If you want to find the next big rapper, look no further than White City. Meet NabsOra – aka Brian Alejandro – the Colombia-born 22-year-old who is on a mission to see his name in lights.
Arriving from Colombia when he was just 10, he couldn’t speak English and moved around London before finally settling into his new neighbourhood in Parsons Green. More recently, his family has moved to the north of the borough.
Despite a rocky prelude to his teenage years in London, the first thing that strikes you when meeting NabsOra is his demeanour. Calm and collected, he arrives for his interview promptly with an air of professionalism in his stride. Dressed smart casual in a long navy overcoat, sweater and trainers and with ambition in his eyes, the star in the making instantly commands your attention.
Co-founder of independent label Collaboration Records based in Uxbridge, NabsOra the rapper exhibits entrepreneurial flair beyond his years. What is different and exciting about Collaboration is Brian’s mission to create a new hybrid of music blending a variety of different styles and sounds. Built from the ground up by likeminded young individuals, the label is determined to put its stamp on the world.
NabsOra’s debut album, Right Hemisphere, released last month, shows a true talent in genre hopping. Unable to be contained, the tracks are a unique mix of hip hop and dubstep, accompanied with a fluid back drop of reggaeton. The album’s seven tracks are a mark of an artist’s first work, both excited and ambitious with its aims – akin to the rapper himself.
However, the sense of transition is clear for NabsOra – things are changing and he is the driving force. Record label boss, rapper, producer, and engineer, here is a lad that means business.
We fired some questions at him and here’s what he had to say:
H&F: How would you describe your sound?
NABSORA: A modern blend of electric hip hop
When did you know you wanted to be a music artist?
I was eight, and found a hip hop tape and couldn’t stop listening to it. I was sold.
You moved here from Colombia when you were 10-years-old. Describe your experience
It was surreal. My family left because of the civil war, they wanted me and my little brother who was a baby at time to not grow up around anymore violence. We moved around quite a bit before we settled in Parsons Green. I remember going into class in Year 5 primary school and not being able to speak a word of English. I was taken aback by everything, and I guess that’s when I knew how dependent I was on music. In a place where everything was different, music remained the only constant.
What was the message of Right Hemisphere?
With ‘right hemisphere’ I am referring to the creative side of the brain. This album tests the boundaries of music genre; every song brings something different to the listener. Creativity through music fusion was my message.
Tell us about your label, Collaboration Records
Two years ago a friend and I decided to set up a record label in Uxbridge. We knew that there was some serious local talent. It’s an in house production, and we do everything from the engineering to the videography. We are like a big family; our ethos is in the name.
So you are all friends too. How does that affect you when you’re working?
It makes it better! We have a really hard working team. If one of us is feeling low you know someone will walk through the door and snap you out of it. As I produce tracks for the other artists too, its constant team work. We are all trying to help each other reach our goals and that’s an amazing feeling.
That sounds great. Do you ever collaborate together?
Yeah, definitely. We all have different sounds; we represent rock bands to RnB so when we all get together and jam some crazy stuff goes down. Sometimes we look at each other and think the world isn’t ready for this.
You pretty much do it all. When did you start getting with music production?
I was 13 and I took a 10-week course at the Isaac Newton Centre in Ladbroke Grove. It gave me the foundation to music tech. I remember the fascination of being taught how to song-write and record music. It was life changing.
You launched your music video Animal for Halloween last year which is quite scary! What influenced the theme?
[For readers the video is shot like a short film, think UK underground meets Michael Jackson's Thriller]
I knew it was going to be dark from when I was laying the beats down on the instrumental. That's how it works, when you produce you get a vibe; this evolves and becomes the concept. I wanted people to say: ‘Oh I wasn't expecting that’.
Track six Bad Company has a great chorus. What are you referring to?
Hanging with the wrong people! Spending half of my life in Fulham showed me a lot; exposed to good things and bad. I learned some lessons. But ultimately I learned about myself. If you don’t experience bad things, you can’t grow.
Where in Fulham has shaped you the most?
Definitely has to be Eel Brook Common. I lived in Parsons Green for 10 years with my family. A massive group of us would get together in summer and chill. Some of my best memories have been made there.
Where could we find you hanging out?
Anywhere in in Westfield. Or, Nando’s in Fulham Broadway.
What advice would you give to people starting out in the music industry?
If you know that this is the path you want to take, get rid of all doubt. Surround yourself with people who have the same goals as you. Try to be musically independent; if you’re the master, you can’t go wrong.
Who are your biggest music inspirations?
Growing up in Colombia I was lucky to have such rich musical influences. But to name three they would have to be: Eminem, Daddy Yankee and Tech9ne.
What was the first album you bought?
In at the Deep End by Roll Deep.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I want to be in the music industry and hearing people say: “I am going to buy NabsOra’s new album”!
Any up and coming projects we should know about?
I’ll also be getting involved with the Friends of Wormholt Park events this summer. I’m currently working on the new album expected early next year. Right now, I am focused on entering competitions and getting my name out there.
For more details about NabsOra or to buy his album visit: nabsora.com.