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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Zallo

HXRMAN: From Nug City to the World

How did you know Peach was going to fuck Luigi?

Hahahaha, oh God. Fuck. That line definitely stemmed from what was going on at the time. I had just broken up with my girl. [There were] a lot of paranoid feelings going on…I guess “Luigi” means the brother, you know? The idea that could be anyone…that sort of shit.

When were you first put onto phonk music?

It would’ve been in 2012, when I found Mysterious Phonk by SpaceGhostPurrp and Mista Thug Isolation by Lil Ugly Mane. Those two are probably still my biggest influences overall. My friend Dan gave me Mysterious Phonk on vinyl, & that became the template for how I’d make beats.

That album is perfect, still, to this day.

So what’s your favorite SGP tweet or Facebook post?

There’s been a few good sprees. I think the reason me & him have had a few altercations is because I took the bait on some of them. That’s the thing about him; you can’t take him too seriously. You’ve just gotta ride that wave.

How did you end up in Young Thugga La Group? I know we’re both in there.

My homie Jarred Elliott added me to that; he’s from New Zealand, too. We bonded over music online & started talking, and he ended up being the homie.

He was like, “Oh, come get in on this group, the guys who run Young Thugga La Meme are running it,” and I said “Yeah, add me to that shit,” and it was dope.

I barely have any IRLs [people in real life] who’ve heard about it, but it’s a sick community. Some of my homies up in Auckland, which is one of the biggest cities in New Zealand, are in YTLG as well & it’s a funny real-life connection.

Speaking of New Zealand, why do you love Nug City?

From the cover of his 2017 EP LILBBHXRMAN

A lot of people in the mid to late 2000s used to call [New Plymouth] Dirt City. A rapper from here called Louie Knuxx- who’s definitely one of my biggest influences, he’s got tattoos all over his face and is half the reason I look the way I do-coined the term.

It came from there. We were all useless stoner cunts so it turned into Nug City. That shit’s still real illegal here, so there’s a time in the year where it gets real hard to get, but the whole “Nug” thing is about “No, we’ve got everything we need there.”

Concerning Louie Knuxx, how do you go about cyber bullying him into dropping music? Do you think it’ll work eventually?

I reckon it’ll work eventually. He moved back to Melbourne a couple of months ago, but a bit before he left he came around and grabbed a bunch of beats so I’m feeling optimistic about it.

What do you think an understanding of Jewish theory can provide to an artist looking for inspiration?

That’s a deep question. It’s a real interesting one too, because I spent most of my life as an extreme atheist, you know, one of those dickhead ones. One of those “convince you to not believe in what you believe in” atheists.

It wasn’t until maybe my mid-20’s that I finally decided to embrace my Jewish side at all. There’s something like 5,000 Jews in this country altogether, so through high school & all that I hadn’t seriously thought about it. I suppressed it for so fucking long, and since embracing who I am, where I’m from, all of that, I’ve felt more connected to it. Especially after I read the Torah.

I’ve been really into Genesis, for some reason. I had this feeling that everyone got it really wrong with this religion thing, and started reading it really wrong. Like with Adam & Eve. They weren’t the first humans on earth. They were the first of this “new thing” that was surfacing. It’s really hard to explain, but I got hugely inspired by…I’m trying to put it into human words.

Let it out in whatever words come to mind.

I guess reading the Torah as an adult got me really inspired to find truth in all sorts of things. It also inspired me to provoke thought. In the early stages of my music, it was all stream of consciousness; whatever comes to mind, just write it down, or freestyle it in the mic.

I finally realized the importance of intention behind the order of words, and other things like that, from the Bible. When you’re saying a point, you can filter it through a passage, and someone who wants to find what you’re actually saying will be able to find it.

Who do you consider your beats hidings? Cause every single time I make one, it’s not done until it feels like it’s punching you in the head. In New Zealand, a hiding is when you get jumped or beat up. Your dad gives you a hiding, or you get a hiding from some gang.

I thought it was place where you’d hide & I thought, “That’s an interesting way to put it.”

Maybe it means when you get a hiding, you start hiding so your black eye has a chance to heal.

What would you say is your favorite New Zealand slang term?

Upto. You can say it in any situation. It could be the start of a fight, or you saying hi to your mate…it could be anything.

I was curious where the name of your latest project, UPTO, came from, and I guess that answers that question.

The cover of his latest project, UPTO

It’s something every New Zealander grew up saying. It can be like “Oh, what’re you upto?” Or, “What the fuck’re you upto, cunt?” Or it can be like, “Oh, upto,” or “Hey man, upto, cunt.” It’s a perfect word; it can go so many ways.

It seems like, then, that your national identity is pretty tied with your music.

Yeah it’s [informed by] the slang, but also by the lifestyle here, what people here do. I don’t rap about drugs that are popular in America cause they’re not popular here. For example, I’ve done coke maybe two or three times in my life.

I try to shed some light on what New Zealanders do, and what that side of the culture is up to. We are, I guess, on a different wave, being in the middle of the ocean.

There seems to be quite a huge divide between people trying to be Americans & then the other polar end of that, which is just New Zealand barbecue rap. That’s been a sound that’s been here & quite stagnant for a long time. People either aim for that or some American shit.

It never occurred to them, “Oh wait, we could have a modern New Zealand sound that’s not the same as all of that boring barbecue rap shit. It doesn’t have to be America’s sound; we could create something new, something from the ground up.”

That’s sort of why it’s become impossible to work with producers who aren’t myself these days.

For Americans that are unfamiliar, how would you describe “barbecue rap?”

It’s a real hard one to explain unless you’ve heard a lot of New Zealand music. You can picture acoustic guitars, but not sad acoustic guitars. A soft little boom-bap beat, a little reggae vibe going on, it’s just…ugh.

