ASK HIM ANYTHING: AMIR SAYS NOTHING ON STAND-UP, MEETING ATMOSPHERE, AND HIS NEW EP "MEDIUM RARE"

Revisit our interview with Amir Says Nothing and listen to his debut EP, Medium Rare, at the end of the interview.

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

JONATHAN TATE: Who are you?
AMIRSAYSNOTHING: I am the blue collar priest, eldest son of the pastor, musical contributor and the wildest of woods, AmirSaysNothing aka Says Nada aka Nada the Damaja.

Where is your home?
Home physically is Los Angeles soaking in this sunshine, but I am a
Native to New York City and also call home Boston, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Music isn't your only form of expression. How else do you share the inner workings of your mind with the world?
Well, I like to talk a whole bunch, usually most of the "sharing" is in those everyday interactions, you know? I was also the host of a stand-up comedy show for a year and from time to time still get up there and do a set – that's always interesting.

How was it growing up for you?
Growing up was solid, until about 1998: [We] moved up to Massachusetts and my parents split and from there it was kind of hectic, always back and forth, be it from MA to NY, to NJ to NY and so on and so forth. But as an adult I can really appreciate that stuff now; it wasn't fun at the time, but it kind taught me how to have to start fresh and do well in different situations, put up with a lot. I’m the oldest kid so, you know, a lot was on my shoulders growing up thats molded me now as a man.

What do you do for exercise? (Walk, skip, kart wheel, mental push-ups?)
I freestyle at some point everyday, not even on purpose, just entertaining myself. Laughter is great exercise, and I skate with friends and shit, and occasionally a hike in Malibu.

How long have you been writing lyrics?
I wrote for the first time probably about three years ago. I went through the waves I used to go through about wanting to take rapping seriously, so I grabbed a composition notebook and a fucking sharpie and wrote a song about waking up and walking through the day, like on some storytelling type shit. It was probably bad – I think I might have it around somewhere.

Would you say your writing process/style is getting better with time?
Oh without a doubt, if not I'd quit this shit [laughs]. Nah I'm playing, I mean for sure I noticed and still notice things being more fluid, complex, and also just more concise. My old writing was super wordy and now it’s wordy but in the way I feel it should be: Cut the fat essentially. I’ve been freestyle rapping since I was 16, and started writing at 20 so it was just about getting all that shit I could spit off the dome into concise ideas on paper a.k.a. songs.

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

When you think of your childhood, what songs come to mind?
The defining song of my childhood is "Award Tour" by Tribe Called
Quest, "Crooklyn" by the group Crooklyn Dodgers was a big one, Crooklyn
the movie was big part of our upbringing and the soundtrack is kind of
like the soundtrack to my early life [laughs] and the last one was
"Waterfalls" by TLC. We had that shit on cassette when we lived in Mt.
Vernon.

Do you have family members that are musically inclined?
It’s funny because music has always been apart of my family, my cousins
all were involved: one managed Nelly during his early career, his
brother was an agent, his other brother is an attorney for KRS-One, one
point DMX and many others, I always heard a story about my Uncle Shannon
rapping with Outkast in High School(he and my dad grew up in ATL), my
grandfather had a music label in Atlanta, and my dad used to be nicknamed
"The Hip Hop Minister" in New York. [My dad] was the minister at Mosque No.7
in Harlem and was good friends and close to a lot of guys like Guru,
Talib Kweli, Weldon Irvine, the list goes on. One time when I was around 11 years old, my dad was like “We’re going to go pick up my friend in Times Square,” and we pick this guy up off the street. Turns out to be Q-Tip – that was honestly the first time I was kinda like "Wow.” So
basically a lot of behind the scenes stuff, but I don't think anyone
took the artist role until my brother and I.

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

What are the top 10 most played songs on your iTunes RIGHT NOW?!
Well this Joey Bada$$ album just came out so that’s getting alto play in
the crib/ride/work but let’s see:

1. "95 till Inifinity" by Joey Bada$$
2. "Adjust" by Atmosphere
3. "Waves" by Joey Bada$$
4."When I Come Around" by Dom Kennedy
5. "Ear Blister" by Atmosphere
6. "I Like It" by DeBarge
7. "Girls, Girls, Girls" by Jay-Z
8. "Da Art of Storytelling' pt. 1" by Outkast
9. "Red Light Special" by TLC

What albums/EP's are you looking forward to hearing in 2015?
Well "B4.Da.$$" by Joey Bada$$ just dropped like I mentioned, "Mr.
Wonderful" by Action Bronson should be dope. I've been really enjoying
his shit lately, food references, he's comedy and he can actually
rap which is always refreshing nowadays. The A$AP album should be dope,
and Kendrick Lamar's album of course. I’m not really sure what else is
coming out besides my own project "Medium Rare”(shameless self
promotion).

