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Young Nudy, on damn-near everything
An interview with the East Atlanta rapper about his latest project, Slimeball 3.
Photographer Nate Shuls

It’s fun as hell to be a Young Nudy fan mostly because, when he raps, it’s feels he’s talking shit with a best friend, or maybe even you. Since the release of his debut tape, 2016’s Slimeball, he’s been fine-tuning this conversational, just-tempered-enough and cheekily mischievous delivery through which he shares tales of his East Atlanta life and upbringing (“Judge Scott Convicted”), never compromising (“Nun Like This”), and homages to home (“EA”). He’s got a subdued sense of humor about him, a trait that really shines through on tracks featuring production from day zero collaborator Pi’erre Bourne, whose other-worldly, animated beats have served as the perfect foundation and springboard for the 25 year old’s no-frills-with-a-wink storytelling.

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It’s a total vision that came to life on Slimeball 2, Nudy’s 2017 sophomore tape. The project is the moment he describes as, “When I started finding myself with my voice and shit,” a memorable milestone on a musical journey that officially began back in 2015, when his cousin 21 Savage encouraged him to hop on his track “Air It Out.” Since then, Nudy’s jumped into music full-time; his most recent project, last fall’s Nudy Land, was his most widely received to date and his most emotional. “[Nudy Land] is my own little world, me, my feelings, whether a bitch done broke my heart, like with ‘No Clue.’ I just be expressing myself. Nudy Land is me expressing my feelings.”

Today, he shares Slimeball 3, the highly anticipated third installment in his Slimeball series. He describes it as “some street shit, but a little bit of fun in it, with a little dab of Nudy Land in there with it.” Where his previous projects have been pretty much exclusively produced by Pi’erre Bourne, Nudy is using SB3 as an opportunity to grow and work with other producers (only the project opener is a Pi’erre-Nudy collab). The branching out and experimenting paid off — there are outright bangers like the opening gas-your-ass medley of “One Dolla,” classically-Nudy “Know What’s Happenin’,” “Middle Fingers,” Maaly Raw’s Ocarina of Time-type-beat “InDaStreet,” and “Friday.”

Though perhaps not the same kind of start-to-finish seamless ride as previous projects, it absolutely bangs, and it’s the clearest and brightest Nudy’s ever sounded. When asked about his beat selection this time around, he said, “I like lively shit. Shit that make you feel good, like, ‘Damn, he talking about blowing his head off, but the way he saying it with the beat make it feel so good like if he was to blow his head off it wouldn't be nothing wrong with it.’”

Tell me a little about where you grew up in East Atlanta. What was your upbringing like?

I always had a roof over my head, but we ain't have everything we needed. Some people get jobs, some people take other paths. It's up to you. It's a survival thing.

My mama always been in my life. I always respected her like my mama, but we more like brothers and sisters. I've always been a grandmama's boy; I love my grandma. When I was little, I used to always try to go over to my grandmama's house, but once I got older, I was gone in the street. I like being around her because I be good. I don't be thinking about shit. I just be nice all day. My grandma got a good heart, so I be feeling like that's probably where I get my good heart from — both of my grandmamas, really.

How old were you when you were more on your own, doing your own thing? And what made you decide to go out on your own?

Full blown It's over with, I'm on my own, about 14. School wasn't working. I couldn't get along with that shit. You know how some teachers look at you like you young, so they feel like they can raise they voice and boss up? I used to be the one that wouldn't let them do that to me. Plus, I already had street shit going on so it really was like, "Fuck that shit." I got kicked out of school, so it wasn't like I just dropped out. I ain't have no choice. I could've found some other shit to do, but I just looked at it like, "I'm out of here."

Was there a certain person in your life, maybe an old-head or something, that was willing to take time to teach you what you wanted to know?

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Yeah, one of my uncles, he gon’ teach a nigga some shit — the wrong with the right. Then I got one of my old head folk who I be fucking with. I met his ass when I was probably 19, when I was still wild as a motherfucker, he let me just like hang with him. My buddy had them [old heads] talking about, "Shawty be fucking with the music." I told them I really wasn't into it even into it. [My old head] was like, "I fuck with that shit, boy you fye," so he started trying to put money into that shit, like paying for studio time, like "Just do some shit." But I would never go in there. I used to be bucking on that shit. It was was like 2013, 2012. It was just on some Everybody was trying to rap. Damn near all of us got a song, just play-playin’.

What actually made you give music a chance?

