I’ve never listened to an artist as religiously as I did/do Nacho Picasso. His flow, his lyrical content, and his production are incredible. When Nacho agreed to do an interview, I was ecstatic, but also incredibly nervous. Before this interview, it was almost impossible to figure out what exactly Nacho was about as there was so little information about him online. I had no idea what he was going to be like as a person. When we met up at his apartment outside of Seattle, my worries disappeared. Nacho was as friendly as can be and as funny in person as he is in his music. This is the longest, most in-depth interview I have ever done; it covers his personal history, explores the progression of his music, and analyses the significance of motifs in his lyrical content. Jarv Dee rolled through to help field a very important question.
Tell us about growing up. What was your family like?
I was born in San Francisco and moved to Seattle when I was two, so I’m a Washingtonian through and through. My parents met in San Francisco on some weird shit and had a California Seattle baby. My mom was born in Harlem and lived in the Bronx, and my dad was from either Cambridge or Brocton. We moved to Seattle because my mom had lived there when she was ten and had family up there. A lot of the education factor comes from my parents being East Coasters. Not necessarily school, but some sort of knowledge. My dad was a poet and shit, he was a smart dude. My mom is crazy as fuck, but as far as knowledge she was on her shit. She kept a book in my face, which was good or else I would be even more ignorant then I am, and I am already ignorant as fuck. Thanks to her I can’t go full retard. Racially, I’m a big mix; they call me yellow boy for a reason. My mom’s half black half white and my dad’s black. My grandma on my moms’ side is Irish, so I think that’s why I’m putting it up and knockin niggas out.
When did you discover rap music?
Really fucking early. My mom went into labor with me watching thriller, but in the labor room they played nothing but reggae. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, dance hall shit like that. For the next couple years I was raised on reggae. My mom made me have dreadlocks and shit when I was little, so I was a little Rasta baby. When we moved to Seattle my mom dated this hood nigga. He gave me a LL Cool J tape when I was in Kindergarten and I rocked it, knew it from front to back. From there I started finding my own rappers who I liked. As a youngin, Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick were my two favorite rappers based upon their style and subject matter. As I got older I got into a lot of Too Short and Eazy-E. In the first grade they’d hook us up to these little casette tapes where they would play math and you were supposed to do math problems. I had this single of Fresh Prince: Nightmare on My Street, and as soon as the teacher turned her back, I would take that fucking math tape out and I would bump that shit and make up my own math problems so when they walked past it looked like I was doing something. Rap called to me since I was little.
How did you decide on the stage name Nacho Picasso?
It came to me in a dream. One day I just woke up and was like “Nacho. Nacho Picasso”. Nachos are the ingredients of life, cheese and chips. You need that; that’s how you make nachos and that’s how you make the world go round. Picasso, I paint a perfect picture. Picasso isn’t my favorite artist, although I do like him. Both of my parents were painters and I’m fucking nasty at it. I don’t draw and paint as much anymore, but that’s my true gift from god. I’m an artist, not by choice. I don’t wanna draw, artists don’t get no pussy.
It is clear from your lyrics that you are far from a do-gooder. Is the picture you paint of yourself as an antihero accurate?
“I’ve been a bad guy since my dad died/ I’ve been a bitch’s dream since I was 16”
I’m not quite a villain, but I am a fucking bad guy. I’m going to go after the hero like, “fuck you, I definetely don’t like you, but that other villian over there? I don’t like him either”. So I’m like the Punisher or Wolverine; I’m just doing what I want. I’m not necessarily the worst guy, but I’m not your friendly neighborhood Spiderman either. In my rapping I’m gunna kick knowledge my way and go against the grain. If they like it, thank God, and if not, fuck them.
You claim to be bi-polar in several of your songs. Is this really the case?
“I’m bipolar nigga wake me when it’s over/ A rolling stone rolling boulders over strollers”
Everybody keeps telling me I’m bipolar because I’m pretty moody. I’m too scared to look into getting diagnosed or any of that shit. Bipolarism runs in my family, so maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Either way I’m fine, I’m not taking no goddamn medicine for it. Everyone has got something wrong with them, whether it’s on paper or not.
You compare yourself to a werewolf in many of your songs. What does the wolf symbolize for you?
“A full moon? Man this fool better give me room/ Have you ever seen a werewolf off weed and shrooms?”
I think about little red riding hood and the big bad wolf. The wolf is always up to no good; the wolf is always on the hunt. I can identify with that. Werewolves go ham during the full moon, and I like the idea of losing control. You can be a good dude during the day if that’s your choice, but once that full moon comes out bruh… fuck it, no regrets.
