Here comes a young lady out of VA that’s looking to give the traditional Neo Soul sound a new face lift. She’s got a big ole’ pot and she is using various music genres as her ingredients to cook up a new sound that she calls “BackPack Soul”. She mixes the passion and delivery of an emcee with melodic, airy vocals of a soul singer that draws you in effortlessly. Her main influences are life and all things audibly stimulating which comes out in her emceeing and songwriting. Word has spread quickly about this young lady and she is building quite a following from her live performances. She’s looking to take over the airwaves and industry by bursting all the bubble gums’ bubbles. Without further ado, let’s get to know more about the artist known as Lil Nanci.
Welcome to N5F Lil Nanci, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. What was it like growing up as a young lady in B’More (Baltimore), Maryland?
LIL NANCI - I was only in Baltimore until age three, but visited often. Baltimore’s two most beautiful attributes are it’s history as a Mecca for black people and my family. Other than that Baltimore is an abandoned city to me. Unfortunately drugs, poverty, crime and disease have run rampant in that city. I love it for its nostalgia, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to grown up in California.
At what age did you realize you wanted to sing?
LIL NANCI - I was eight years old. I sang my first choir solo and have been hooked ever since.
How did your high school years treat you?
LIL NANCI - My high school years were good to me. I attended high school in Southern California just outside of San Diego which was a melting pot of every nationality and walk of life. Black, Indian (native and Middle Eastern), Mexican, Asian, White...you name it, I was exposed to it which I’m grateful for because I never really saw a color line or barrier. We were all supportive of one another. Popularity wise, I was in there :) I was like the queen of performing arts. Even back then people were be like, “when you make it don’t forget about me”. I don’t know… I was like the popular, performing arts nerd. I got along with everyone. If you didn’t like me it was your problem, not mine.
Where does the soul in which you sing with resonate from?
LIL NANCI - My heart, my core, my soul. It’s all divinely inspired... I take no credit...I’m just glad I was given enough wisdom and insight to be in tune with things. I’m the voice of my silenced icons, ancestors and family members.
You got your start in San Diego, CA with a hip hop group called “Mahogany Elements”. How was the experience and what happened to the group?
LIL NANCI - The experience with those young ladies was priceless. We were all backpacker female hip hop loving sistas. We brought out the best in each other. I used to go to church with one of the young ladies in the group and she approached me about them forming a group. I always wrote poetry, but never tried to rhyme. They challenged me and I rose to the challenge and found another talent I didn’t know I had as an emcee. We had a ball doing local shows, mobbing to bboy summits and wilding out during our random trips on the trolley. They were the perfect chicks to “come of age” with in a time when we were all looking for a stamp of approval.
How instrumental to your development as an artist was your move to Atlanta to attend Clark Atlanta University?
LIL NANCI - VERY!!! It was crucial. It was there that I fused my backpacker hip hop background with my early roots as a singer. It was very random, but destined. I studied Mass Media Arts and there was a friend of mine who I had every class with that came by the crib and let me hear some of his material. I WAS BLOWN AWAY!!! I couldn’t believe the groups perfect blend of underground hip hop consciousness, old soul samples and every day conversational wit. I was an instant fan of the original “Infinite Jewelz” and eventually they were working on a “down the line” song called “Stand at Attention” and they needed a female to drop a verse. The song was featured on the AUC compilation and the rest was history. I joined the group, including producer Elevation and DJ Don Cannon, and Elevation and I soon began to experiment more with sound, melody and vocals. If it wasn’t for this time there would be no Lil Nanci. Infinite Jewelz was a sick producer, ridiculous DJ with 3 ill emcees (including myself) and an around the way girl singer (myself). Infinite Jewelz helped me form more of my writing and performing abilities. People always likened us to the Fugees and Digable Planets.
Why did you change your name from “Mahogany” to “Lil Nanci”?
LIL NANCI - “Mahogany” was where I was as an artist back in 1997-2002. It was a feeling at the time. It was a reference to my old group Mahogany Elements. It was a reference to the old 70’s movie and it was a reference that encompassed all strong, passionate black females. As I left Atlanta and transitioned to Virginia, I needed the right name to sum up my evolution as an artist. Not only had I heard “Mahogany” too much, but I had also grown and evolved as an artist. I didn’t want to use my government name like so many one named singers do so I chose Lil Nanci. Lil Nanci is the English translation of my real name Nancita. It fit...it’s ironic...it’s almost like a rapper name so it’s very unexpected when a lil soulful spitfire hits the stage.
I understand that you have continued your studies at Norfolk State University. Why the change from Clark?
LIL NANCI - While I didn’t complete my university studies in Atlanta, I learned a hell of a lot in there and graduated from real life 101. I learned a lot of my swag, street smarts and common sense in Atlanta. I guess you can say I graduated and learned all I needed to know from Atlanta. It was time for a change when I moved to Virginia in 2002. My parents were already here and after being on my own for 5 years I longed for the comforts of home. I moved here and decided to study music at Norfolk State University. Life happens.
Is it safe to say that you are a Neo Soul artist?
LIL NANCI - Labels, genres and categories are corny to me, but I guess so. I do represent “NEW” soul...the hybrid of the past, present and future times. If you’re looking to place me in the correct puzzle slot then Neo Soul would be the closest fit, though I consider myself more eclectic and refreshing. It’s safe to say that I’m a Backpack Soul Artist...a funky mixture of soul, underground hip hop, jazz, pop, alternative, drum and bass and rhythm and blues influences.
Give me the 411 on your newly released debut CD entitled “Process of Illumination”. What do you have in store for the listeners?
LIL NANCI - What’s in store for my listeners???? A trip to the trauma ward for 3rd degree burns and whiplash...IT’S HOT! “Process of Illumination” is like “Honey I Shrunk The Kids.” Imagine yourself shrunken down and placed into the inner workings of my brain and heart. It’s a headnodding yet melodic blend of hip hop and soul music that soundtracks my life experiences. It’s a shrink’s couch, it’s a trip down my memory lane. It’s that joint you want to put on when you clean up the house or unwind with that special someone. It provokes thoughts and conversation. It’s that album you can play from beginning to end and can never truly decide on what track is your favorite.
Did you write all of the songs?
LIL NANCI - Yes, all me.
Who produced the CD and how was it working with them on your project?
LIL NANCI - I had several producers on the album including Rapstafunkian, Elevation, Plex, Bazz, Maliek and Milk Yo Banga. It was a pleasure working with all of them. I gave their tracks life and their tracks gave me inspiration to write. They’re a funky bunch of dudes with no egos, just a common love for good music. I think we’re all in awe of each others talents.
How often do you perform live?
LIL NANCI - At most...several times a week. At least...once a month.
If there was one song from your CD that you could submit to an interested A&R, which track would it be and why?
LIL NANCI - My track “The Jones’”. It’s gotten a great response and it’s one of my most relatable tracks. Everyone can relate to the cliche “Keep up with the Jones” or that little voice of inadequacy that tells you you’re not as good as the next person. The song takes you to a zone. The beat, lyrics and melody all give you an escape for a few minutes, but when you take the time to really listen to what I’m saying you can relate.
Are you looking to be signed by a major or would you consider being on an indie label?
LIL NANCI - I’m better suited for an Indie label. I’m too far of a deviation from the crap that’s on the airwaves so I don’t think a major label would share my vision. An Indie would give me more creative freedom and say so in my career. I’m more concerned with quality and touching lives as opposed to moving units or being flaunted as a product.
Very well put. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve encountered in your journey to date?
LIL NANCI - My creative hiatus drove me crazy. When I got pregnant with my son and had him in 2003, I stopped everything musically and creatively. I was coming to terms with motherhood and trying to make a family. Everything else took the backburner. It ate me alive though and I’m often surprised and grateful that I still have “IT”. To quiet your true self and your creative desires is like dying inside. I’m glad I made it out of that pause.
And what has been the most satisfying?
LIL NANCI - Storing up all the experiences from the hiatus I mentioned above birthed Lil Nanci and “Process of Illumination”. My greatest satisfaction comes from the fact that I’m still able to express myself creatively and that I seem to have gotten better over time. I’m also satisfied by the fact that even though my music is mostly autobiographical, many people from all walks of life and age groups can relate to my music.
I read that the TV show “America’s Next Top Model” is a guilty pleasure of yours. Please explain.
LIL NANCI - I really should boycott and not watch the show any more since I tried out 3 times before my 27th birthday, but never got selected. I’ve been told all my life I should model and have been blessed with a models physique and bone structure, but the opportunity never presented itself. I tried, oh well, their loss!!! Music is my true path and I would have been using ANTM as a road to the same destination. It’s also a guilty pleasure because I’m really too old and mature to be watching that shit.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
LIL NANCI – I will be world renowned, travelling, touching as many souls with my music as possible. Living comfortably and representing for all the classy, intelligent, and fierce around the way girls all over the globe.
How can the readers find out more about you, upcoming performances and where to go to cop your new CD release?
LIL NANCI - www.myspace.com/lilnanci01 , www.amiestreet.com , www.reverbnation.com , and my website is coming soon. My album is out now so check my myspace page on how to get your copy TODAY!!
I know you have some shout outs for your peeps…let’m rip!
LIL NANCI - 410...619...404...757...represent!!!! Rapstafunk and all the producers in Funk Planet. My divas...AJA and PI...errybody at Blankity Blank and Associates... my son Jahan...and my mommy and daddy. I’ve crossed paths with many awesome people...too many too name, but you know who you are and why I rock with you...let’s conquer the world!