When [21] Savage came out doing his music, when we did “Air It Out.” I was like, "Fuck rap," but he wanted to do a song together, because my cousin know how to rap. My cousin from the street, so I'm looking at this shit like, "Man, Sav, you taking this shit serious?" I know we know street shit. I wasn’t believing in the rap shit. When [the success] did start coming, I still didn't give a fuck, because [people were] like, "That's for him, that’s his blessing."

We did "Air It Out,” and I did not wanna do the damn shit. Then he called out the blue, "We're shooting the video." I'm like, "Bro, I ain't trying to do no damn video.” He was like, "You lame as hell, bro." One of the old-heads was like, "Shit, you need to go gotdamn do that video, you need to do that there rap shit." It just so happen my mama call me too, "They talking about you finna do a video, they wanna do your hair and shit." It was my first time getting my hair re-twisted. My dreads used to be spikey. When I got my shit re-twisted, my shit fell down. I was mad as fuck, but I had fun at that video shoot. When it came out, a couple motherfuckers were talking shit in the comments, then some folk like, "Shawty hard. Who shawty is?"

When I shot the video for “30 Hang Out,” that's when I'm like, "Lemme just try to rap." But after I did all this, that shit got me locked up. When I shot that and “Don't Beef” I wasn't thinking. I'm a convicted felon, on probation, all these folks watching me, I got guns.They came and locked my ass up.

How long were you locked up for?

Shit, long enough to gotdamn change my mind. I get out, go home, but I didn't wanna do the music. I'm like, This shit got me locked up. Then I go ahead and try it, but I still got both the street shit and the music shit going on. Shit kept clashing, and it backfired on me again. Went back, got locked up again. These folk are crazy, they really trying to keep me this time. I’m 24, this wasn't my first time being locked up. My whole 2016 was one of my worst years. Then I got out, summertime, shit lit. We doing our thing, shooting videos, then by October 2016, shit went wrong again. [I was locked up until December] 2016, before my birthday.

What did your days look like when you decided to take music seriously?

When I got out the time before last, I was in the studio heavy for real. Me and Pi'erre [Bourne], every night, late night. He got down, don't even supposed to be having nobody in the studio. He sneaking me in that motherfucker. That's why I love Pi'erre. He work.

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“I ain’t into shit, so I don’t buy shit.”

You spend a lot of time picking your beats. What other sounds do you like outside of music? I know you watch Naruto, Dragon Ball Z — are there soundtracks or sound effects that you like, too?

There's a lot of shit where my beats come from. Little cartoon shit, because I'm big on cartoons. I might hear some Power Rangers sounds, I might hear some shit that I haven't heard since I was a little kid, it might just be certain little noises in there that I like. I be liking shit with different weird noises, because I know how to bring me out to those sounds. Motherfuckers be like, "Bro how the hell you be rapping ‘round them beats and shit," talking about Pi'erre beats. I be like, “I don't know. I just do that shit.”

When I be sitting listening to beats, I can't rap. When I tell [people] and they be like, "Freestyle." Like, "You don't freestyle? You can't freestyle right now?" No, I can't. But when I step inside the booth, it's like I turn into a transformer, and he’s fast. Any engineer that deal with me, they'll tell you: "Shawty ain't walking in that bih with no pad, no pencil."

Speaking of Pi’erre, how did you start working with him in the first place?

Through his cousin Cory Mo, through Country Rap Tunes, in I think 2014 or ’15. When I wasn't taking the rap shit seriously, but I might slide through the studio every now and then to rap — that's how I met Pi'erre. When I was starting to take shit seriously, this nigga wasn’t in the studio I was going to and I couldn't find his ass. It took me about six months to find that nigga — he was still in Atlanta the whole time! But I mean, he was going through some shit, had to get his shit together, but I found his ass. Both of us were in the dirt together — I’m talking about zero dollars with this music shit, I promise you! That my boy, I love that nigga ass to death. We talk shit but I don’t be seeing him like that, he be on the move just like I be on the move. We can't hold each others's hand forever. It remind me of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, both of us coming up. He out there living good, I'm living good, we're growing, trying to get better.

What do you think made you guys click like that?

He was an engineer at first, and that’s what really made me come in [to the studio] with Pi’erre — he knew how to engineer my voice, how to highlight my voice and sound. I ain't even know he made beats. When he was recording me a beat that came on that was one of his folks, and he was like, “Woo-woo, I make beats and shit.” He played some shit for me and we made the song “Crack,” it’s old. Since then I just been fuckin’ with Pi’erre. I didn’t like anyone else’s beats, and I’d just started getting hip to other folk beats. It’s really only now, with SlimeBall 3, that I’m trying something different. All my songs not [by] Pi’erre. I know they gon’ be like, “Where all the Pi’erres at?”

