Nate Curry: Hip-hop in his bones
‘When I perform, I want everyone to be smiling; I want everyone to be happy. Book me—you’ll see.’
Don’t sleep on Nate Curry. Even though he nonchalantly laughed his way through this interview in Christmas pajamas in the middle of April, his bars are self-made Bibles and mantras. Curry has been rapping and performing since the age of 3, while growing up in Davis, and later in the sprawling underground music lairs of Sac. Maybe inevitable, since his father and sometimes producer, who now performs as SBVCE, is the former N8 the Gr8, a member of the locally adored and notable hip-hop collective The CUF. Curry’s ethereal music can be bumped at 1 a.m. driving down I-80—say with his latest single, “Speakers Blown”—or can provide trap therapy during yoga sessions on a Sunday morning, as with his track “Balance.” Nate sat with SN&R to chat about mastering the business end of the music industry, writing lyrics that serve as his own medicine, his solid support system and the joy of live performance.
In terms of music and marketing, everything is online now. Back in the ’90’s and early 2000s, you had to do shows to be seen. Is live presence still as important as your internet presence?
So far I’m trying to work on that aspect. There’s so many people out here doing other stuff than just making music that can help your music; throwing shows, taking pictures. The internet works but communicating with people, showing them who you actually are, you know, that really sticks. That’s what makes people wanna support you every time. If you know people, and talk to people, it goes a real long way.
I really love your music. You’re making a sound that appeals to the current generation, but with a keen sense of self awareness. For instance, on “Cold Shoulder,” although it’s a somewhat fun song, there are many layers with regards to people trying to escape reality or numb themselves. Can you speak on that?
I just try to relate to my peers with stuff that I’m going through. In person, I don’t know how to explain the things I explain in songs. When I’m having a real conversation, I don’t know how to get that deep. But for some reason when I’m writing a song I can do it different. I’m just a weird guy. (Laughs.) That song, it’s kinda like a song of excuses. A lot of my stuff is either me telling on myself, or me trying to get good habits into myself. I don’t always take my advice, but sometimes I do. It’s really just reminders.
I have to say my favorite song is “Balance.” I like how you use sativa and indica as metaphors for the ups and downs of life. So how do you as an artist balance out work, life, bills, your relationships and finding time for creativity?
(Laughs.) I’m not really good at that. That’s one of those songs too that is kind of a memo to me. I notice now that it’s actually helping. I do have my moments of keeping my balance. And I’ve got my unhealthy routine. “Balance” is just me feeling everything out and what it’s gonna take.
So what’s your creative process after a long day of being human? How do you switch back into creative mode and create a song?
The way that goes is I’ll go over [to my dad’s] and just be kickin’ it, and pull up a beat, or start making a beat, and if it clicks it clicks. I’ll just start writing. I usually don’t write on my off time, I’ll just write when I’m in the studio. Lately, I’ve been doing it at the house ’cause I’m getting better at production. I’m able to record here, but over here it’s more R&B, more soul. I’ve been producing for like 10 years. I’ve produced for a good amount of people. Chuuwee uses a lot of my beats.
It’s like a nervousness that triggers a dorkiness and creates my best performance. Because I’m a dork, honestly. When I perform, I want everyone to be smiling; I want everyone to be happy. I make sure I hit all my notes, get all my words right. Book me—you’ll see.
You’ve been a part of Sac’s underground music scene for a while. Do you enjoy that or would you love to be mainstream someday?
I don’t know if I would be ready to be huge. I have so much anxiety. I definitely want to progress. I want to eat off of what I do. I know I want to be big, but I want to make sure I’m mentally ready before I hit that. That’s why I’m writing these songs, giving my self hints and preparing myself.
What is hip-hop right now? What would define hip hop to you?
I’ve been a hip-hop head since I was a kid. Shit I listened to: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Pharcyde, Rakim, just a lot of old school shit. I was a hip-hop purist. I hated everything else that wasn’t real hip-hop. But I don’t think that way anymore. Even if it’s a country song with trap beats, that’s still hip-hop. Ever since I learned how to sing, it changed the way I felt about music. Hip-hop is my religion. It’s just the way I’ve always been. Experimenting with this, trying this style or going this route. That’s what hip-hop is—making something out of what you have. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t have guns or a lot of money. A lot of my fans are young, but I’ve also noticed it’s doing what I want it to do.
You don’t really brag in your music, which is a tendency in hip-hop, but in “Speakers Blown” you talk about how your value increases. Explain.
I really made it for me and all my art friends. I know so many people that are artists and do so much dope shit, who are struggling. You know, things are expensive. It costs a lot to paint. It costs a lot to do music. Most people that are in that scene are all artists that can’t pay for their friends’ stuff. So it’s like saying, “I know I’m gonna be great, and you can turn it down if you want, and that’s OK, that’s your fault, but the price is gonna go up. You could have gotten a $300 feature back then.”