‘Up and coming trap/hip-hop star MXOM, real name Ugo Nelson, is a man of many talents. Having graced the streets of Silicon Valley with a tech startup and trained at a prestigious drama school, he’s found his calling in music. With his latest release ‘Bxng’ out now, we sat down with him to learn a bit more about what makes a renaissance man like him tick.’
How has music impacted your life other than making it yourself?
Music has come as a release. As a form of much-needed therapy during the year and a half we’ve all had. I started making music as a way of helping me deal with a break-up but I couldn’t have imagined the effect it would have during the pandemic; how it almost single-handedly helped keeping me sane. When the headphones are strapped around my ears and a beat is thumping through my bloodstream, the whole world melts away. In that moment nothing else exists.
Do you have a couple of songs that really impacted you and why?
First off has to be ‘Wot Do You Call It?’ by Wiley, followed closely by Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I Luv You’. That tune was so huge and blazed the path for Dizzee and the sound as a whole. As for ‘Wot Do You Call It?’, who can hear that beat and not rap along? Definitely a track that got me into dreaming of being a rapper. Same with NWA’s ‘Express Yourself’. ‘Passenger’ by Iggy Pop is another one. I’d love to hear of a better road trip song.
How did you get into music?
I’ve been into music in one way or another since I was around 6 when I took piano lessons. That didn’t last too long though. I was one of those kids in secondary school that would either be playing football or freestyling with a couple mates. I’d spend the nights recording grime beats from 92.3 Deja Vu FM and spitting over them after school with one my guys. I probably still have those tapes somewhere. I bought a guitar a few years later and started teaching myself. I only really started getting serious about music when it became my only real outlet after a break-up. Once I discovered it’s true power, there was no looking back.
What did you listen to when you were younger and how has that changed now?
I’ve always had an eclectic taste. My dad was a big music fan and growing up there was always music playing in the house. Jimmy Cliff was a mainstay. My dad played a lot of Nigerian highlife, Motown, even classical music, so I’ve grown up appreciating all forms and still listen to a lot of different genres. I grew up listening to a lot of grime in my teens years which, as a genre, has mostly been replaced with drill which is a whole different sound. I was actually having this conversation with someone the other day. One thing I’ve always loved about music is hearing the different instruments on a track, picking up where the sax and the piano meet. I don’t think that’ll ever change.
Who is your dream collaboration?
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kanye West and Jay-Z, so they’d have to be somewhere near the top of the list. Sia is also right up there. Ed Sheeran. Kendrick Lamar. Adele. I’d also love to do a collaboration with Oasis or a band like the Gorillaz. I’d probably have to split this list into living and dead, so that’t the living list. The dead – Jimmy Cliff. Bowie. Amy Winehouse. DMX. Hendrix. Biggie. Fela. It’s literally endless.
What do you feel drama school taught you that now impacts your music?
The art of performing. I write and construct songs with a view of putting on a show. I have the video and the world tour planned out before I write a single lyric. How does it make me feel? How does it make the audience feel? What do I want them to take away from this song? I want people to come to my shows and leave feeling like they’ve just experienced a once in a lifetime event. I’ve heard people say that when Beyonce is performing in town they have to be there. Whatever it costs. They just have to see her perform. I aim to deliver that same excitement, and it all comes from the art of performing.
Another thing drama school, not necessarily taught me but really instilled in me, is discipline. I love music and I love doing it, but it’s also a craft that requires dedication and commitment to hone. It’s something that needs to be worked on and nurtured and grown, something that needs to be approached with discipline the same way a CEO prepares an annual shareholders meeting, or a football team prepares for a Euro Final. Yeah…that one still hurts…
Who are some of your influences outside of music?
The legendary comic Dave Chappelle. I don’t know how he takes something serious and makes it hilarious, but it’s genius. Exactly the same way Kendrick Lamar can make you bump your head, totally forgetting that he’s talking about police brutality or racism, yet it still sinks in. I like artists with something to say. Sometimes you want a track that lifts you up and makes you feel good about yourself. Other times, you want something you can feel in your soul. Everything has it’s place.
What have you got planned for the future?
World domination. I feel like I should say “only joking”, but I’m not.
Best gig you’ve ever seen and why?
I once watched a friend of mine and his band perform at an open mic night once, and I can honestly say that’s the best gig I’ve ever seen. They had the whole place jumping. The drummer was in mad form, the electric guitar going nuts. No budget. No real production value, just passion and skill. Goes back to what I was saying about the art of the performance that of all the gigs I’ve seen, that’s the one I chose.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
It sounds obvious to say but I get a lot of inspiration from listening to music and other musicians and hearing what they do with their work. Other than that gym or driving. I’m a big fan of cars and was probably Lewis Hamilton in a previous life.
Are there any other creative ventures you want to pursue?
I’d like to get back into acting one day. It feels like unfinished business. I was in a play and we had just wrapped up the Vault Festival in London and was about to go on a national tour before lockdown hit. Never got to say a proper goodbye to the play, the character or my castmates, so would hate for that to be the last time I find myself performing in that way. I’d like to improve my coding also. That’s creative, right?
How would you like your music to be remembered?
It’s all about memories for me. Music has a way of making you time travel, a way of taking you back to places you thought you’ve forgotten. That’s what separates it from everything else, all other forms of art. If my music can be remembered as something that helped people get through life – first loves, nights out, gym workouts, job interviews, birthdays – all the moments that make life life, I’d be happy.