We don’t have to talk about it anymore. I know you don’t like talking about work outside of work, but I know you’re a pretty accomplished tattoo artist & I see some of your posts about it. What tattoo took up an 8-hour session?

Oof. The last 8-hour session I did on someone, I think I was working on a sleeve. I’ve been doing a few bigger projects lately. I finished a back one on this guy that took a couple of months, it was crazy. I’ve been doing some sleeves over the past month or two.

I slashed this guy’s throat out the other day, it was one session for the whole front of his neck. That was gnarly. I don’t reckon I could sit for that long anymore…but yeah, it’s the big pieces that take that long, cause I work real fucking fast.

Just sitting down on one tattoo for that long takes a toll on your back & your wrist, and on your brain, too, since you’re so involved in one thing.

Which artist out there do you think has the best tattoos besides you, and which artist has a tat that you’d remove if you had the chance?

I wish I could remove that bullshit off Lil Xan’s face. What’s with all these fucking children rolling around with face tattoos?

It’s mostly this whole new wave, and it sounds fucked up, me complaining about that, cause I’ve got five or six tattoos on my face. But the guy who taught me to tattoo’s been doing it for 30 years & I was the only apprentice he ever had.

I come from a place where you don’t get your throat done till your torso’s finished, and you don’t get your face done till your throat’s finished, you don’t get your hands done until your arms are finished. I’m sort of stuck in my old ways like that. I’ll see a guy getting his face or throat done with a completely bare torso and I’ll fucking crack up.

Where do you think that mentality came from?

It’s definitely an old-school tattoo thing. In the 80s, if you walked into a shop & asked for a tattoo on your neck, and you weren’t already covered, you’d probably just get a hiding. It was the way it used to be, when it was mostly bikers running the industry.

You couldn’t just do that dumb shit; you weren’t allowed to. Shit’s gotten pretty far from what tattooing originally was. There’s a shitload of tattoo artists compared to what there’s ever been.

There’s a shitload of people who want to be in these positions that are going to stop them from ever having a normal walk of life, doing stuff to ruin that chance on purpose. It’s gotten to a really strange place in general, that climate.

Look at people like Lil Peep, for instance. He waited until he was already up. He wasn’t an idiot like a lot of these dudes, people with 1000 SoundCloud followers already getting their face tattooed. He had a million plays on a couple of songs before he got “Crybaby” on his eyebrow.

Learn from that. He already knew he was a musician. Sort yourself out before you go fucking up your chances.

At a point in my career I already had two sleeves, most of my torso done, a bunch on my legs, and I was always saying “Fuck, I want to get my hands done.” My boss told me I wasn’t allowed to until I’d been tattooing full time for three years.

So once I got my hands tattooed I went home & had a big fucking crisis in the mirror about how I’ve ruined my life, and all that, and I realized that’s what everyone goes through when they tattoo outside the limits of clothing. After getting them done, I was really thankful to my boss for telling me no until this career cemented.

You mentioned that you have some shows coming up; tell me more about those.

We just did an album release show for UPTO two weeks ago in Nug City, & on the 16th my bros will be playing there again, so we’ll be coming up & supporting all them; Lowc8, stonrsmurf, and K4M3.

Do you think you’ll be touring the states soon?

Man it’s all money-dependent. A bunch of people have told me they’re keen to book me for shows in places like Texas, LA & Seattle. So it’s really about how things go this year. All this shit I’m getting form music, I’m just trying to stack up and make that a reality.

There’s too many humans out there, too many people I’ve connected with over the years on the internet that I need to see face-to-face, that I need to do some shit with in real life. This internet shit gets pretty distant.

I was writing the list of rappers I’ve worked with the other day. I came up with 43 names and I didn’t even think too hard. I was like, “Shit, probably 30 of these are from the states. How did that happen?”

You could throw a festival with them if you wanted.

Yeah, and that would be a dope show. It sort of blew my mind when I wrote those names down & actually realized how many people from all over the place I’ve already made these connections and friendships with.

Which state would you want to go to first when you get the chance?

Washington state & Texas, for some reason, are drawing me the most. There’s something about Seattle…I guess with Texas it’s about Swisha House, growing up & listening to all that, watching the swangers, I know I need to go there and see it in person.

Even though you’ve given people plenty to eat with the latest record, you’ve mentioned that you’ve got new music coming up. What’ve you got?

Yup. Oh, well, I haven’t really announced anything yet, but I’m working on the next installment of NUG CITY PHONK. I’m gonna put out III at the end of the year, I reckon.

Other than that, I’m working on an EP that I’m producing for JJ Peters of Deez Nuts, which is fucking crazy for me cause that was one of my favorite hardcore bands growing up.

If you look at me, with the beard & the face tattoos, it’s sort of like “Oh you’re just Louie Knuxx and JJ Peters trying to be a SoundCloud Rapper,” so it was kind of funny meeting those dudes & becoming their mates and producers. That tape with JJ should be out in the next few months. I’m also working on a new EP, mixing stuff for my bro K4M3. He’s going to be putting that out within the next month or two as well. Just working on a lot of production stuff for other people, trying to get everyone up to speed, & trying to get them all a big platform this year.

We can’t wait to hear what comes out from Nug City. Anything else you want to add?

Thank you heaps, anyone who fucks with me. Massive shout out to anyone showing people my music, too. I haven’t gotten any write ups from media or blogs in over a year now, so I’ve been completely relying on that engagement with humans who sincerely fuck with me, and it’s been pretty incredible. Thanks to everybody.

If you also sincerely fuck with Hxrman, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify & SoundCloud to keep up with future releases & shows.

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