says. “No one else has that gift.” —Sarah Godfrey
The Mayor on the Mayor
Nile “the Mayor” Nu’Man circumvents reporters with his special brand of self-interrogation. “You have to read it to believe it,” he says.
Q. I see these interviews have become the talk of the town. Everyone wants to know what you will say next. So what’s on ya mind?
A. The current state of hip hop in the Middle East; for those who do not know, the “Middle East” is DC, Maryland & Virginia. With every door that opens for one artist it’s another artist trying to run and stand in the way. It’s time to learn to support our own. Face facts “The Mayor” is the artist that is making this region a factor in mainstream hiphop. Support me.
Q. Now that you got everybody coming up to you screamin’ “GAME!!!!” do you regret screamin that on all your CD’s?
A. Nah, I love it. It’s the way our supporters show us love. I welcome it…even in the malls…lol…so when you see me or any member of “The G.O.V.” don’t forget to scream “GAME!!!!!!”. You love me, I love ya back.
Q. Who is “The G.O.V.”?
A. The Mayor, Jay The Gov-Na, Nina Ross, Intrigue, & Myst Studios. We are the artist in “The G.O.V.” but it stretches beyond us to Secret Service, Kim, Swann, Shmee who all do work on the business side.
Q. Why hasn’t the Middle East made a significant contribution to hip hop as of yet?
A. It’s starts with the drug trade in the early 80’s. New York tried to come down and continue their monopoly but we wasn’t havin’ it. We sent them back up top. We always been a flavorful city so while they was flourishing with hip hop we started clothing lines. We never realy took GoGo national. And all those New York A&R’s in the early 90’s were dejected drug dealers from the 80’s who aint want nuttin to do with DC. But it’s a new day and those dudes are retired and that tension that existed bewtween DC & New York is dead…its dead cuz I say so. So now niggaz can come fuck with us…or not…im gettin bread off this rap shyt…we eatin I just want more food…Russell Simmons is gonna help me change the view of DC hiphop. Need I say anymore?
Q. That was deep. I see why you are “The Mayor” you seem to know a lot about the city and business in general. What do you think about DC GoGo versus DC hiphop?
A. Thank you. That beef is dead as well. I got a track with TCB the hottest band in the city and i’m rappin on it and performing with them at gogo’s. We combining the 2 sides of DC. The people united can never be defeated.lol… Its a new day out here, this aint your mama’s DC rap, ya hear me? No more beefs that get in the way of money makin’. This is a new day a new time and a new cause. I am your Mayor, my name is Nile Nu’Man and I would like to welcome you to the Middle East.