“I Know Nigo” Interview: Bape Founder Talks About His New Album

When the Japanese fashion designer and cultural figure known as Nigo set out to make his first album in 20 years, he wanted to create a project that was as rich as it was expansive. “I wanted to express the totality of how I was influenced and what I experienced from hip-hop culture,” he says. Rolling stone.

Released last week on rap heavyweight Steven Victor’s label and with Pharrell and Nigo serving as executive producers, the album is a collaborative testament to the true admiration Nigo has earned in the hip-hop world. It’s also one of the funniest rap albums of the year.

With features from Lil Uzi Vert, A$AP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, Pusha T, and more, I know Nigo provides a window into Nigo’s unique and eclectic sense of style, which has endured in the world of rap for a generation. It makes sense that listening to the album would feel like playing the compilation CDs of yesteryear when a galaxy of different artists might briefly co-exist in your portable CD player. Even more fitting is the fact that Nigo released the album as a physical CD in addition to streaming platforms.

“My whole career is about making and collecting physical objects,” he says. “For me, a musical release should always have a physical version.” Nigo recalls the days before streaming, when CD culture became the defining medium of hip-hop: “In the early 2000s, when I was spending a lot of time in the United States and making friends in the world of American hip-hop, everything was on CD.

Nigo’s introduction to the world of rap coincides with the rise of artists who are redefining the sonic texture and aesthetics of the genre. We could very well call a certain period of hip-hop in the early 2000s “the Bape era”. From Clipse’s iconic record Hell has no fury to Pharrell and NERD’s hit series, a number of rappers of the era coalesced around the streetwear powerhouse that Nigo built. The brand’s signature zip-up hoodies were a uniform for the rap futurists of the time. The friends he made during this time appear on the album, proving how ahead of their time they were. “Punch Bowl” features a reunited Clipse that sounds as menacing and effortless as ever. We get a rare verse from No Malice, and Pusha T casually flexes her friendship with President Obama.

A&R Steven Victor, known for discovering Pop Smoke, recalls meeting Nigo after hiring the designer to create a logo for his label, Victor Victor Worldwide. “Honestly, it was an honor to work with him,” says Victor. The concept for the album began with Nigo’s fascination with what was happening with the New York drill scene. “Originally he was in this whole exercise scene, so he reached out and we were talking about having Axl do the music for the fashion show and Axl being part of the album,” explains he.

Axl, the London-based producer often credited with bridging British and New York drilling, is responsible for one of I know Nigo’The most exciting cuts, the “Heavy” assisted by Lil Uzi Vert, which offers a perfect distillation of Nigo’s creative talents. Sometimes it’s about introducing the right people to each other. “It was more conversations like that,” Victor continues. “Like, ‘Oh, Nigo loves this person. Nigo is interested in this person’s music. And then we would find a way to collaborate with them.

The album opens with “Lost and Found Freestyle 2019,” a whirlwind adventure featuring A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator, two rappers who seem to be the hip-hop heirs of the era, rapping about the kind of elastic drums that fans of the Clipse and NERD will surely find familiar. A sample of Lil Jon even floats in the background, almost like a whisper from the past.

“There are old friends, people with whom I have had a relationship of mutual respect and inspiration for many years, as well as new friends, who have influenced me a lot, brought together in a rather natural way. and unplanned on this album,” Nigo explains. “The mutual respect between all the collaborators is something I will never forget. I consider them all great friends.

In many ways, I know Nigo challenges the logic of rap music in 2022. Where streaming has all but erased the attention span of the casual listener, Victor and Nigo are counting on a new generation of the same genre of rap obsessives who have defined a particular niche in the 2020s. “I think the people who have similarities to Nigo, the people who really dive deep into the story and the things that interest them or influence them, is the audience,” says Victor. “At least that’s the audience we’re trying to cater to.”

Victor sees the album as a useful format. Where singles dominate the way we listen to music, the possible world-building on a full-length album offers something distinct. “The way kids are today and the way they consume music, it would be better to have a body of work and bring those kids into this whole world,” he explains.

For Nigo, the project feels like the stars are aligning. The album was originally supposed to be released before the pandemic. “The delays gave me more time to think,” he says. “I was finally able to travel to New York, and I shot videos there and in Paris. Finally, my first show for KENZO in Paris in January gave us something to focus on in terms of timing. In the end, everything seems to have been planned that way, one way or another.

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