By Dylan Deprey
While some artists had their creative breakthroughs during pandemic quarantine, NilexNile (Nile) found himself on the complete opposite side of the spectrum.
The 24-year-old hip-hop artist was trudging through a dark period personally and musically. Between a brief break up, no job and a lack of direction for his music, it seemed like everything was going downhill.
As a veteran on the live music circuit, as a solo artist and as a member of the Phat Nerdz collective, he went from being the first to perform on “The Hop,” to not performing at all.
“I was going through a lot of ego-tripping during the pandemic and a lot of crazy s*** happened, it kind of steered me away from music for a while,” he said.
He ended up leaving the pen and pad alone for several months.
“I detached myself from music for a little bit. I felt like I was at a crossroads because I didn’t know if I still wanted to do music,” he said.
Unlike his late 2019 “Treason Youth” EP, he felt that he needed to search inward and make music for himself again. He said he wanted to re-create the love he found making music in the first place.
“I was doing what I wanted, and doing things the way I needed to be doing so I could keep prospering and growing. In between that time period, I wasn’t creating what I loved—I was creating what I liked,” he said.
In November 2020, he started writing music again. It was about experimenting. He was making music for the thrill. He reached out to collaborators new and old to create an experience for his fans, but also himself. Almost 10 months later, he said his music feels complete again.
NilexNile released his latest “Free Lunch” mixtape on Sept. 24, 2021.
“I’m honestly excited for this project,” he said. “I haven’t felt this good about my music since around 2017.”
NilexNile said “Free Lunch” was the concept of free knowledge, or food for thought. It’s a self-examination of what people can learn and experience over the course of a day. He said it was an introspective gateway for fans to peer into his life, while also processing their own.
“I feel like I’m giving a little bit more of everything,” he said. “There’s the vulnerable records, some happy records, and I’m just in a special place on this one.”
He said that while experimenting with different styles and beats sonically, his goal was to build an all-around cohesive project.
Singles like the LaFond assisted “Bagels” has a grim lo-fiesque feel to it, while “Nonchalant” takes listeners on a more upbeat classic hip-hop trip. The energetic third single, “Know Soo,” features WebsterX and is a pure in-your-face “I told you so” record.
While all three songs meander along different sonic palettes, NilexNile uses each one to dive deeper into his subconscious and simultaneously showcase his lyrical prowess.
Along with his mixtape release, his quarantine slump has had an upswing. He graced the Summerfest stage with WebsterX before the Run the Jewels show on Sept. 17. He also collaborated with Erth Dispensary in Bay View for his “Free Lunch” inspired CBD “LunchBox.”
“It’s very pivotal moment for me right now,” he said. “I see people show me love, but I feel like this project will solidify why I’m here as an artist.”
“Free Lunch” can be found on all streaming platforms.