Less than a year ago back in June 2017, a little-known 6-part group from Hackney in London, released their melodic ‘Yo Darlin’ featuring Geko. It was a hit, captivating the scene and homogenising a genre-blending era into a worldwide vibe. However, what was seemingly like instant overnight success to some, was in fact, a much more complex by-product of over 4 years of musical exertion, cultural fusion, and eventually, a blooming sound. Now, in 2018, the chart-infiltrating NSG are back, pushing up their game and timing their break out.
As they huddle up in their home-borough of Hackney, I remind NSG of the time we caught up a few months ago at Lotto Boyzz’s London show. The first time the 6 popped up on my radar however, was back in 2016 with their track ‘We Dey’, an upbeat effort with pertinent subject matter, but arguably, an elementary delivery which has since been finely sharpened . With smiles on their faces, they take a minute to reflect on what has been a crazy 2 years, as Papii Abz begins, “I like that…we’re trying to display our growth right now, and I feel like we’re doing that, from back in 0-16 to now, it’s been proper growth”. “Yeah, and we were expecting it to be honest bro”, Kruddz the beaming spokesperson of the group adds, “If you don’t expect growth you’re not gonna’ grow. If you don’t have that mindset how are you gonna’ progress?”
The gravity of NSG’s work catalogue only becomes evident when I ask them if they expected it all to happen as fast as it seemingly did. “I don’t even think it was that fast, 5 years or so it’s been since we started” Mojo, the groups so-called ‘adopted one’ states. “To us, we don’t see it as happening so fast, because we’ve been doing it for such a long time. The audience might see it as quick but…”, “…the grind has been there from early” Abz finishes. “We all met in secondary school, but grabbed one along the way (all pointing and laughing towards a contesting Mojo). He had something going on but we brought him in”.
The six, half originating from Nigeria and half from Ghana, (hence the folk-tale NSG stands for Nigeran Slash Ghanaian), were ‘literally just mates in secondary school’ as Kruddz explains. Whilst each of them had a love for music, it was the general life experiences and time they spent together that formed the now fundamental gelling of culture and opinions that built the grounds of their global approach to sound. Whilst music was always there, NSG explain it was a movement before it became the prominent factor. “There was so much different music, a blend, that we were listening to back then and were influenced by” Kruddz describes, rolling his hands in the middle of the grouped up members.
There’s so much influence, but I feel like the two main, the two most important influences are the African one and the Caribbean one – Kruddz
So what musical influences first impacted them? Papii Abz tells me, “A lot of African music, Caribbean, Hip Hop, but we grew up in the UK as well. Skepta, Giggs, Wizkid, Davido…and R2Bees as well. Especially in Hackney, there’s a heavy Caribbean influence…and then you’ve got American music, Hip Hop, everyone was on that.” Mxjib jumps in with “Vybz Kartel”, contributing to our discussion of artist influences, before looking back down and scrolling through his IG, or trading stocks and shares, I couldn’t really tell which – “There’s so much influence, but I feel like the two main, the two most important influences are the African one and the Caribbean one. That’s what’s strongest.”
And it’s telling, whilst the NSG sound has remained consistent, their delivery, sharpness, and overall presence has not only shifted up a gear, but has flourished into a leading, barrier transcending genre. You can’t put a label on it. It’s world music. ‘Thank youuu’, the group applauds my meagre attempt to define it, as Kruddz expands it, “You’ve got it spot on. People call us afro-beats, afro-swing, other stuff. But I feel like we’re doing world music. We’re not trying put ourselves in a box, – we’re doing music, I want everyone in the world to listen to the music, so don’t put me in a box. You know sometimes genres die out, they have a phase, know what I mean, I’m not that kind of artist, we’re worlds artists.”
It’s at this point, when addressing the genre-blending-topic, that I angle for some more insight on NSG’s opinion, as an embodiment of the sound that is currently dominating the UK charts and scene right now, what about the future. Is it probable that such a sound could have a lasting-impact in the next 4-5 years? “The only reason I can really see that sound having a lasting impact…” Kruddz answers “…it’s not necessarily about the beats and production staying the same, but it’s the aspect of culture. People are invested in the culture. Culture never dies out. It can never ever die. Afrobeats won’t die. Culture will never die. You might hear J Hus on a different sounding beat, but you still know this is J Hus. He’s influenced by his culture.”
Speaking of the Hus, a notable connection with NSG is through his long-time collaborator and producer, Jae5. Having started producing over 10 years ago, 2013 was when he first linked up with the sextet. Labelling him a legendary family magician, Kruddz and Abz describe their first collaboration as an afro-bashment joint, they worked on it 5 years ago and it was their first song that was engineered by Jae5, “We’re around the same circles, we hear stuff, and we’ve been saying it for time, J Hus is different, a superstar man. He’s proving to the world he’s different. We’ve seen the come up, when Jae5 first started working with Hus in 2014. Jae5 is different, and that combination is just…*head shakes*.” OGD, the groups’ producer, nods in approval, slouched in the corner, riding the wave.
