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SXSW 2010: Cool Nutz - Spinner

Posted by Cool Nutz Lifestyle Blog |

Portland, Ore. based hip-hop artist Cool Nutz has been creating music for nearly 20 years, both independently and with a major label. This summer, he plans to release his next album. He's currently touring with Swollen Members until this year's SXSW, which will be his third time at the festival. Cool Nutz spoke with Spinner about his style, the Portland music scene, classical music and party boundaries.

How did you get your start?

Basically, I started out in the late '80s break-dancing, [and] then as break-dancing became less popular Bosko and I started a record company. He started producing and making tracks. I was around the music, so I would be writing rhythms. As time evolved I got more serious. I started recording songs. We put out our first full-length cassette album. People started buying it. We put out our first single that was really popular in Portland. We got a record deal with Atlantic Records and with Big Beat. That deal didn't work out, so we put out the first official Cool Nutz cd, 'Harsh Game For the People.' That exploded in the northwest and opened the doors for Jus Family Records and my solo career.

How would you describe your sound?

Xhibit meets Jay-Z with a little Talib Kweli and some E-40. It's definitely urban, it's definitely informative, but then like Xhibit it's hard and like Jay-Z it's mature. I'm not a young dude, so its not like I'm making dance records for the kids. If you check out 'Love Iz,' which is on the MySpace and SXSW page you'll see it's more mature, like urban black music.

Who are your musical influences?

My early musical influences were Rakim, EPMD, Ice Cube, Confidence, Most Wanted and then more recently Jay-Z, Nas, the Game, Talib Kweli, Aesop Rock.

What's your musical guilty pleasure?

Classic soul and classical music. It's a breath of fresh air from what you normally hear. I'm not all like Mozart '5th Concerto,' but I listen to a lot of classical when I'm working. Classic soul like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding.

How is the Portland music scene?

Well, Portland is more of an indie music scene in the sense that there's a lot of indie rock, a lot of clubs to book on your own. There is no mass industry where you can be like LA or New York or Miami. You don't have those same opportunities, so you have to push the line yourselves. It also gives us room to have a lot of variety where the music is influenced by underground hip-hop like Atmosphere and Brother Ali, but there's also a lot of popular music influenced by the bay like Mac Dre, E-40, Messy Marv and Hieroglyphics. In the south, people listen to Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy, and Outkast. Portland is a melting pot of a lot of places.

Is this scene what fueled you to be on your own?

Yeah, definitely. You had that explosion of the independent Bay scene like E-40. We were taking notes of that independence. They showed us that you can do it. You can put out records yourself. Being in a city like this doesn't have the same boundaries as LA or New York where you're stuck having to work within the hip-hop realm.

Are people receptive to that diversity?

Yeah, definitely. Oregon is a predominantly white state. Of course, we have an urban community, but again it's not like an LA or New York or New Orleans. You have to know how to operate and be able to function with these different fans that are listening. I've been blessed to be able to open for the Game, Ghostface, Wu-Tang, and Outkast. I can craft my show to fit on a bill with Kid Cudi or whoever. It gives you the ability to play in front of anybody.

When you walk in the door, sometimes people might say, "Here comes the hip hop guys." Then they're amazed. Not only was the music good, but he connected with the audience. He was real friendly and accessible. It wasn't like he walked in with his pants sagging, smelling like weed, cussin' up a storm.

What can people expect at your SXSW performance?

I feel like my show is always good music. I'm saying something, the songs are good, the DJs good. The energy we bring and the connection to the people is tight. I'm not just trying to rhythm. We're trying to entertain and connect.

What do you plan on doing at SXSW?

This will be my third time playing SXSW. For me, it's an opportunity to have everybody in one place and connect with them and be able to talk with people, get business cards, see panels. Being able to listen to hear some of the industry heavyweights and what they have to say about digital decisions that are made, tour booking, where's technology going with music. It's a one stop shop to get my feet planted and wet.

What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced while on tour?

Having almost the whole show come back to a hotel and seeing a hotel turning into a party, and every room is a different party and people are smoking and the fire alarm's going off. Just all out wildness and no regard for other guests of the hotel. Just when all the rules go out the window. I'm not like the rock star type in terms of having the mindset with music where I party 'til I drop and get s---faced drunk. That's not me. I kick it and I've seen a lot, been around a lot. But I know you have to get up the next day and be able to function. So I've always had party boundaries for myself.

What does Cool Nutz mean?

People think it means my nuts are cool. But it really doesn't mean that. I'm not like Snoop Dogg or Busta Rhymes. I'm kinda like in the middle. I'm not super laid back, but I'm not super wild. Cool, but could be crazy at the same time.

Margarita Morales is a contributor from Learn how you can contribute here.

SXSW 2010: Cool Nutz - Spinner


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