From South Africa to New Zealand and finally finding a home in Melbourne, Nico Ghost‘s journey has been tumultuous to say the least. But despite the darkness of his past, the 23-year-old is infectiously optimistic about his future. “I’m starting to build my empire“, says Nico “and you will see it expand over the next 5 years.” Having already supported the likes of Wu Tang Clan and G-Eazy on their Australian tours, his sights are firmly set on making his own waves. It’s always curious to see how some people navigate their way through the hip-hop scene and the formula they choose to adopt. Even though Nico Ghost, true to his namesake keeps his plans hidden there is a palpable excitement that surrounds each of his releases. Today happens to be the day he reveals some of those moves—with the release of his new video for ‘Ghost’, filmed in Japan and a fresh new song ‘Jackie Brown’.
Tell me about your new video?
We headed to Japan for a few days last year and ended up shooting this video. I fractured my foot at UV boi’s show a few days earlier so I was in a moonboot the entire time. It was weird getting to travel but being limited like that. It just means I’ve gotta go back.
That was the first time I had been to Japan. I’ve always been a fan of anime and it only seemed right to cut clips into the video. That trip was a fantasy come true, I was living a dream and I think the video shows where my head was at.
You also have a new song ‘Jackie Brown’?
I thought I had seen every Quentin Tarantino movie and then one night I came across Jackie Brown. Pam Grier’s character was so slick and sly, I gravitated towards that immediately. The next day, Seywood had sent me a beat, I sat down with a bottle of red wine and this was born.
The ghost symbolism runs deep throughout your brand. What’s the significance?
A lot of people have different thoughts when they hear “ghost”. Evil? Demonic? Friendly? Shit. In the most basic sense, ghost implies that I’ve seen both worlds. Here and the other side. That’s all for now though, I feel like the best way to explore the meaning is through my music.
You’ve had some pretty wild tours— you’ve opened for Wu Tang, G-Eazy, and The Underachievers. What have you learnt from those experiences?
Those were some crazy times. I learned so many different things from all those artists. With Wu, just seeing the energy and dynamic that they put into their performance was crazy. G showed me how to get money and what work you have to do behind the music. Being genuine goes a long way.
You were in a heavy metal band as a kid in school. How did you go from that to becoming a rapper?
Well, I started rapping when I was like 11 or 12. GXNXVS and I started working together around then but when I hit high school, I started getting into metal and rock. I guess I stopped listening to rap for a while. After Drake put out Take Care, I wanted to start rapping again. I think that album renewed my love for it.
In an interview you once said that Kid Cudi saved your life. It’s a sentiment a lot of people share. How did he save yours?
It most definitely is. Cudi came from another other realm to save us… and he saved so many of us. I remember a point where I felt like nobody could understand what I was going through and I was struggling to find a point in living. Something told me to play Soundtrack 2 My Life for the first time. I heard what he was saying and I felt understood, like I wasn’t the only one. He let me know that it was okay and I wasn’t alone. I want to do that for others. Years later I watched this interview and he said his mission statement was to reduce suicide level in the youth and that hit me hard.
The Australian hip-hop scene is something I’m passionate about in my writing and obviously something you’re passionate in your musical output. How do you feel about the culture here?
The scene is definitely growing and I am very excited. When I put out my first song, there was not much of a scene at all and to see where everything has come, I’m very proud of my homies and fellow music makers for pushing it to where it is. There is definitely something bubbling and it’s just a matter of time before people start to notice.
Because Australian media parodies hip-hop do you think it’s difficult for artists to thrive here?
I don’t think Australia in general understands hip-hop or what the younger generation is trying to do. It is taken as a bit of a joke but what can do we other than strive and prosper. I know a lot of my peers see the bigger picture and that’s what we are focused on.
Do you see yourself trying to make a career in Australia or moving overseas?
I want to be moving. I can’t tell you but I have a feeling I’ll be flying in and out. I want to travel and learn, I don’t want to be one place for too long. Times running up.
Lots of interviewers ask you about “self belief”. It’s weird that believing in yourself has become an inherently political act. How do you practice self belief?
To be honest, I’m a walking wreck. It’s a full time mission just tryna stay up. I find meditation and energy activation works super well. When I find myself struggling, music and anime can always help me find the light and hope. If you feel down, listen to Live Up To My Name by Baka Not Nice and see how you start to believe in yourself. It’s work, it’s like a muscle. In your heart, you know you are the one, you just gotta break all the barriers to find that.
What are your plans for 2017? What are your plans for the next five years?
I gotta give you guys an EP this year. Then maybe another one. I’m starting to build my empire and you will see it expand over the next five years. It’s more than just this music stuff. Right now I’m in the moment. My heart and mind are expanding and I’m just riding waves.