“I have an authority problem”In our new section Newcomer Of The Month we present you with the most exciting young artists out there. This time we sit down with Finland’s freshest hip hop export, Noah Kin
Noah Kin has been very busy for a 21 year old. The Finnish-Nigerian hip hop artist already has three albums under his belt but has remained relatively unknown, until now that is. The Red Bulletin caught up with the outspoken rapper in a cramped backstage setting underneath a tube stop to talk about the perils of honesty, being different, and one day rubbing shoulders with his idols at the Grammy Awards.
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THE RED BULLETIN: How would you describe your sound?
NOAH KIN: Experimental, alternative hip hop with electro beats and then just really passionate lyrics about my life, and how I feel. I am a really passionate person, and I’m passionate about everything, I just want to put what’s happening in the world on record.
What makes you different from the many other rappers out there trying to break through?
Other than being from a country that you’d never expect to hear hip hop from, and making a more forward thinking form of hip hop, I think the sound is very different, the subject matter is so personal. It’s a real world that I live in, my real life is not that far away from what I say in the songs. If you listen to the songs then you’ll probably know more about me than my friends do!
Music is a really personal thing for me. I think that is what separates me from others. When I started making Hip hop when I was twelve, no one was making music amongst my friends, so I was the outcast. They were all smoking and drinking and getting into the wild life, and I was kind of like, this is something I have to do, and every year it is getting more vital for me to do that.
What made you want to get into music in the first place?
There’s always been something about music that made me feel big emotions. I used to look up at the artists that I really liked, and then it just hit me, “I could be doing this myself as well!” I had this mic from a hip hop Singstar game on the PS2, so I took that and connected it to my computer and then recorded the songs through that. The quality was horrible!
Did you always want to be a rapper and make hip hop?
This is something that I still to this day am not sure of. I’m pretty sure it could have been any genre that hit me at the time, but at that moment it just happened to be that hip hop track that I listened to that sparked everything off. It could have been a Nirvana track that I listened to at the time. It could have been anything! It just had to be a great song.
What song was it?
I don’t remember (laughs.) But I think it was a Kanye song. I don’t think it was a single song though, I think was just that moment triggering something in me and thinking “Whoa, this is really cool” and just diving deeper and deeper into that world. Kanye at the time was doing something that others were not. He was talking about his feelings and just being a vulnerable guy, which wasn’t the coolest thing in hip hop at the time.
He created this world of just being who you are, and being real in the realest essence of the word. Drake, Kendrick Lamar and all of these other guys couldn’t have done that without him. This enabled them to take on an even more experimental sound, which has allowed me to do what I want to do today. And hopefully I’ll inspire someone in the future.
So you wouldn’t be here right now without Kanye?
Definitely not. I might have been into hip-hop slightly, but not as much. There has always been something about his stuff that really clicked with me. He’s always had a vision as to where things are going. And he just doesn’t give a shit, which is something I really admire!
What’s there to admire about not giving a shit?
Well the social norm of having to be discreet about how you feel has always bothered me. You can have an opinion but don’t tell anybody, but why not? Even though people think that Kanye is being really egotistical, I think it is just really important that there is someone out there saying what he thinks, and if he thinks he’s the best right now then why can’t he say it?
What was life growing up in Finland like for you? How much of an influence has it had on your music?
It wasn’t like the typical hip hop backstory, but I always felt different. I was basically trying to fit into a system that really didn’t work for me. I spent most of my time in class writing tunes rather than learning. To this day I have never read for a test. I just stopped reading. I have an authority problem and I didn’t want people telling me what to do just because we had to.
What’s the plan B then if music doesn’t work and you don’t want to study?
Well there isn’t one really, but this is going to sound quite weird. I have always had a thing for flower shops! There’s something about the atmosphere that I like. But it would be the most mundane thing but I’d be really passionate about it! The last time I said that in an interview they took it into real depth about what flowers I love etc, and I was like “What, wait, I just like the atmosphere!”
Ever thought of moving to a different country to gain new inspiration? Where you would you go?
I have yeah, two cities that have really stuck with over the years are Vancouver and Berlin. They just seem like great places for a person like me. I was born in Oslo to Nigerian and Finnish parents and when I moved to Finland I was an immigrant. If I moved back to Norway I would be a foreigner, and I wouldn’t be at home in Nigeria at all. So I’ve never really had a place that I can truly call home. No one asks you where you’re from in these cities, you are just a person amongst everyone else. I try to convey this with my music as well, the feeling that it shouldn’t matter where you’re from. If it is good music then it is good music. The fact that we’re living in a time, where a hip-hop artist from Finland isn’t the strangest thing, is great.
You sing about rebels in one of your recent songs. Are you a rebel?
Sort of yeah, but then again at the same time it sort of feels, sort of stupid (laughs.) It doesn’t really do anything anymore. We’re living in a time where you can start a rebellion anytime and anywhere with the click of a button. Take Kanye playing at Glastonbury as the perfect example. It just blew my mind as to how much one person could be hated. It was ridiculous. It doesn’t really feel like a powerful thing to do anymore. Hip hop started as an act of rebellion, as a movement of the people from the streets. An outcry. And now it just feels like people are blurting stuff out.
So I suppose I am rebel in the sense that my outcries actually mean something, but at the same time I’m just a normal person saying what he thinks, and that puts me in this rebellious position. You have other hip hops guys that will just get high and write a track about getting high or making money which just means nothing – and they are the big stars.
Where has honesty gotten you into trouble?
In daily life sometimes. Hate is perhaps too strong a word, but I hate a lot of things (laughs.) A lot of music annoys me – all of this half-assed shit, where you can tell they didn’t even think about what they’re doing. There are too many copycats that go “This sound is doing well, so let’s do that.” Take the grime scene for example. It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear f**king Britney doing a grime track soon, but it’s not really grime. They never do it as well as the guys that started it. They miss the whole backstory, the culture and the power behind a certain scene.
It makes me mad every time I read about these things. You’ll see a big magazine article and think “why??” You can just tell that it is a PR stunt, and they have the power to get the media attention. And that is bad, it is really bad when you can tell it is a PR stunt.
What do you want to achieve with your music?
I have this dream of sort of breaking the barrier of it not being a factor as to where you are from or where you’re based. If it is cool music then it is cool music. So I hope I won’t be referred to as “Finnish hip hop artist” in the future, just “hip hop artist.”
Another thing I want to do it to win a grammy, and then break into that Grammy culture. So that they have to make room for European artists in the categories or just start including a more global scale of artists into their system. Music isn’t exclusive to one country.
Are there enough artists in Europe to really break these barriers down?
I think the time is right. 2015 is going to be a polarizing year, and it just getting stronger and stronger. The balance between indie and major is shifting constantly, and the way we find, look and react to new artists is changing as well. People want to discover new music and so do the media. Things have to just keep going in the same way they are now, and people need to keep making art.