“By far the undisputed champion of music promotion is live performance. Putting yourself out there and learning how to entertain crowds of all sizes, that’s the real challenge. That’s what separates the real artists from the fake.”
Check out the interview with iLL Nicky exclusively on Skilly Magazine Online.
Skilly: Where did this all start? Tell us about your journey in the entertainment business.
iLL Nicky: I was born in Boston. My Dad moved us to the Bay Area when I was 8 due to a job opportunity from an Italian restaurant called Il Fornaio. I recorded my first rap song when I was 11 years old. It was a remix to Biggies “Big Poppa.” My older brothers, Mike (Ramp Jack) and Aaron (Big A) were aspiring rappers at the time. I watched them freestyle and record all the time. They took pride in it. They worked hard and diligent and I respected that at an early age. One day, when they weren’t home, I recorded all by myself. I didn’t know how to mix or anything but when I showed by brothers’ what I had done they were blown away.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for the young kids out there trying to do what you do?
To be honest with you when I first started out on my journey, I had absolutely no idea how bad a beating I would have to endure and how many hundreds and hundreds of hours I would have to dedicate myself for. How resilient I would have to be and how patient I would have to remain.
You are going to be told “no” time after time in this industry. There will be times where you truly feel like you are making no progress. My best advice to young dreamers is a quote from an old Greek Philosopher. He says, “character is destiny.” Every failure has its purpose to build the character that you need to have to succeed.
What are some of the hardest challenges and tasks in your position?
As an independent artist I do pretty much everything. Anything I don’t personally do, I orchestrate and employ the necessary people. My team helps me in a major way, but at the end of the day there is a certain way I like to do things. I believe the hardest challenge is balancing my time and prioritizing. I am still very much an introverted artist at times and sometimes my creativity hits me at 3 in the morning.
We all know the entertainment business is very tough, but what do you find is the best way to promote and advertise your music?
By far the undisputed champion of music promotion is live performance. Putting yourself out there and learning how to entertain crowds of all sizes, that’s the real challenge. That’s what separates the real artists from the fake. That is how you really develop a strong and loyal fan-base that feel connected to your brand. My strongest supporters and closest confidants are a result of my live shows.
Tell us about your city. How are the artists and the fans?
I’ll quote Ron Burgundy and just tell you that San Diego is the greatest city in the world. Sure the city as a music culture isn’t completely mainstream yet, but those that are involved here can truly explain the magic spark that we feel. There are tons of extremely talented artists here. Not only are they talented but they are ambitious, hardworking, friendly, charismatic, and collaborative.
The fans and supporters are amazing, they are what make us work so hard. They allow us to be competitive by talking and sharing music, but they allow us to be ourselves by being supportive and progressive. Given the right venue, you can very likely have sold out crowds every weekend.
Where do you see yourself a year from today?
I see myself on a nationwide tour with other major artists, representing my city, making moves with The iLL Movement, and inspiring my fans and supporters with my very best music possible. I look forward to giving back to the less fortunate and being able to take care of my family and friends.
Who and what were your biggest inspirations? Who do you look up to in today’s world?
Not to be unoriginal, but my family. My mother, father, and my brothers. My mother and father come from nothing and they taught my brothers and me how to be good men. How to be friendly but strong, funny but serious, and appreciative but hard working.
Both my brothers are extremely driven and successful in their own desired fields. Mike owns his own gym and cafe in Oakland and Aaron owns his own furniture company in which he build his products using reclaimed wood. My pops runs the Italian restaurant, Il Fornaio, and my mom runs the family. Just dope people man, you gotta meet them.
How do you feel about the music coming out today? Do you like it?
I love it. I always love it. I love progression, even if it tends to be completely different and weird. That’s the beautiful thing about the art of hip hop. It is forever progressing, changing, evolving. Other genres have ceilings but our genre continues to reinvent its sound and I love watching it take place.