Ryme Press first collaborated with Uncommon Nasa in 2018, with the publication of Withering: Nasa's first book of poetry and short stories. In this feature, Ryme Press presents an unpublished Nasa story: "Mother of Child." "Mother of Child" tells of a son and father's odd, yet fulfilling, way of dealing with grief.
In response to COVID-19, Uncommon Nasa has put all of his albums up on bandcamp for free (or "pay what you want") download. You can listen to and download his entire discography here. Uncommon Nasa also recently dropped a surprise EP, entitled Ornate. Every track is incredible. DO NOT sleep on this EP
MOTHER OF CHILD
My son seemed at peace in the graveyard the day we buried his mother. The slow breeze of the trees and the scenic location did us both well. This was at a point after many of our guests had left, during that break before the big meal and after we’d said our goodbyes. My son was only 8 then, but he was a bit beyond his years because his mother had been sick for so long. Of course, she was also my wife, my love. But even I had come to know her for her strong presence as the mother of our child.
As we sat there, a father and son in contemplation, we both knew that, after what we’d been through, we had reached a state of grief that is rarely discussed: relief. We were both scarred heavily with mental and even physical wounds that would probably never heal, but we had each other. In fact, there was a feeling of closeness between us and a feeling of need—a feeling of bondedness as though a spiritual solder had been in use.
It was with this that my son spoke words I couldn’t imagine. He said, “if mom is buried here, where is her mom buried?” How could I know such a thing? Does anyone really know where their loved ones’ loved ones are buried? I looked back and uttered, “I don’t know,” then thought about it a moment longer and said, “but we’re going to find out.”
This sent us down a road together that will sound morbid to many, but not to those who grieve and seek knowledge to inform their grief. Of course, both me and my son were acutely aware of the fact that he “did not have” grandparents on his mother’s side. I did some basic research online later that week. I knew her mother’s name and where my wife grew up. Within a night or two, I had tracked down where I suspected her grave site to be.
The next weekend we packed up in the car. The kid was more excited than I was. It’s important to remember how much he’d been through. We’d taken long car rides before, but they were for treatments for his mother. Even though we were driving to see a grave site for over two hours, it was just me and him. Him and his dad. Quality time. Time without pain.
We made the impressive trip up North, stopping along the way at his mother’s favorite fast food chain for lunch—an odd but calculated tribute. When we arrived, I was able to confirm it truly was my boy’s grandmother, even though we had never actually met her. This process began by realizing that his grandfather was buried right next to her, and by my conversation with the main office of the cemetery.
We sat by the grave site for a little over 30 minutes. There was a peace and satisfaction in finding it. A feeling of completeness overwhelmed me. His mother never discussed this site with me. In the 10 years we were together, it just simply never came up. Her parents had her later in their lives. She was a bit of a miracle for them. As I understood it, her dad passed first, then her mom several years later. She was only 19 herself when she lost her mom. We met at college during our senior year, then a year later wed, and a year later welcomed our son into the world.
When we got back in the car my son asked me, “what about their parents? Or other people related to mom?” I wondered how far we could or even should take this exercise. We talked a little bit about searching out the grave sites of her other relatives, but I wasn’t ready to consider the implications of taking on such a mission with my young boy.
At this point, it’s important to delve more into my wife’s background. She was an only child from a modest background. Her family was from a dirt poor section of Eastern Pennsylvania, most of whom, by the time we had met, had dispersed as far as Montana. But, realistically, she’d simply lost touch with most of her roots. The majority of her family, outside of her parents, were described through hazy sepia-toned memories of family gatherings where she was too young to even have a seat at the “adult table.” Sometimes, during our college rap sessions that would last into the night, she would speak about a sense of “non-belonging” in her family. Her parents were already gone by then and her distant family was, well…distant. This may have played a part in my son’s obsession with her dead relatives. Truth be told, I thought about the fact that it might be easier to track down his mother’s deceased relatives than her living ones.
My son had never met any other family on my wife’s side. The only person he knew of that lineage was now dead. But he knew that she was good and that she was his mother. Naturally, he then led himself to believe the same about everyone that was dead and buried who had been related to her.
A few years had passed when the boy turned 12. He asked me again to take another trip like he had a few years prior to visit more of his dead relatives, who he’d never met and who I’d never known. He had done some research on his own at this point and tracked down a small private burial site that may have included several extended family members. My wife’s great uncle and great aunt in-law as well his sister and her blood-related great aunt and great uncle in-law.
He considered mapping out all of his mothers’ relatives to be the greatest tribute he could make and the best therapy he could give himself. We took the trip, this time to the West of our home. And he was right.
The site wasn’t as tranquil. Scattered mushy leaves and dead trees marked the area, but it still brought him peace. By this time he was taking pictures of graves with his cell phone. He was collecting as many articles of information as he could and started building a family tree on a website back home. This sort of passion for his mother awed me. It made me feel a bit guilty for not allowing him to pursue this earlier.
