Nerve breaks down his diverse new EP, ‘Tall Poppy Season’
A couple of weeks ago, Meanjin/Brisbane based rapper Nerve released his highly anticipated EP, Tall Poppy Season. The EP comes after years spent grinding in Australia’s underground rap/grime scenes, smashing headline shows and festivals nationwide and collaborating with international heavy-hitters. On his latest EP, Nerve switches the tone, a project that showcases equal parts his diversity and ‘finger in every pie’ ability while fundamentally keeping his heart on his sleeve.
With beats that range from the club to the bedroom or bus home, it’s that classic Nerve lyrical ability to remain real that is best showcased ‘Tall Poppy Season’. Whether singing on ‘BABY STOP RUNNING YOUR MOUTH’, the brash, unadulterated energy on ‘TALL POPPIES NEVER DIE’ or jazzy infused ‘WALK & TALK PT 4’ all the track’s respective sonic universes still feel like classic Nerve.
We were lucky enough to chat Nerve, and dig deeper into each individual record on its track listing.
Thoughts on hopping on drill? Is it a different skill do you feel on rapping on drill beats vs those bouncy beats you’ve been hopping on recently?
It came pretty naturally starting rapping on grime. Making the beats came naturally too. They’re skippy and fun, so regardless of what the genre is known for content wise, I just appreciate rapping on both beats. I’ll always stick to my vocal style no matter what. People tjat know what a drill beat is will understand what a drill beat connotes, but people new to the genre will worry too much about the sonics of it. I spoke to Hau after it came out, and he said he didn’t even realise it was drill. It’s its own song, so it all came together pretty naturally. As I was making it, it all naturally formed together, which is usually what happens.
That’s going to be a big thing going forward, people not rapping over traditional drill content.
I think it’s similar to how trap beats became pop. Now everyone is on trap beats now, like look at Ariane Grande. I said it a year ago, you’re going to hear these pop stars on Drill beats. People are gonna start singing on it. I’ve made a drill remix of Destiny’s Child that sounded sick. There’s sick drill remixes of Rihanna and stuff and they bang. At the end of the day it’s what gets people moving.
When did you write One in A Million in the timeline of you meeting JK? Was it love at first site or did it take a while for you and JK to build that trust to write together?
I did a competition in 2016 where I put beats up and people would send in submissions of verses and whoever was my favourite I’d do a song with them. He won that, It was the first I’ve ever seen of him. We didn’t really jump to making a track straight away. It was a good sign he didn’t just write to the first thing I sent him, because he wanted to do something natural aswell. When we met for the first time in person though, we heard each other rap and we cut demos straight away for his album.
One In A Million got cut at the end of Feb. Half of the EP I made in the last 2 months right before our deadline, and the other half was made in 2020. I went down to Cabarita and just told him we needed to make a banger, it took one day and we smashed it out.
When did you first get comfortable singing on songs and when did Baby Stop Running become a part of that?
I did a lot of demos in 2020 just singing in bedroom knowing they wouldn’t get out because I know I needed practice. I had slight melodies on one track on Mumma’s boy, but it wasn’t too ambitious. I’d play those demos to people and they’d like it, but I knew it had to be the right one so it wasn’t jarring. I do like surprising people, but i need to tread the fine line between surprising people and not completely switching up, so I can stay consistent.
We had a three day lockdown in January and that was the first song I didn’t write anything down at all. I sat down, put the mic next to me and just went line for line and took my time. I spent about 6 hours laying down the vocals and tried to let whatever was in my head come out naturally. It sounds like a sweet song but it’s quite brutally honest. It reflects a lot of what I’ve been listening to, like Daniel Caeser and Brent Faiyaz. At the end of the day I’ve been learning I need to be more honest with myself and other people.
Do you feel like as you get bigger in the rap game you notice fake people around more/clout chasers?
It’s definitely a rap cliche, but at the same time last year it’s been something I’ve noticed. People that know me know that I’m quite face value with stuff. I say what I’m thinking. I don’t try to say things to manipulate people. I don’t realise when people are being sneaky or are trying to get something out of me. I have a pure energy to other people and I automatically expect that back. In the last year it’s definitely been eye opening reflecting on interactions with people. People do treat me differently now, and a lot of the time it’s positive, but a lot of the time it’s negative. Sometimes people want to be around you not because of who you are, and when shit gets real they’re only there for the fake version of you. It’s a rap cliche but there is a lot of truth to it as well. It’s been pretty prevalent and a driving force between a lot of the concepts.
Talk through the strategic decision of throwing a Walk and Talk on an EP. Do you feel like this one was a level up?
Walk and Talk’s are sick, they pop off and I wanted to bring attention to this EP so why not throw one on there? I like the idea of dropping it on release day because people gravitate to it with a simple concept. And then they’ll see the whole project. It hits for the people there for the lighthearted stuff. It’s funny because I’m always trying to beat the last one in the series, and I think i’ve done that every time based on reactions. I’ve added an element to it with a feature, so I think that will be a big one for Brisbane, because NOKZ78 is killing it and naturally super talented. He’s coming out of a different scene so I think the crossover will be good for the city and community.
The EP ends on an aggressive note, Love No1. Talk through the creative process on this one, did you want a beat to go hard on and you made it. Or was it more you made and heard the beat and thought I’m about to talk my shit?
For me the beat always comes first because I need to be inspired by the energy of the track. So for this one I made this stupid hard beat. It acts as a sequel to the original NO1 track, which was made purely as a live tool. This is a sequel with a bit more depth and a bit less punk. When I recorded this I didn’t do it how i normally do it by myself. This time I went in with three of my close friends and I had them push me to go harder and harder on every take. Golly wrote this big manifesto for the end of it, which I read out on a megaphone, it was super dystopian. It was a really good way to finish off the EP and continue to build the narrative to the connection to the NO1 network.
Words by PARRY TRITSINIOTIS
Image via Macami.