RFB editorial volunteer Samantha Ding recently interviewed Ghanaian-American artist NanaBcool at his album release show at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg.
RFB: How did you get your stage name?
NanaBcool: My real name is Nana and my last name starts with a “B.” I used to get angry a lot when I was in college and I would say to myself, “Nana, be cool.” And I also just have a fascination with the word “cool.” I used to listen to The Cool Kids and wished I was in a group called something like that. Then Lupe Fiasco put out an album called, “The Cool,” and I was like, I need to find a way to add it to my name—so I did.
RFB: You’re Ghanaian-American. Does that influence your music?
NanaBcool: For sure! You get a little glimpse of it in my latest project, in the songs “Godiva” and “Come Thru.” I’m trying to work in Afrobeat, but it’s not going to be typical. I grew up listening to a lot of highlife music, which I would describe as the Ghanaian version of reggae music. And Afrobeat is Ghana’s version of dancehall.
RFB: How was growing up in Ohio?
NanaBcool: I grew up in the suburbs. It’s very black and white, but funnily enough, my neighborhood had all the immigrants. My family’s Ghanaian and I had a lot of Ghanaian, Senegalese, and Somalian friends in my neighborhood.They cared a lot about sports in my town and they actually did care about the arts, too. We used to do a lot of plays at my high school and I was in show choir. Interestingly, hip-hop was very present.
RFB: Now that you live in Brooklyn, is there anything that surprised you about the New York music scene at all?
NanaBcool: Funny, I think it’s not easier but more welcoming in NYC than the Midwest. I feel like if you really want to get something done here, it can get done. There’s a lot of opportunity. If you tell somebody here that you’re trying to make it in music, they welcome you. In other places they would say, “oh…good luck.” It’s also funny when you leave New York and people know about the scene here and put it on a pedestal. They have no idea that we’re all out here riding the subway just like every other person.
RFB: What are your favorite venues to perform at?
NanaBcool: In New York, Baby’s All Right. This was my third time performing there and my first headline—so I met that goal. And I haven’t performed at this place yet, but one day I’m going to: Madison Square Garden. One of these days it’s going to happen and then that will be my favorite place to perform.
RFB: You’ve just released your new album “Ice Tea.” What does it mean to you?
NanaBcool: It’s my first real album. It’s the album I’ve been trying to make and it’s supposed to represent a particular feeling. I used to live in Chicago in a really nice apartment with two of my friends. We had people over all the time and played different music, and I would always dream that we would play my stuff. This is the kind of music you would listen to at a gathering like that. It’s supposed to be the soundtrack to kickbacks.
RFB: Why is it called “Ice Tea”?
NanaBcool: “Sugar Honey Ice Tea” represents the “shit,” so I want to say that I’m the “sugar honey iced tea” and want other people to say that about themselves while I’m performing. We’re all at a venue together, making some kind of history together, so we’re all the sugar honey iced tea, the shit. And also, who doesn’t like iced tea?
RFB: Who are you listening to nowadays?
NanaBcool: Mereba, Burna Boy, Koffee, Linda Diaz, Cool Company, Nick Hanson, Elijah Fox, Simon Sez—I could go on for days!
NanaBcool’s debut album, “Ice Tea,” is now available wherever fine tunes are purveyed.