He did this all with tears in his eyes. They weren’t physical tears any-more, but the kind of tears that a father can see on his son’s face when a passion like this was being fulfilled.
Over the next few years we worked together on and off on what became “Mom’s Project.” We had a map of grave sites. We had a family tree built. We had finally reached out and found some of her living family members.
We were wary of some folks. Some folks were wary of us. But we found a variety of people and stories that we would have never known had my wife lived out her life as she should have. We now both knew the realities of my son’s familial make up and this gave us peace for ourselves and tribute to his mother.
When my son turned 18 we had completed 95% of the work we had set out to do, with only a few loose ends. Every summer vacation after 7th grade we’d spend at least one week on the road hunting down more pieces of the puzzle. We revisited my wife’s parents several times as a nod to their inspiration and a spark for this quest. A quest that took us as far from the East Coast as Montana and as nearby as just across the state line. We visited both the living and the dead. What began as an unsettling obsession grew into peaceful guidance.
This sort of discipline and pursuance ended up being healthy for a boy reaching adulthood, navigating through the pitfalls of High School with a single parent. I never put pressures on him to make grades or get into college. Of course I wanted him to succeed, but pressure was never anything I needed to add to his life in order for that to happen.
As it turned out, the bonding experience that began when he was 8, that grew into his personal quest by the time he was in High School, prepared him for many things. He can now choose any path he wants and I support him in whatever he chooses. I know that his mother will guide his mind and his hand to what makes her most proud.
Ryme Press doesn't feature new artists very often, but Syd Nukuluk is different. His debut EP, Data X Change, which came out last week, is an incredible addition to left-field rap and experimental music.
Data X Change presents us with an immersive, complex soundscape. From the opening sequence, we are absorbed into a world that is melancholic, ominous, pessimistic, yet, at the same time, also calm and relaxing. Glassbox starts slowly, with a pulsing ambience made from an instrumental played in reverse. A melodic piano line and a heavy hip hop beat then set the song at a consistent and rhythmic pace. Syd's singing is the first voice we hear on the EP. It is understated, almost haunting, and introduces an odd sense of foreboding into the track. When Syd's part ends, the song takes over. Tensions build. Sounds layer on top of each other. Until, at about the halfway mark, the rapper Monika releases the song's pent-up energy: "Gotta fight / Let me pick one / Take a punch / Then my face numb / I need a kick to the rectum / And a new set of teeth!"
Monika's contributions to Data X Change certainly attract the attention he calls for. "I need to mention / That I want attention," he says on the opening track, "I gotta say / that I need some love." Later in the EP, on the track Plasticene [see video below], Monika shines again. Plasticene is the EP's strongest song. While Syd showcases his production abilities, Monika lets out a hard-hitting verse, during which he reflects on his identity in the increasingly technological, disposable, and confused world we live in. While Syd glitches, Monika styles. And, together, they create an abstract rap song that is both cerebral and stirring.
Data X Change is the product of Syd Nukuluk's creative vision. Syd has managed to create an EP that is experimental and varied, while also being stylistically and tonally consistent. Syd blends his influences together (Massive Attack, Portishead, Anti-Pop Consortium, The Bug, Tricky, Gorillaz, Yves Tumor, JPEGMAFIA, to name a few) and, yet, establishes his own, unique sound.
Between the tracks that feature Monika, Syd includes three songs that reveal his versatility. Partial Observer is a lo-fi indie track, and another one of the EP's standout songs. The track begins with a sloppily-played acoustic guitar that shifts into a melodic, finger-picked riff. Syd's vocals are incredibly catchy, particularly as he gets to the song's bridge. "Partial observer, you would face it lying down," he sings over a staccatoed bass line, a shaker, and a steady drum beat, "lying down, lying down, lying down..."
Telephone and Odessa! err on the side of electronic and ambient music. Telephone layers a danceable lo-fi beat with a field recording of chirping birds taken in upstate New York. At the halfway mark, a guitar - experimenting with a major triad and sharp harmonic notes - cuts through the track, introducing the final ambient sequence that ultimately ends the EP. Odessa!, a fully ambient song, is unsettling. It doesn't ease us into the real world again, but, rather, draws us deeper into the one created by Data X Change. The track is made up of sustained chords that drone on until the next chord emerges - seemingly out of the first - and takes over. The acoustic guitar from Partial Observer appears again. The song ends calmly, but almost too abruptly: a kind of muted feedback ends it all.
Data X Change is exciting. For an album that is so reflective and aware of its influences and surroundings, it builds a unique, sonic domain of its own. Data X Change is an incredible debut release, and it will be exciting to hear what Syd Nukuluk and his collaborator, Monika, put out next.
