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'Life Is Weird ... And Awesome': Words Of Wisdom From Charlotte Folk Rapper Nige Hood

A native to Charlotte, Nige Hood is the self-described creator of "folk rap."
Photo courtesy of the artist
The self-described creator of "folk rap" music, Charlotte native Nige Hood has graced stages alongside hip-hop greats like Kendrick Lamar and Afroman.

Type “folk rap” into Google, and you’ll quickly discover two things: a progressive social movement from the Balkan region and Charlotte native Nige Hood, the self-described creator of "folk rap" music who's shared the stage with Grammy Award-winning legend Kendrick Lamar and recorded in the backwoods of Ohio with hip-hop legend Afroman.

"As a rapper, I've always had a unique approach to making my music. ... I want to encourage people to embrace their own weirdness because through that, the beauty will be seen."
– Nige Hood

Interview Highlights:

On the definition of folk rap:

Folk rap is an alternative hip-hop style that started off when I started rapping. The best way I can describe folk rap is that they’re simple songs about daily life that are in the form of hip-hop that most average people can relate to and understand.

A lot of my songs have stories in them. I’ve been inspired throughout my life by people like “Weird Al” Yankovic and Chuck Berry, people who write songs that are more like novelty songs. So folk rap is about daily life, pursuing life, telling stories often in novelty style, in the form of hip-hop music.

On his first music memories:

In my elementary school days, I got hooked and obsessed with oldies music. My school actually had a sock hop, which sounds archaic now. They were playing The Beatles, The Temptations and “Yakety Yak,” and I was so into it. I was always that weird kid that liked oldies and liked singing.

When I was older and getting into my pre-teens, I wanted to be a little bit more rebellious and tough. My friends in the suburbs were listening to Eminem and his crazy, funny stuff, and so I really connected to “Hi, My Name Is.” I was always writing songs like remixes of oldies like “Splish Splash” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” so it translated to hip-hop and writing raps.

That’s the duality. I love rap and hip-hop, but I’m also influenced by people who haven’t made a record in 50 years. “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” by Chuck Berry informs me on life experiences, on joy and all these things that are eternal. I want to recycle that within me and figure out a way for me to push that same spirit out and still connect to fresh ears.

On his first performance:

I was 12 years old at 4-H camp in North Carolina. There was a talent show, and it was the first time I ever rapped. One of my camp counselors was a DJ, and he had an instrumental for “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” by DMX, so I went up there and rapped. All the kids loved it, and it made me feel good.

At that time, I was going by the rap name Low Life because I was short. And of course back then, you always had to have a menacing, tough street name. I remember there was this older gentleman who was like, “Hey, young brother. You don’t need to be calling yourself Low Life.” So when it came time to start recording myself in high school, I just called myself Nige Hood. That’s my name anyway since I’m Nigel Hood.

On performing with Kendrick Lamar at North Carolina Central University Homecoming in 2011:

The concert was excellent. At the time, the No. 1 hip-hop song in the country was “Hustle Hard” by Ace Hood, and Ace Hood was also on the bill for that concert and was headlining. Kendrick Lamar was going on before Ace Hood. There was only a small pocket of people that were excited for Kendrick and knew his songs. For me, it was weird because I didn’t know as much about him until the months leading up to the concert and a friend gave me a thumb drive with his music. While I was at North Carolina Central University, I had made enough of an impact at the school that I was on the list of the performers for the Homecoming concert. It was great.

I always bring up that you have that small pocket of folks hyping up Kendrick, but as soon as Ace Hood came out, everyone went crazy. You learn that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Shout-out to Ace Hood and him still being a working musician, but now Kendrick Lamar is now one of the biggest rappers in the world.

On his Folk Rap Band recording “Bowl in the Woods” with hip-hop legend Afroman:

“Bowl in the Woods” is a song that my band has always performed for years, and it’s always a song that people love to hear. So we wanted to record it as our Folk Rap Band’s first single, and we did so in January 2020. We got a whole tour and everything set up, and then the pandemic happens. So I’m sitting one day and thinking, “What can I do to give us a boost?”

I always had on a sheet of paper artists that I’d like to collaborate with, and Afroman was on there. Afroman is in the family of folk rap and novelty, feel-good songs about life. So it hit me to get him on “Bowl in the Woods.” It made sense to get him on it because of the sound of the song. I went on his website to reach out to him, so we talked to his manager and ended up going to Ohio and meeting him. We built up a personal relationship, made a music video and released it.

I’m used to local attention and feedback, so when we saw 15,000 plays on the first day of the song’s release, it was crazy. Within the first three months, it was 100,000 spins. And it’s still going. What it means to me is that I wrote a song that people like. Even if I never make a hit again, that is a moment that made it all worth it to me.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

Nige Hood - “Wavi Girls”
Nige Hood - “LA Knights”
Nige Hood - “Funkshun”
Nige Hood - “McLuvin”
Nige Hood - “Eargum”
Nige Hood - “Banjo Trap”
Nige Hood and the Folk Rap Band - “Bowl in the Woods” feat. Afroman

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier.