At first glance, you might recognize Jo Rivera as the potty-mouthed teen father on MTV’s reality show Teen Mom 2. But these days, the 19-year-old Pennsylvania native, who now goes by the artistic name N.I.C.K. B (Nerd in a cool kid’s body), is hoping to flip his luck — and reputation — and launch a career as a rapper.
A couple of weeks ago, N.I.C.K. B, who is signed to his uncle’s management company, Qwozy, released a remix to Alicia Keys’ “Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)” with an accompanying video. Shot in a neighboring New Jersey town by local film company Santo and featuring aspiring harmonizer Steeve Sam, the clip finds the Puerto Rican teen being enamored by a young lady he meets at the corner bodega. “Hey pretty mami, you look sweet, I mean, you’re the kind of girl I been dying to meet/I’m surviving the heat, you the vibe of these hot streets, like a hot beat,” he rhymes over the 40 production.
One might argue the line is about his baby momma Kailyn Lowry and the “heat” he’s gotten from critics after the airing of an episode of Teen Mom 2 in which N.I.C.K. gets verbally aggressive with his ex after finding out there’s a new man in her life. And while N.I.C.K. didn’t confirm either way, he did admit that he chose to release this particular love-stricken track as his introduction to music in hopes that people might see a more sensitive side of him.
XXLMag.com caught up with the Teen dad recently to talk about his aspirations as a rapper, the negative attention he’s gotten in the past and how he plans on turning that into a positive. —Mariel Concepcion
XXLMag.com: How did you get into rapping and when?
N.I.C.K. B: I started rapping about three or four years ago. I never really got into the recording aspect, but recently, maybe a year ago, I started writing my own stuff.
So you’ve been rapping for about three or four years, but only recently launched your first video. What made you want to go hard now?
About a year ago, maybe a year-and-a-half ago, I just really wanted to take a shot and see who would actually be interested in the music and who I would be able to entertain. People have been supportive so far.
Have you gotten any haters yet?
I’ve gotten responses from both sides — haters and fans. A lot of people don’t want to take me serious ’cause I’m coming off a reality show, but a lot of people are liking it. Most people are surprised. I’ve seen some of the comments and people are mostly surprised that I’m actually doing it and that I’m as good as I am. Either way, I’m still gonna make music.
Where does the name N.I.C.K. B come from?
It stands for “nerd in a cool kid’s body.” It comes from my interest and knowledge of hip-hop and just being so interested in learning all the time.
How did the “Un-Thinkable (Remix)” come about? And how’d you end up teaming with those you worked on the video with?
Well, the “Un-Thinkable (Remix),” it was an idea thought up by the fans that was brought to my attention from management. They thought it’d be something that would be a good look and I agreed.
[Manager Greystoke jumps in]
The Alicia keys track is hot. It’s a year in, but the track is still hot. The idea for the love song was a good idea coming off the show because of all the bad publicity Jo’s gotten. He’s not a bad guy. He’s not a lady hater. It was a good look at the time.
That makes sense. Have you learned anything from being on Teen Mom 2 that has helped you in your aspiring rap career?
I got a lot of negative attention on the show. At the time, I didn’t realize I was going to get so much attention from the show. But, now I know how to handle myself in an interview and how to deal with it personally if someone speaks badly of me. I learned how to be more humble and take things more lightly. I know how to react, how to control myself, and I really changed as a person since all that has happened. Now I know you get bad criticism no matter what.
You’ve got some haters, but have you gained any crossover fans from Teen Mom 2?
Yeah. People, of course, want to work with you ’cause they think you have a buzz. As far as my fanbase, yeah, the show has given me a bit of a fanbase. As far as connections go on MTV, no, I’ve gotten none of that. I’m working 100% independently.
Still, it appears you get a lot of love from the ladies online. How is that going for you?
I mean, it’s been alright. Once you become known, women come at you. Every man wants every girl in the world but you can’t do that. I’m not trying to do that. I’m not trying to meet girls online and have groupies. I don’t have time for women now. I’m just trying to get my goal accomplished.
Aside from the “Un-Thinkable (Remix),” what have you worked on so far?
Well, we worked on a few songs recently. I mean, I have all this stuff from before, but I’m trying to start off fresh.
What’s next for you?
I’m just trying to put a new track list together and start fresh. I’m working on an EP and also doing some collaborations with an artist under Qwozy Management. I’ve done shows in the past with Overtime Grind Group, the group that I was a member of before going solo. I’ve done songs with them, but I’ve never focused on my solo stuff. I want people to understand what my style is and I want to polish and master my act.
Do you hope to sign to a major?
Yes and no. It would be great to sign to a major label to help with promotion and help me become a household name. But I also don’t want to get stuck with a major that’s gonna take my money and keep my music. I rather build my own company and work with my own budget and just continue doing shows to make a name for myself.
Now that you’ve got some eyes on you, is there anybody you’re hoping to collaborate with?
Listen, whether big or underground, I would love to work with people that are here for hip-hop. I’m in it for hip-hop. I like lyrics and I like being entertained. I’m not a big party guy that’s gonna make dance songs. But, I’d like to work with anybody from [New Jersey], like Redman and Tame One, Young G and The Outsidaz are dope. Really, anybody who wants to work and do this music.
While your fans wait for a follow-up, is there anything you want them to know in the meantime?
Basically, just stay tuned. It’s not gonna stop. It’s what I do. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my twitter, @overtimeboy1. There’s more to come. Keep your ears and eyes open.