Below, you can find out more about Syd Nukuluk and his debut EP. You'll find a music video for the song "Plasticene," a biography, and images of Syd and Monika's notebooks/notepads.
Syd Nukuluk is a producer, songwriter, and artist based in South London.
Syd explores what it is to be a songwriter in a digital, image based age, playing with and re-contextualising tropes from lost genres of popular music, dipping them into experimental textures. He creates a broad spectrum of sonic melancholia, drawing inspiration from 90s UK trip-hop, experimental hip-hop, post-punk, and ambient music, as well as the resurgent experimental pop sound of the late 2010s.
Syd has been writing music from the age of 13, performing in punk bands through his teenage years, he stepped away from performance to learn the dark arts of engineering and production, based in Snorkel Studios in South London. Data X Change is his first EP.
The recording process of Data X Change began in 2017, with a series of field recordings (one track on the EP is almost entirely made out of audio samples I recorded in the Adirondack Mountains, NY) and experiments in the studio.
Data X Change is the first release involving mysterious French-British rapper Monika: an artist experimenting with an online understanding of blackness and masculinity. He writes fictional texts, which he hopes to promulgate via the internet, to affirm, explore, and transcend his identity. A chance encounter with Syd Nukuluk at a dull party in Peckham in 2018 led to some studio sessions, and they haven’t looked back from there. The duo are already hard at work on their next release.
Slowfoot Records: http://www.slowfoot.co.uk/sydnukuluk.html
FROM THE RHYME BOOK: SYD NUKULUK & MONIKA
dust plume, here’s another place to,
hide and stroke your head you,
give it to yourself, your, antidote it
helps me, see a world so messy,
bits are falling down with, papers all
be slow kid, go and find a
place below the ceiling where it won’t fall,
you know it all, time’s so empty
[source: Syd's notebook]
Thoughts on "We", 1923
We is widely hailed as the first dystopian novel. It takes place in a totalitarian future, governed by the one state.
Visual inspiration of glass walled social housing
↓ ↓ ↓
nature as mortality - cruel spontaneity
Glassbox → WE ARE BEING DRIP FED THE SAME DIGITAL EXPERIENCE
You know what
[source: Syd's notebook]
lust spring from
nowhere like a white rabit
bling in my
the disaster hit
[source: Monika's notepad, which he uses to write orders at his part-time job at a pizza place]
at night write
big text with
bic, i’m a word
the moths are
[source: Monika's notepad]
FROM THE RHYME BOOK
"THE ART OF WAR"
TO - WIN WITHOUT FIGHTING - THAT'S BEST.
LESS STRESS - NONE THE LESS -
IF - A - BATTLE MUST MANIFEST -
FIND OUT WHERE THEY NEST -
CATCH'EM WHILE THEY SMOKE ON CESS.
PUT A HARPOON THROUGH THEY CHEST
NIGGA U DOWN WIT DA WEST!!‽...
PUTN YO FOE TA REST!
AFTER THAT, CLEAN UP THE MESS!
CAN YOU HANDLE THIS!? (YES!)
TAKE YO BULLET PROOF VEST
and the girl wit da big breast
to DISTRACT YO ENEMY - REMEMBER,
tHOSE WHO SEEK PEACE - WIT NO
treaty are PLOTTIN - PIC'EM
OFF LIKE COTTON! THE SUPERIOR
Militarists therefore strike
While schemes are bein laid.
Dress up! Bust thru the Front Door!
This is a FUKN RAID!!
Listen here: "The Art of War" by C.V.E.
How does Beans write? In this interview, Beans talks about his writing practice (from conception to recording) and his ideas about creativity.
How often do you write? Is it an everyday practice?
I try to write a few lines during the day regularly. I stay up late and usually end up putting lines together at night.
What comes first, the words or the beat?
Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether I have a beat or not. I can’t do anything creatively without a title first. The process of everything, for me, stems from the title, which gives the work identity. A title makes writing a lot easier; if I know what a piece of work is going to be called.
What materials do you use: pen and paper, computer, phone?
Mostly pen and paper when putting lines together. I have 2-3 rough-draft books before I rewrite the finished joints into a final draft book. I only use my phone to write lines, but my preference is pen and paper.
What’s usually the first thing you put on the page?
Again, it’s usually the title.
What are some of the most important elements in your writing?
Meaning. Trying to figure out what I’m trying to say and making sure that the title works with a particular piece.
After you’ve got the words on the page, do you do much editing?
I do. I go through roughs and final drafts, then have my missus read over the work to see if I’ve missed anything.
When it comes time to record a track, do you often find yourself changing what you’ve written?
Not often. It’s happened occasionally, but I practice the lyrics weeks beforehand when I know I’m going to record. I usually record all my vocals for an album in one session, so I’m pretty prepared when it’s time for the engineer to press 'record'.