Your lyrics are chalked full of references to historical figures and events. Did you learn all that in school or was it something that you just picked up on your own?
“Why examine the hate?/ I’m Alexander the Great/ Bust a nut in my girl, now Alexandria’s late”
It’s both. I could have gone to college and majored in history. I’ve always been into history; I look at is as stories with these motherfuckers that were larger than life. I’m an ADHD kid and throughout all my years in school I would lose interest in every subject but history. By the time I got to high school, I wouldn’t even go to history class except the days when our teacher posted the top five grades in the class up on the chalkboard. I would come in on test days and always ended up in the top five because it interested me. I might not go to class, but I would read every chapter of our textbooks. The shit was like a comic book to me, and it goes on now. I’ve gotten more into history as I’ve gotten older. I always keep 48 Laws of Power and Machiavelli the Prince on me. I’m into conquerors; Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, Attila the Hun. I feel like knowledge is the key but you got to educate yourself, fuck what they’re talking bout.
In several songs you mention your “10 hour back tat”. Did you get that tattoo in one sitting?
“10 hour back tat I’m awfully sore/ Show your whore, rub it in like Aquaphor”
Naw, I had to break it up. My dude is so intricate and the back tat had so much going on that he wanted to do the line work, give it time to heal and come back for shading. Plus my dude charges $150 a fucking hour, so if I’m lying there for 12 hours I’ll be bankrupt. It was a process but totally worth it in the end. Of all my tattoos the back tat is my favorite one.
What tattoo are you getting next?
Right now I’m working on my Macho Man rest in peace tattoo. I got the line work all finished. I’ll go back and shade it tomorrow.
You make references to Macho Man in a number of you’re songs. Who exactly is Macho Man?
“RIP to Macho Man/ Told ya snap into a Slim Jim, Nacho man”
He’s a professional wrestler from the 80’s and the 90’s. Macho Man was my favorite wrestler and, lowkey, Macho man was coming out with rap albums since 92. My brother and I would always be laughing at his songs, most of which were Macho Man talking shit about Hulk Hogan and that sorta shit, and we thought it was real life. I fuck with Macho Man.
So you have a brother?
Jarv Dee is my God brother. His mom is my God mom, so we were basically raised as brothers. We’ve done everything together coming up. We decided to rap together, and before that we were bad kids together just doing what we do.
When did you and Jarv get serious about rapping?
About 8 years ago Jarv and I started a group. It was just the two of us, but a two-person group is still a group. We decided on the name BadAssYellowBoyz, and we both got BAYB tattooed on our knuckles. After that we picked up Steezie Nasa, our little bro. He was the baby of BadAssYellowBoyz. He ain’t a baby anymore, but he is by far the youngest in the group; I’m 28, Jarv is 27, and Steezie is 19. Steezie has been with us since he was 15. We would see this kid everywhere, but he didn’t go to school or anything. He was out here by himself, his mom had left, but he loved Seattle so much that he decided to stay here. This 15-year-old kid grinded out and made it on his own. It’s incredible, he is so young but has been rapping for like five years. I wasn’t in the studio when I was 18. Fuck, I was in and out of jail and sleeping at my friends’ houses on couches and shit. We gotta keep him focused so he can continue to find his style and sound and stay outta trouble. That motherfucker’s hungry, so in five years who’s to say? Anything could happen.
What made you decide to call your group BadAssYellowBoyz?
I had this chick at my school that came from down south. Every time she saw me selling some weed, fighting somebody, or doing something bad she would be like “you a bad ass yellow boy”. I liked the sound of that.
Tell us about Blue Skies Black Death. How did you end up collaborating with them?
They’re fucking amazing. They’re a duo; Kingston and Young God Ian. They’ve been doing their thing for a long time and are well known. I don’t even know how to classify their solo work. There aren’t words for it, so I don’t wanna discredit them by even attempting to categorize them. All I can say is that its beautiful, its like… dolphin sex. They’ve done hip-hop and have worked with a lot of big hip-hop artists, but you can’t classify them as hip-hop. They can do whatever the fuck they feel like doing. There are so many different layers to their sound. As far as our work together goes, they do what they do and I do what I do and it meshes. Shoutout to BSBD. Its fucking crazy how we all linked up. Kingston and I were already friends; we met through my sister and we kicked it for a year without even talking about music. I knew he was Blue Skies Black Death and he knew I rapped, but that wasn’t the basis of our friendship. Things started taking shape when I got back in touch with my cousin Raised by Wolves. We had been raised together since birth, but he dropped out of school sophomore year to become a professional skateboarder. The motherfucker was one of the first black skateboarders to come out of Seattle and he was doing it when it wasn’t cool. Anyway, he has always been into his music. Him and Blue Skies Black Death had worked together, but they had lost touch. I got back with my cousin after bumping into eachother on the street. When I told him about my homeboy Kingston, he was like “Kingston? That’s my dude!” After that, we all just linked up; its a small fucking world.
