Feature: J. Nolan and The Upbringing


J. Nolan is the CO behind what he has established as The Manifest Movement, the purpose of which is "to crate a platform for artists to reach the masses while encouraging fellowship within the community." Whether or not he'll be able to reach this goal remains to be seen, but so far he's done more than enough to be on the right path, and it seems he might be able to materialize his goals after all.

As an artist, I'm aiming to create a longstanding career and just bring another side to what a lot of people would call 'street music.' Most times you'd think of senseless violence and ignorance for a tagline like that, but people overlook the ethics, spiritual inclination, and awareness that can come from it.
Nolan's work is riddled with interesting and impressive elements; his lyrical delivery has a certain amount of efficacy that stands ground among the most bare-bone and honest songwriters - furthermore, his work with Yung B has spawned one of the most solid duos in the scene. The beat selection is left-field and reminiscent of some of the west-coast street-strange experimentation that is going on (Maddgibbs, Ghostpurp, etc), as well as being in par with some NY aesthetics. A very powerful release, it'll be interesting to see where things go for Nolan and his movement.
Cover for "The Upbringing"
We did an interview with the artist, who currently makes his home in Atlanta, GA, about his work, working with Yung B, and what is next after the release of The Upbringing.

WFLM: First things first, tell us a little about yourself, what your mission is and anything else you'd like to mention.

JN: Well, my name is Jamar Anthony Nolan. Many people know me by the stage name, J.Nolan or simply Nolan. I'm originally from New Haven, Connecticut and have spent a majority of my life in various areas of Atlanta, GA. Part of my childhood was split between Atlanta and San Jose, California so I got to experience a few regional differences in my younger years and each place has played a role in who I am today.

My mission is pretty simple. I have a personal motto that I recently adopted: "Excellence is the only goal." What that means to me is that I'm striving to do my best in whatever I take part in. As an artist, I'm aiming to create a longstanding career and just bring another side to what a lot of people would call 'street music.' Most times you'd think of senseless violence and ignorance for a tagline like that, but people overlook the ethics, spiritual inclination, and awareness that can come from it. I feel like that's where people like myself and Yung B Da Producer can kind of connect the dots. Whatever influence I'm able to gain, I'd like to help bring others closer to that side of life and let them know that they can embrace their higher selves regardless of their past. The toughest thing is to do that without coming across as corny so I make sure to make the best grade of music so I can still appeal to folks' worldly senses. They'll relate to me on one side, if not the other.
A lot of people feel pressure to 'dumb themselves down' and I'm more about pushing that part of the culture forward. Whether it's conveying spiritual ideals or just explaining life in a slightly more articulate fashion, I think that's something I'm able to do pretty easily.
WFLM: How would you summarize the process of recording and releasing this album?

JN: The process of recording the album was a bit out of the ordinary for us. We actually had to record everything separately and collaborate through emails. That's pretty standard these days for random features or when dealing with producers, but to complete a whole album with the kind of chemistry we have was definitely an interesting process. Releasing it was another obstacle. We originally expected to have it out between mid October - early November, but personal life kind of had its way of slowing things down. But I was really adamant about getting The Upbringing out before 2013 hit so we just went for it. It was a blessing that we ended up finding a reliable distribution source for all the outlets we ended up covering (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rdio, etc). This was both of our first times having an official product for sale even though we're giving people the choice to purchase or not.

Watch an old interview of Nolan

WFLM: You mentioned that you like to make sure that the music is top notch so you can deliver your message better, could you elaborate on how you make that happen?

JN: That's really just in terms of making sure the overall theme is apparent to the listeners. You want people to be able to navigate through your project pretty smoothly. Even if they don't completely understand what you're talking about, you want them to feel a certain way when they hear it. We're very big on the spiritual element of things, but we weren't always this way. Our experiences that led us to this point are what we touched on with The Upbringing. That picture is painted with the production, the rhymes, and even the artwork. Everything about this album is pretty aggressive.

WFLM: On that topic, the music selection is actually pretty left field for the subject spoken, how did you and your producer come to select the beats for the songs?

JN: When I work with Yung B, I let him pretty much take the driver's seat. He came up with the beats and in a lot of ways, he orchestrated the direction of the songs. Before we started on anything, we both had been talking about wanting to make something that felt like the early 2000s era of Roc-a-fella/Dipset/State Property in terms of production and bringing our personalities to that sound.


WFLM: Is collaborating something you want to make a priority?

JN: I wouldn't say it's really a priority. My whole thing is carving out a lane for the full dynamic of our sound and message. Once you develop your own space, it's interesting to bring other artists into your world. And I understand when other people want to bring me into their world as well; it just makes everyone's movement
that much more exciting.

WFLM: You said that you wanted the project to be easy to navigate through even if the listener doesn't completely understand your message from first listen, do you find that doing this makes the album more enjoyable, making it easy for the listener to come back and decipher deeper meanings within songs?

JN: Yeah, for sure. I feel like music should be enjoyable at surface level first. The object is to make a good song that people want to listen to. It's just about having the songwriting ability to make something that's thought provoking at the same time.

WFLM: So while you liked to work with Yung B, would you say there is a high chance you would try other producers? Lately, it seems like everyone is collaborating with everyone.

JN: Of course. I've worked with a variety of producers on my previous work and even my upcoming projects have other producers on them. The situation with Yung B is that we're family and we started out making music together before anyone even took notice to who we were, so it's more than just making tracks with us. It's about crafting a whole sound and bringing forth our personal image as a team.

WFLM: Do you feel accomplished with the language you used to convey your ideas in the songs?

JN: Well, if you mean am I satisfied with the language used, then yes. I personally don't use any profanity in my lyrics and I've gotten to the point where I can speak about anything I want without being vulgar. That's an accomplishment in and of itself in Hip-Hop. Beyond that, our genre of music seems to have a very limited vocabulary at times. A lot of people feel pressure to 'dumb themselves down' and I'm more about pushing that part of the culture forward. Whether it's conveying spiritual ideals or just explaining life in a slightly more articulate fashion, I think that's something I'm able to do pretty easily.

WFLM: And finally, where do you stand now that the record is released? Do you plan on trying to instigate touring, or supporting it in similar ways? What's next?

JN: We're definitely entertaining the possibility of touring. It's a bit tough to call since we're virtually doing all of this alone so the resources are scarce, but I'm a firm believer in timing. So even if touring doesn't come directly from this project, our time will come. We will have some music videos for The Upbringing released in the near future, though. Outside of that, I'm preparing my next solo project "Distinction" and putting the pieces together to launch my #DistinguishYourself campaign. Yung B is also getting ready to make his solo debut.
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Nolan has decided to release the album in a "pay what you want" fashion, so don't forget to pick a copy of The Upbringing at his bandcamp page.

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