Spotlight: Los Angeles Underground Veteran MC Nocando May Be The Next To Blow Up (Video)

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For many years, Los Angeles, California has served as a bastion of a diverse, eclectic, and consistently inspiring underground music scene. Much of the city’s extensive history of being a center for African-American arts and music dates back to the 1930s and ’40s, when Central Avenue was not only a major traffic thoroughfare, but also a breeding ground for Jazz. Generations later, the city of Compton has become synonymous with Hip-Hop, and along the way artists like The Pharcyde, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, and others have helped L.A.’s indie Rap world become one of the most celebrated in the country. As such, musicians like James “Nocando” McCall have taken on the lush musical history of the city and pushed it forward to its contemporary and future selves by keeping the legacy of L.A. Hip-Hop showcases like Project Blowed and Low End Theory alive. Now, the native Angeleno and celebrated MC has released a bold new single in the form of “Last Man Standing,” positioning himself for what will likely be a breakthrough year for him on a national scale.

As the founder of the Hellfyre Club imprint and musical family, Nocando entered the game as a fan of icons like Aceyalone, the Freestyle Fellowship member and co-founder of Project Blowed. At the time of its foundation, PB was an open mic event which took place on Thursdays, and as Nocando tells Ambrosia for Heads, “it became my church.” Eventually, he would become one of the foremost talents involved with the event, joining the ranks with peers like Busdriver, Dumbfoundead, Myka 9, Open Mike Eagle, Pigeon John, 2Mex, and many others. Heads today have been exposed to some of the region’s seemingly endless supply of emergent talent thanks to the success of musicians like Anderson .Paak, Flying Lotus, and Kamasi Washington but Nocando’s repertoire stands out. As he tells it, “while their sounds are anchored in Jazz, Soul and Funk, what I do is modern Los Angeles Rap music and is rooted in the now, not nostalgia.” That sense of progressiveness is all over the former Scribble Jam champion’s discography, whose debut solo effort came in 2010. Jimmy the Lock was followed up with Jimmy the Burnout in 2014, a title which at least in part reflected the artistic process going into recording the LP. In his words, this album is a reflection of his “vomiting out ideas [and] not really taking time to sit with the songs. I also didn’t have any go to producers and I didn’t have an engineer. I was recording myself and just taking whatever beats came through.”

However, his forthcoming release dares to be more ambitious and focused, according to him. “With my next project I’ve taken the approach I took when I first started to write songs, which was just sitting and writing until the idea is out of [my] head. Nothing like my last two albums, which in my opinion were sometimes forced. It’s more like a continuation of projects like the Impatient and Is a Virus but with more life experience and more of an ear for production.” The life experience is evident on “Last Man Standing,” particularly in a line reflecting what he calls the “gossipy, voyeuristic, Lookie Lou-ass culture we are a part of.” He raps “all they care about is the flash and the antics/they don’t know the pain, they don’t know the past,” which he says is “just about people in general when it comes to music. The artist and fans and all that. There is more attention on the argument between Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa than their records.” At the time he was writing the song, he shares that he was “in a writing camp pitching things to Dr. Dre at the time. I’d never done songwriting for others before that point. I wrote the first verse and hook for Dre but in the voice of Apocalypse from the X-Men. They are like each other to me. The second verse was in my voice.” Furthermore, the song is about his own approach to winning. “How do you win? You don’t lose. That’s how. You can blaze through everything with explosive energy but you can also burn out that way,” he says. “My longevity in the L.A. underground can be accredited to flexibility, thick skin, the ability to do things that others aren’t willing to do as well as the bold and explosive things that impress others.”

Currently finishing up the as-yet unnamed full-length project, Nocando can be often heard on Soundcloud, where he is busy “dropping random songs.” Also recently released in the video for “Alaska,” a Nate Fox-produced joint that can be seen on his official YouTube channel.

Related: Ambrosia for Heads Spotlight Series