“I’m not here to impress anybody” Long Beach’s Mikem Nahmir on Creativity, Mental Health, and More.

“I’m kinda in a league of my own,” Mikem Nahmir tells me over DM. Northside Nahmir’s matter of fact confidence should come as no surprise. While some rappers get caught up in gimmicks, Nahmir doesn’t seem to have that problem. A natural artist, Nahmir is able to create strong musical products while staying busy in all kinds of artistic lanes. 

Nahmir is a creative workhorse. After dropping 6 well-produced projects in 2020 that showcase his talents, from his pure West coast vocals to his lyrical storytelling ability, Nahmir continues to tease new music weekly. Nahmir is well known to stake out in the studio recording in frantic bursts as the spirit moves him. When unable to let his energy out on the mic, he’s probably doing something like designing + printing graphic t-shirts or sewing and painting handbags, or skating around Long Beach, California. Whatever Nahmir attacks, he goes all in giving every task a genuine piece of his spirit. 

photo shot by @tonynotfree

Already an adept rapper with AMERIKKKA and Criminal Thoughts being 2020 standouts over here at GSC, Nahmir’s creative engine continuously has him working on his own artistic arsenal of talents. Announcing a beat tape with ATLPromise on the same day he releases a solo track is the summary of Nahmir’s work output. Music drops as soon as it arrives and art comes like a lightning strike: random and powerful. Nahmir’s creations, from the visual to musical, have a punk energy to them. With varying vocal abilities capable of laying waste to a track like Ice Cube or switching up to his romantic swag, the skate obsessed MC’s creative aesthetic can be summed up as eccentric. 

For Nahmir, however, making music is just a way of dealing with the stress of the world. “Rap should be therapeutic to everyone who raps,” Nahmir states when I ask him why he chooses to rap despite being so good at many other things. When Nahmir sees the art form as a necessary act of self-maintenance, it exemplifies what makes his random and sudden release model feel so urgent: they are self-portraits. No different than a selfie taken to document a moment in time, a feeling or memory, Nahmir’s releases reflect a man in struggle, adjustment, and acceptance on repeat. The many stages of development, especially as a Black man in America, can find someone dealing with a mental and physical turmoil. Nahmir’s ability to cover the emotional spectrum of many in his skin tone is where his quiet power comes into play. 

Nahmir recently announced his label name change to ˈEnəmē or ENNEMI. With the definition that an enemy is, “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something,” Nahmir’s radical roots are apparent for all to see. As his music has developed, Nahmir has found himself a proponent of progressive and revolutionary means to liberation in an unjust and white supremacy leaning society. Regardless of his radical messaging through his last few projects, Nahmir’s usage of revolutionary symbolism and messages are not simply monetizing Black activism. Rooted in his upbringing in the streets, Nahmir sticks to a strict moral code that can be boiled down to, “I’m just tryna create properly n peacefully.” 

photo shot by Ojene Basmadjian

I had the opportunity to chat with Nahmir a week ago. Below is our conversation touching on creativity, masculinity, and more.

GSC: Who are you and how do you identify?

Mikem Nahmir: My name is Mikem Nahmir and I identify as a black man from the north side of Long Beach, California. Nothing more and nothing less than bone and flesh.

GSC: You’re a multi-disciplinary artist. You’re a graphic designer, you’re a skater, a vocalist, and producer. Dare I even say a model. What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a different relationship with each art medium?

Mikem Nahmir: Every single “medium” is just another piece of my life being brought to life through art, sound and fashion. Creativity can’t be equally poured into each creative outlet. Some things require more creative energy than others. All of my relationships with my creations are completely different. They’re like children of my brain.

GSC: Skateboarding in Hip-Hop has a long and well-documented history. How long have you been skating and what do you enjoy about it?

Mikem Nahmir: I’m pretty sure I’ve been rolling around on a board since I was little but I’ve been SKATING skating since I was like 17 and I’m now I’m 23 so that’s like 6 years. I love how free a nigga can feel on the board. Just cruising through people and cars and sometimes even animals. It’s a beautiful feeling. It’s damn near a movie if you’re listening to your favorite music while you do it.

GSC: You’re from Long Beach. Who are your biggest musical influences?

Mikem Nahmir: Madlib, Nas, DOOM, Mobb Deep, Navy Blue, Pink Siifu, MIKE, AASIR, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Sade, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Mach Hommy, Snoop, Nate, Daz Kurupt, Adonis, Dirty Dell, Huey Briss, Seafood Sam, Mos Def, Vince Staples etc.

GSC: You’re a student of the Hip-Hop game. What era of Hip-Hop is your favorite?