Do you watch TV?
I only watch the premium shit: "The Walking Dead", "Shameless", "Girls",
other than that I just do Netflix and DVDS.

When it comes to your clothing, do you have a uniform?
I wouldn't say a uniform. It’s usually a black t-shirt, not too
crazy about huge graphics or anything and a pair of pants, black
usually, occasionally olive green or the tiger camo joints in this photoshoot. all RVCA pants though (plug).

What was the last book you read cover to cover? PDFs count.
I don't read as often as I should honestly, at least not books, but my
pops got me the book "Furious Cool" by Richard Pryor so that's "in
progress."

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

What was the last music video you saw that left you feeling inspired?
Probably the video for Atmosphere's song "Fortunate”. It was shot at the
show I went to in L.A. actually on Ant's birthday and they filmed it with
all these people in line waiting. I thought it was a dope way of
incorporating the people who love you into the art they love. Imagine every single one of those peoples’ day being made when they saw themselves in that.

How did you and Atmosphere become chummy?
It’s funny actually because it’s kind of a testament to the power of social
media. I just followed him on Twitter and from time to time I would tweet
to him or something and he'd tweet back. Eventually I sent him this book
I wrote. (I thought it'd be cool to have him read it.) He ended up
getting me into their last show at the Palladium as like a guest of Slug and
I was like "wow, eternally grateful" and he followed me back on Twitter
and you know, it’s cool – We’re like Twitter buddies, hopefully I can have
a BBQ one day and invite him to that shit ahah.

Do you browse WorldStar?
Sadly I do, I try to avoid all of the mindlessness on there,
occasionally I click it but I had to leave the Vine comps alone, it's
like three minutes of ass-twerking, four minutes of fighting, three minutes of
comedy... I can't do it. It makes my brain feel completely off. It's like in
Undercover Brother when he's wearing the "caucasa-vision" glasses,
videos of mindless shit, hah.

Looking through SUSPEND photo archives your face pops up a few times.
How did you first learn about SUSPEND Magazine?
Man, you know I be everywhere and shit [laughs] No, I'm joking, honestly
that just came from me working at RVCA and getting to know everyone that
works and spends time on Fairfax [Ave] and I ended up at a party at Tried and True Co,.
for the issue with Stacey [Hash] on it and became a friend/fan since.

What is one food you could eat everyday?
A fucking hamburger. Where do you think that EP title came from? Ha.

Do you take vocal lessons?
Nah, shower singing/car singing/Snapchat singing. I learn in the streets,
you know. That's how your really learn' to sing – that's how Whitney Houston
did it.

Can you share a quote that you find underrated?
"Treat Others The Way You Would Like To Be Treated", I learned that at Benjamin Banneker Charter School in like 1998 and it has
never left me (shoutout to Principal Birkett).

Do you write poetry?
I don’t, but I can like freestyle some poetry. I've never done it
seriously – only in  comedic form – but my cousin's fiance is a poet
and she's schooling me on the art.

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

Would you consider yourself normal?
Yes, but for some reason other people tend not too. Not in like a "I'm
special" way, but I've always heard a lot about my behavior.

Do you own any records? If so, how many?
Man, I'm guilty of downloading music, but I work so get off my back about
it, gotta keep these lights on nigga!, ahah I just bought a record
player for my lady and I just copped the G-Unit "Wanna Get to Know Ya"
single on vinyl so I'm starting.

Do you think time is moving fast?
It is and you don't notice it until you watch little children. My sister
is about be 12 and she and my brother blow my mind because every time I go
back East, they're about 10 steps more advanced than they were last time. It makes me wanna cry!

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

AmirSaysNothing (Los Angeles). Photo: Jonathan Tate / SUSPEND Magazine

What was the last museum you went to? Was it for a exhibit?
Yo, I went to the LACMA and it closed 10 minutes after we arrived. 
Fucking worst day, man, and the Petersen Auto Museum Gift Shop.

Is it really all about perspective?
Honestly perspective is the most important thing in the world. It's the
difference between a Hero and A Villain, Right and Wrong, Art and Not
art, and shit like that, the point is is that perspective creates
everything: you, a person perceives an artist as great and so do some
other people and they're able to pay they're rent doing what they love,
Perspective is the difference between you thinking the world revolves
around you and understanding that your just another piece of a system
and think about how you can find a way to be the best gear you can be
and leave an impact on the system, if you're lucky, and at the very
minimum you feel good about doing your job and not being a narcissistic
prick who thinks everything is about them, you know perspective is what
creates humility, something we all can use a straight up shot into the
veins of.

Who is Amir Tillard?
He's a guy, a guy who is just like you, flesh, blood, and full of ideas.

Jonathan Tate Jonathan is the Senior Staff Photographer at SUSPEND Magazine. He is also an avid cheesecake lover.