‘Yo Darlin’ was conceived in early 2017, after the group went on tour with Geko. “It was so sick…” Abz begins to recount, sunglasses on, smile glowing. “…it was our first…our first tour basically, and it was just the experience that you’ve got fans in places you’ve never been before, through music. Cardiff, the first day, sick. Big up Geko. Before this we was just doing uni bookings and that.” Dope, as perhaps the quietest member perched in the middle, concurs, “The track was just an idea we had already…” OGD continues smirking, “…and we just sent it over to Geko, after the tour. Just thought f*ck it, might as well put Geko on there.”
They collectively continue to explain the process. “The melody just came to us from messing about in the booth, it was a vibe. Everything we do is about catching vibes. If it’s catchy it just stays. Every song we record, we’re confident will be good, but that one, it was different, Abz saw the vision.” Papii Abz recalls, “when I first heard it, you know, I saw the email and heard it, I was like yooo, this is the one. Then I put it in the group chat like yo, this is the tune.”
After the track had been released, a month later saw NSG perform at Wireless Festival, followed by receiving bigger airtime as they hit the UK Top 30 Indie Charts. To date, the track itself has amassed 13 Million YouTube Views and almost 10 million Spotify streams. With the seemingly overnight success off the back of this one track, it hasn’t frustrated their intrinsic artistry given the years of graft that came before the current success, from shut down shows, to collaborations with Liam Payne – intact it can’t be disputed. Just as ‘Yo Darlin’ was the breakthrough track for most listeners with their finger on the pulse, ‘Pushing Up’ their latest single featuring Not3s, is attracting even more first-time NSG listeners. As Mxjib so eloquently explained earlier, it’s progress, it’s growth, and you can’t complain if you’re growing.
Kruddz delves deep in on the sound, as the topic of their 2017 debut EP, ‘Grown Up’ is brought up in our discussion. “I feel like if you listen to our verses, you can hear we all do our own thing, and they’re all pretty much different. There’s no pressure following the success of ‘Yo Darlin’, we just go with how we feel and it fits. I feel like you don’t usually hear that with groups, I feel like groups, most time, they all have a similar flow, but when you listen to us its different. For a first project to put out there I feel like it was a strong, solid project. Basically we tried to show how versatile we are. It was a stamp…. It’s not ahead of our time but, you know, it was more futuristic. That’s what that project was, I feel like, we’re probably gonna’ do other stuff, but I swear to you, about two years down the line, someone will pick up on that project and say ‘wow, this was like a mad project, this project fits in now’, what’s happening now. That’s why it’s called ‘Grown Up’, that’s what happened.”
“Do what you do, do you, and do you the best you can. That’s all it is fam” – Papii Abz.
We swiftly move onto where they are now, with the new single and their time in the studio with Not3s. “The collab with Not3s on that Pushing Up was the most natural organic collab ever…” Mojo begins to tell me, as Abz continues, “we had a session with a producer called IO. We went to the session, a beat was played and we were vibesin’. Everyone laid out their verses, then we were just chilling like, we need a chorus ennit. MJ was like, ah this sounds like a Not3s song.”
“There is so many studios in the building, any artists could go there, so we didn’t know what was going on or who was in the building, nothing…” as Kruddz begins to wrap up the story, “a week after this session was the Not3s tour, but we didn’t know he was in the building at the time. So boom, we had the song, sounded like a banger, we were all looking at each other like ah we need a chorus, chorus,. Then all of a sudden, someone walks in, guess who it is? Not3s.”
It seems the stars have aligned, and so have the collaborations, as they emphasise that it’s been as organic as it can be. The ‘Pushing Up’ track itself, already over a million views deep, is clearly next up for NSG in what is starting to look like a string of 2018 bangers leading up to a new project and eventual headline tour. Expect everything, and then more, is the message I received.
Given their worldwide musical influences, from French Rap collective Naza, to UK’s Mostack, the gauged interest they have enticed from industry and listeners alike, and not to mention the overreaching universal sonic and soulful appeal, 2018 is set to be pivotal for NSG. Their upcoming singles, timings and rollouts have never been of so much importance, given the wave they are currently riding. Although, such a challenge seems not to phase a young Hackney-based international movement, in their own words…
“We’re free to do what we want, independent. Its our moment. Offers, there’s been many, but we’re just waiting for the timing. It’s all about timing.
You’ll feel it, it’s the energy, in the world.”