Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a musician with his hands on everything. The Chicago artist creates music of every variety, in every way possible, as often as possible. The multi-instrumentalist has spent years in bands, as a solo artist and label co-owner of Sooper Records, and now takes on hip-hop with his new project Drool , sonic, unpredictable and constantly vibing. It's one of the best releases out right now.
For the unidentified flying artist out of the South Suburbs, music has been a constant. Surrounded by instruments, his immersion growing up isn't described by what he listened to, but what he and his family played. For Nnamdi, the bands began in middle school and never stopped, now currently the drummer for Monobody. His first love is drums, ("drums are better as a child, it's like, 'I get to hit these things'?"), and Nnamdi is an insane technical drummer. But with plenty to say and fixated on creating and composing, Nnamdi soon became a frontman, and eventually a solo artist. The move wasn't difficult.
"I began writing my own songs...We had one house show at my friends house and I was terrified to perform because I had never sang in front of people, it was the scariest shit I ever did. But after that I was like "oh, I didn't die, that's not that bad"...I was a pretty obnoxious kid, loud, class clown, goofy a lot, kind of weird, so it wasn't really a stretch. I wasn't super shy, just a little nervous to try this new thing of putting yourself out there...more personal, actually my thoughts and not just shooting the shit. So it wasn't hard to make that transition, I needed to get my musical ideas across and there was only so much drums could do."
Fans have embraced the wild energy that Nnamdi lays down on track. Go to his bandcamp and find an absurd library of music, titles influenced by booty, Campbell's soup, fast food and more, an eclectic mix of releases ranging in genre but all experimental. Influences from rock to noise to hip-hop, but Drool is his first straight rap album. It's not just a foray into genre but an exercise in his development as an artist.
"It came from growing up and getting more focused on trying to put out projects that are a complete thought. A lot of things I put out in the past were a hodgepodge of songs that came out the same time. The only thing that connected them together was timeframe, which means they had the same themes musically, but it wasn't focused on linking sounds together and making a cohesive project. I feel like this album is my first focused, intentionally cohesive project. That just comes with getting older, having different experiences, and being more particular about aspects of your life."
The concept of Drool is consistent with Nnamdi's approach. Drool is Nnamdi pinball, ricocheting through Ogbonnaya's brain and bouncing off hopes and fears that we all share. An analysis of ambition versus ennui, acting versus reacting, everything from confidence and love, to religion and police violence is touched on. Apathy is the opponent, and while the name's funny, it clicks.
"When people drool, it's something you can't control, people don't drool on purpose. Drooling when you're talking, or people who are comatose and have no control of their limbs, allowing this drool to come out because they don't know how to stop it. The way I see Drool...is a point of complacency, and not really pushing yourself. Not pushing for your goals as hard as I wanted to and should have been doing...Drool is people letting life happen to them instead of trying to take control, whether it be because they don't know how or they're stuck in their ways."
The music within Drool is anything but complacent, hitting overdrive and taking the road less traveled wherever possible. The project is patient, but has momentum that never quits. Blasts of skittering beats and synths are the template for Nnamdi's staccato flow, a ride of vocal highs and lows fighting gravity. His frenetic composition dances across the album, and immediately calls to mind his origins as a drummer.
"It definitely lets me come up with more rhythmically interesting vocal patterns when I'm rapping...Sometimes I overthink some rhythms instead of just being like, "this is what's gonna happen because it feels good to do". I don't want to over-complicate things, especially a lot of the times vocally, but sometimes I do, sometimes it's good to fuck up people's brains with some weird shit...I like rounds a lot, I'm bringing back rounds in raps (laughs)."
Consider our brains fucked up, Nnamdi, and it won't be the last time. But what's next? As co-owner of Sooper Records, they've a number of upcoming releases from local artists on the way. As a musician, Nnamdi plans on staying predictable, which for him, means staying 100% unpredictable.
"Drool is my most focused project and it's definitely a rap album, but I'm not a rapper. I definitely will make more rap shit, but I don't think I will make another 100% rap album with programmed instruments. The next rap thing I do will probably have all real instruments. I’m not that type of person to do one thing, even if it’s that thing people like the most. I want to do whatever pushes me to make more interesting things…I’m just a musician, I’m trying to fuck up every type of music I can without being pigeonholed...I'll definitely keep it interesting for people. I don't expect people to like everything I put out, but I'm gonna keep doing what I do and I'm thankful for anyone that listens."