There was an obvious shift in your sound from Blunt Wraps to For the Glory. What do you think contributed to this change?
Blunt Wraps was an entirely different project then anything that came after it. Raised by Wolves and I did the whole thing in a closet with a budget that consisted of a lot of drugs and alcohol. We wanted it to be the most grimy and disrespectful shit to come out of Seattle. At that time in Seattle, there was a lot of conscious, positive, and friendly hip-hip going around. Not that it was necessarily a bad thing, but that was all I was hearing and I didn’t feel like it reflected what I was seeing. For Blunt Wraps, I wanted it be raw and uncut, like gutter rap, and that’s what I got. We finished it fast, but then it took us forever to put it out, which was mainly because that was my first project and I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. Cloud Nice made it possible for me to get Blunt Wraps out there, much love to the fam at Cloud Nice. We put it up on the Cloud Nice website, and despite the raunchiness and production quality, it got a lot of local attention.
What’s the average number of takes you do for any given track before you’re happy with it?
One. I’m one-take-Jake. I swear to God, ask anybody who every recorded with me. I don’t like punch-ins, so I do everything straight through. On a bad day, they call me two-take-Timmy.
What is your process for recording new tracks?
I work in the moment. A lot of the songs off of Lord of the Fly and Exalted I wrote and recorded on the spot during recording sessions. BSBD, shoutout to Kingston, will call me up to record. I’ll come in there and they’ll be like, “yo we got this new beat for you”. They’ll play the beat, the beat will inspire me so much that I’ll start writing right there. That’s why we have been putting shit out so fast. I just dropped Exalted and am already two songs into a new project.
Can you reveal any details on your new project?
I’m not going to stray away from my sound too far because I feel like it’s a sound that totally mine. I don’t wanna do what anyone else is doing, but I gotta throw in some extra punches just to show the critics that I can do what they want and I can do it well. Earlier in my career, I made music for myself, and I was surprised to see how many people think like me and can relate to my shit. So now I’m not just making music for myself; I’m making music for my fans. I made Blunt Wraps and For the Glory for myself and built a fan base. For my new project, I wanna give that fan base what they want. What this means is that people who aren’t familiar with my shit may not like it and I might not get many “new fans”, but my cult following will be happy. That’s what I want, because happy fans are the best fans. I had a show down in San Fransisco and hadn’t been down there in twelve years, yet I’m walking down the street and I hear niggas whisper, “is that Nacho?” and I’m like what the fuck? I feel lucky to have such good fans.
How do you feel when you are out in public and you hear people playing you’re music or talking about you?
It’s flattering, but sometimes I’m too high for that shit and it’ll make me nervous. I’m used to a lot of people knowing me, but not knowing me for my music. I forget sometimes. I’m in front of the club and everywhere I move this dudes head is following me. I’m not even looking at him but I can see him in the corner of my eye. I had been shaking hands with fans all day, but at that point I was intoxicated and forgot where I was at and this dude was looking at me extra hard and I’m thinking, “Who the fuck is this nigga in my peripherals?”. I turn on him and say “what the fucks up?” and he says, “Oh, I’m sorry I thought you were Nacho”. At that point I felt hella bad, told him, “fuck I am Nacho. I’m sorry bro”. Gave him a big ass hug, took some picture, Tweeted at him, all that shit. I’m still not used to stuff like that happening, at least in my own city.
What is you’re favorite part of being a rapper?
Freedom. Being a rapper, as bad as it sounds, is like a fucking hall pass; it excuses you from a lot of shit. I don’t have to kiss anybodys’ ass, I don’t have to answer to anybody, I don’t have to kiss babies, I don’t have to shake hands. That’s what it’s all about for me. If I wanna sleep all day and record all night, I’m a rapper.
Who are your favorite Seattle artists of all time, dead or alive?
Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobaine. You gotta pay homage even if that’s not your favorite type of music, they were game changers in their genre and what they did. Right now, I would say Jarv Dee. Not just because he is Moor Gang, but because of the energy he brings. No one really sounds like him, he is doing his own thing. There are so many people out here doing it; shout out to Royce the Choice, my lil bro Steezie, Shabazz Palaces, Mac Shine, AV Young Blaze, and everybody else in the town.