Let’s talk about SlimeBall 3. It’s not mostly Pi’erre like usual, and there are a lot of new names. What was different in your approach this time?

Some of the beats that I got on there are by some independent niggas. I wanted to do some shit different, all the way down with my beat swag. Pi'erre got one on there, he my boy. I'm trying to do some shit with just me and Pi'erre, just all his beats. I got a Metro beat on there, Wheezy. Maaly Raw. KidHazel, jetsonmade. A girl named Tasha Catour. They shit hard. You can't go all the way off the who-popping-type shit.

How'd you find those newer producers?

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Just going through my beat email. I got like four different beat emails. If I feel like you taking it serious, I give you my good email. You coming at me talking about making beats and all that shit, I'm going to go look at your Instagram and everything. I'm going to go see is you really taking it serious. Boy, I don't see you taking it serious, shit, nudybeats@gmail.com. I'll send you that one.

Your cover art is usually pretty intense and dark, and some of your music gets into tough subjects, but if people pay attention to song names, the music, your Instagram, it’s clear you’re often light-hearted and funny as hell.

[Laughs] That shit been in me, because I used to be quiet as fuck. I got my buddies who I talk to, but other than that I'm quiet. But when I started rapping, I started seeing with the industry shit, you got to talk to these folks. I used to be shy as hell doing shows, nervous, like, "I ain't even finna go out there, too many people.” I had to start loosening myself up with people. When I’m with my bros, you see the happy Nudy — he laughin’, he joanin’. It's just that point where, "Shit, I got to start sharing that with everybody instead of just my folk." Not with everybody — if you play with me you going to see the other side of me — but other than that, I'm going to always be happy, cool, laid-back, smokin’ some weed.

If you're feeling more sad, upset, or in a darker place, what kind of stuff brings you out of that? What makes you happy? What is uplifting?

I get to thinking about where I'm at. What I got going on. When I get to thinking about my bros and shit, some of my bros that are gone. Friends that had good belief in me. I get to thinking about their ass just to make me get the negative shit out my head, feel happy again. Or I just call my little girl. My little girl is all talk, make me laugh, because I can't be mad at her.

You're very subtle in the way you carry yourself, even in the way that you dress. Where does that attitude come from, because it kind of translates into your music — low-key turnt on your own terms, and full of life.

I be laid back. I be chill. I don't be into all the fancy designer shit. I'm into tennis shoes and sneakers. I just be plain. I can get a Walmart shirt and make it look fresh. Because it ain't about that, it's about the nigga who wearing the shit. I can walk into a room full of niggas with designer on and at the end of the day, I can walk in regular and everybody going to look at me, because they going to feel my presence. "That's Nudy." It's an energy thing. Motherfuckers ain't paying you no attention so it's like, "Well, let me put all this shit on so they can see me." Boy, hell no. That go back to what I say about the motherfucker talking about what they really about [in their music]. If you about what you really about you wouldn't need that jewelry because motherfuckers feel your presence when you walk in the door.

I'm not finna go keep spending money on jewelry and all that shit. I really like staring at money. I love looking at my bank account — I be looking at that motherfucker. Sometimes I just bring some cash to the house. I just be sitting there staring at that shit. Especially when it blue. I love blue cheese. I be having big blocks of that shit. I be like, "Damn." Like I said, I ain't into shit, so I don't buy shit. I got me a nice house, just for me and my little girl. I ain't got no big ass house. Cool shit.

What do you ultimately hope for out of this music shit? In the long term?

I really want to do more than music. Investments. And keeping it real, I always wanted to be in a movie. Some fire shit though, like a gangster movie, like New Jack City, Menace II Society big movie-type shit. SuperFly just came out, but I just watched it because of Big Bank Black. He from the Six, so you got to represent for a nigga from the neighborhood. You see a real street nigga on the big screen acting, and he did good as a motherfucker too.

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I want a ten year run with the music. After five, six, ten years, I wouldn't even be tripping, but I want to have something else after that shit. I don't want to have my whole life based off of music, because once folk stop buying into your shit, what else you going to do? Better be grateful for what you got, and keep it pushing. That's all I can say.

Anything new you want to get into or that you're trying to learn now?

I just told my manager I wanted to be a director, because I be directing my videos. I be telling folk how I want my videos, what I want in them, and how to do it. I come up with the ideas for my videos. I feel like I can direct a movie. Spike Lee, call me Spike Slime.

Listen to Slimeball 3.