NTHN is a UK cloud rap artist, producer and member of independent collective eighteenSAINT. Growing up listening primarily to emo and metal, he later developed a fascination and affinity for Hip Hop. NTHN creates ambient tracks with ease due to the experiments he worked on when he was younger. Citing influences such as Deftones, producers like Clams Casino, xxyyxx and Shlohmo, he is able to create a unique blend of these various sounds.
Apologies is NTHN’s latest single. It has a dark and ambient atmosphere, accompanied by these cold, hard vocals. The lyrics are pretty dark and seem to deal with a lot of guilt and self-doubt. The ambience kind of fills the track like a wave of white noise that overwhelms the listener. However, it acts as this dynamic element showing the more anxious parts by crescendoing and diminuendos when the anxiety seems to dissipate. Moreover, NTHN creates a hostile environment by doing very little. This is a rare ability that I’ve heard from very few sound engineers, let alone musicians. This is an extremely experimental track that breaks the barriers of what we find is conventional rap.
I really enjoy how much has gone into making this project. NTHN clearly has an amazing sense of soundscaping which is done significantly well in Apologies. If I was in the UK, I’d probably pull up to one of his shows so you should, if you can!
We managed to score an interview with the man himself. Read on below for more!
What was the most difficult thing in working with the UK Rap scene?
I feel like the current UK rap scene is quite different to what I make, which has its good and bad points! I listen to a lot of UK rap, drill and grime artists but since my sound is so different to all of those, I don’t really feel there is competition or anything, as my music has a completely different audience. That takes a lot of the pressure off but it’s sort of difficult, since this means that there isn’t really much of a target audience that I can appeal to here and I don’t really fit in with the current, popular sound in the UK, so I’m kind of trying to find my way around that. It’s a great time for UK rap though and I’m definitely finding myself influenced by the production techniques I’m hearing at the moment – it’s good to see more global attention given to the genre!
Do you still listen tometal, can you name a few artists you still enjoy?
Definitely! I still listen to a lot of metal and emo bands, I feel like you never lose that side of you or grow out of the ‘phase’ hahah! My all time favourite band is Deftones, who have seriously inspired the music I make with the swirly, atmospheric and dreamy sounds they create. Also love older stuff by Bring Me The Horizon and Funeral for a Friend, Killswitch Engage, 36 Crazyfists, Architects, etc. Also, I love what Scarlxrd is doing with his metal/rap style, he’s quickly become one of my favourite artists from the energy he puts into every track.
What is Apologies all about?
So, Apologies is a track that came from lot of self-reflection. I’ve always been pretty hard on myself and held myself accountable for a lot, which isn’t a particularly healthy approach when it comes to friendships and family or relationships because it means you’re always feeling like the one to blame. Looking back, I realised there were probably a lot of times where I’ve taken the blame for things that weren’t my fault or were out of my control because it seemed like the easiest way to resolve the situation and that can really affect your self-esteem and doesn’t really do you any good, long-term.
The track is a journey in itself and starts off very stripped back with no percussion and mainly just vocals and ambient instrumental. As the lyrics start to become less apologetic and more confident, the track starts to build up and become more punchy, to reflect my personal development. The final line “but I’m done with making apologies” is acapella since it’s a real statement, as much to myself as it is to the listener, a reminder to not go back to old ways; it’s not about never apologising or taking ownership of your mistakes, it’s about doing it in a healthy way and not just taking the blame for things you have no control over.
Can you tell us a little more about what you call ‘cloudsampling’?
Cloudsampling is a genre/production technique that involves taking opportunistic, usually roughly captured street or field recordings, and sampling them to creating an airy, cloudy soundscape. I came up with the term when I was looking for a way to describe what I do; cloud rap was the closest genre I could find, but there are a huge range of artists which are labelled as cloud rap, so I wanted something more specific to what I do, and the element I love most from the genre.
Clams Casino is my main influence when it comes to production techniques because of the incredible textures and airy sounds he achieves, from what are usually quite rough or heavily manipulated samples. He would be someone I would class as cloudsampling, along with artists like XXYYXX, White Armor and Oliver Francis, to name a few! I chose the term ‘cloudsampling’ because I wanted to create a name that captured the element I love most about cloud rap, but wasn’t centred on the ‘rap’ element and more the feel and sound of the production, as it doesn’t always involve rap, or even vocals sometimes.
How do you generally go about creating a track like Apologies?
Often, I’ll start my tracks as notes in my phone, where I’ll get some thoughts down as and when they come to me. Sometimes they turn into lyrics/tracks, sometimes they just stay there for months! Writing helps me process what I’m thinking or dealing with, so my tracks usually come from that. Then, I’ll either associate what I’ve written with an instrumental demo I’ve already partly created and work on them both together, or I’ll make one from scratch. In this case, it was the latter; I knew I wanted the track to be really stripped back so I started to create an instrumental that would fit the lyrics as I wrote them, building it up as the track developed.
What’s next for NTHN?
I’ve just come back from a break from music so I’ve been working on a few tracks that I’m really excited to share, most likely as singles – I should have another one ready by the end of this year! I’m trying to create more video content too, which is totally new for me but has been really fun; I’ve just released the music video for Apologies and I plan to do some more for my next releases.
One thing I love about music is how inclusive it can be when you collaborate, so I really plan on getting involved with other artists. I’ll be working closely with Teorstan and Fletcher, James, the other two founders of our collective eighteenSAINT, so you’ll be seeing their names alongside mine quite a bit! Also, I’ve got some projects and tracks planned with some close friends of mine who I met through music, including Kerem Goral and Ditch The Ego, so I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve got plenty of ideas so will be keeping very busy – I definitely don’t plan on taking another break anytime soon…
Be sure to stream and add Apologies to your playlists today!