What do you believe make the Seattle rap scene unique?
There are so many different styles in Seattle. Every other city has a sound, one that is distinct and belongs to them. I don’t know if Seattle has a sound; it has many sounds. We have conscious rappers, hood rappers, hipster rappers, druggie rappers, and just about everything else. Seattle is really diverse and there is a lot of freedom for artists to try out a bunch of different shit.
What would your life look like without your music?
I can’t even imagine what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing music right now. Not to say I’ve been doing music my whole life, because I never really took it seriously until a year ago; I was just making music for myself and having fun. But at this point, I don’t even want to imagine my life without music; it scares the shit out of me. If I didn’t have my music right now, I would probably be in a straight jacket.
What has been the most memorable moment of your rap career?
SPIN magazine was big, but I’m gunna have to go with the first time I got reviewed in Pitchfork. There might be more popular magazines, but Pitchfork keeps it 100%; if they don’t like you, they’re gunna make it very clear. Pitchfork is the cream of the crop for me, and I couldn’t believe that they gave me a good review and did an album write up on For the Glory. Fuck butterflies, I had dragonflies in my chest the whole day after I found out.
Regular Swooshers but I am a fan of the new Swoosher blacks. They come in a black wrapper and they burn slow as fuck, so I fuck with those.
I’m a big fan of anything with “white” in front of it; white widow, white rhyno, shit like that. Anything with “kush” after it is always nice. I love Orange Krush. I have noticed that any time I go out of town, Sour Diesel never fails. If anybody has good weed, it’s always Sour Diesel. Sour Diesel is synonymous with dank weed. We have Sour Diesel in Seattle every day of the year, but when you go out of town you’re always so thankful to find Sour Diesel.
What exactly is Moorgang?
Jarv Dee: Moorgang stands for Militia Organization Order Return, and it is a collective of group’s artists. One group is Cloud Nice, which is like the Dungeon Family of Seattle. It includes Jerm D, Mikey Nice, Tay Sean, Sax G, 104Rog, Steezie, and us. Cloud Nice has a lot of subgroups, all of which are hella dope. Steezie has a group called Pushgang, which is basically our little cousins plus JermD. Basically, we take Cloud Nice, Pushgang, and BAYB, and you get Moorgang.
Nacho Picasso: We got this rapper Chiefin. Little D Carter is in the Steezie’s video “Hella Proper”. Rob Skeetz just turned 21. He’s a producer and a rapper, this kid can make ANY beats. From a trap beat to a fucking rave beat, this kid does it all. Raised by Wolves is my cousin, and that motherfucker is a genius producer. He’s the one who got me to take rap seriously and have some passion. We got Gift of Gab, a girl. She holds herself like she is one of the fellas. Those five are all coming out with new shit soon. Steezie is almost done with a new. Chiefs damn near done.
Jarv Dee: We got Gift of Gab,
Nacho Picasso: Shout out to her.
Jarv Dee: D Carter,
Nacho Picasso: Shout out to him
Jarv Dee: The little bro Steezie,
Nacho Picasso: Piruuum
Jarv Dee: Rob Skeets,
Nacho Picasso: J Bird, chieffin
Jarv Dee:… that’s basically it, that’s Moorgang. You’ll definitely be seeing a lot of them
Nacho Picasso: Soon! They all got projects that are like 90% done that are dropping this summer.
Jarv Dee: J Bird is Nacho’s protégé.
Nacho Picasso: His grandma is my grandma’s sister on my Irish side, so he gets fucked up.
Jarv Dee: He gets super fucked up.
Nacho Picasso: That’s my little cousin man. His subject matter is similar to mine, but his fucking flow is ridiculous. He gets a lot of Nacho comparisons but he is his own artist.
Jarv Dee: Rob Skeets is another filthy ass member of Moorgang.
Nacho Picasso: A little baby raised by wolves.
Jarv Dee: He got them beats man, and he can rap to. He produced a track on my last CD called Funky Ride and that shit was crazy.
What does the future hold for Nacho Picasso?
I’m just gunna keep working. I’m putting out another project by the end of the year, making three for 2012. I’m gunna keep feeding my fans, I don’t wanna keep them waiting. I can’t do anything except rap; I’ll go a week without being in the studio and I start going crazy. What else does the future hold? Hopefully some good money.
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Information on Nacho Picasso, Blue Sky Black Death, Raised by Wolves, Jarv Dee, and the whole Cloud Nice fam can be found below (click links to be redirected):