Mikem Nahmir: It’s definitely between the early 90s and early 2000s. In the early 90s, rap was going CRAZY. You had the evil phonk coming out of the Memphis underground, all the gangster shit coming from over here, the east coast was holding it down and everything was cool before the east vs west shit got active and outta hand. The early 2000s had DMX and the Ruff Ryders, Cam’ron and Dipset, the West Side Connection, Madlib and Stones Throw, Rage Against the Machine & more.

GSC: You’re linked up with some core collaborators. How did you meet Aasir and katacrossthestreet? What is your working relationship like?

Mikem Nahmir: Damn, that’s cool you asked about Kat. She’s my best friend. We do everything together. It’s so easy to make music with someone you trust with your life. My nigga AASIR is the big homie. Met him via Twitter last year and we just took off from there and gave y’all, what I think, is one of the best projects of 2020. No doubt.

GSC: When did you start making your own beats? Do you prefer to rap over your own beats or other producers?

Mikem Nahmir: I started making beats last year. It’s a very therapeutic thing for me. One of the very few ways I can deal with some of the things I go through mentally so I usually don’t rap over the beats I make. AA really be holding it down on the beat side if we being honest.

GSC: You’ve intentionally stayed away from trends and hypebeast behavior. What do you find so enticing about the DIY route?

Mikem Nahmir: Niggas like me, AA, Promise and some of my other rap peers been doing what we do without being trendy and appealing to the hype by just being ourselves. I don’t give a fuck about being cool and rapping about shit I don’t got. That shit corny. I’m not enticed by the DIY route at all. I been doing this shit by myself since I started.  It’s everyday life for me. You getting REAL LIFE shit every time you press play on one of my records. I’m not here to impress anybody…

GSC: You drop a lot of music. Last year you dropped 6 projects and that doesn’t include the loosies and beats you’ve been flexing with. What’s your recording process like and how do you know when a project is done? How do you know when a song is just meant to be a loosie?

Mikem Nahmir: I don’t think I have a “recording process”. I just get in the booth, turn the lights off, ask the engineer if he’s ready and we just take off. No weed. No henny. No lean. Just focus. I guess that IS a process, huh? When it comes to knowing when shit is done, DOOM is the reason I know when to wrap shit up and just let something be. Perfect example of the perfect loosie is “Monkey Suit”. Perfect example of a perfect project is Madvillainy. Don’t even have to explain that.

painting done by Alicia Mutlu

GSC: What does masculinity mean to you?

Mikem Nahmir: I don’t know. I think that shit is just an image. It’s not a feeling that you can actually feel. Pimp C was hella masculine. Playboi Carti is not. You get my drift? The pimps, hustlers and gangsters kinda stamped what it means to “masculine”. That’s what I grew up with and that’s what ended up making me the man I am.

GSC: You’re very outspoken about mental health and social justice issues on social media. These topics are also covered in your music without being corny or commodified. What about your upbringing do you credit for your ability to be so open and vulnerable about such heavy topics?

Mikem Nahmir: I was brought up around shit a lot of 9,10 & 11 year olds shouldn’t have to see at that age. I seen my first d*** body at 12. I had to block out like ¼ of my life, cuh. In my teenage years, me and my homies weren’t hooping and getting out the hood like in the movies. We were banging, skating and selling whatever. No one was getting jobs. They literally stopped hiring niggas at the nice places in Long Beach AND Downtown LA. We were barely getting BURGER JOBS, cuh. Fuck a “9 to 5”, my nigga. We were tired. It affected everyone mentally beyond physically. No one wanted to talk about it though. That’s why I’M doing it.

GSC: Your music this year has touched on Black radical ideas. Where did these influences come from and are there any musical or literature recommendations you have for people more interested in Black Power politics? 

Mikem Nahmir: I got Panther blood in my veins. Everyday I study. Huey P, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton, Marcus Garvey, Assata Shakur. All the greats left a piece of their mind behind so our minds can’t reach heights theirs didn’t. My favorite book right now is Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. Nothing but truth. Front to back

GSC: You’re constantly designing dope merch and shirts. When did you get into graphic design? What do you like about the visual medium?

Mikem Nahmir: I didn’t start making merch and shit until February of 2020. I love the fact that I can take some shit I seen in my head, put it on a shirt, sell it to someone who thinks it’s cool and feed my family in the process. All I wanna do is feed the fam and put my people on. That’s it.

GSC: What can we expect from you in 2021? 

Mikem Nahmir: Peace, love, light and growth.

GSC: How have you been taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mikem Nahmir: Just been drinking water, getting sleep, skating, meditating, smoking a lot of weed, spending a lot of time with myself and doing my best to keep MYSELF calm. I don’t really let the shit happening on the tv and social media affect anything I’m doing with my shit in real life

Thank you for asking

And thank you for your time

Blessings and bless up

Follow Mikem Nahmir on Twitter and IG and check out his self-directed music video for “21THREE5” below. Article picture photo shot by @tonynotfree.

21THREE5 (official video)

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