Nef the Pharaoh Puts His Heart Into ‘The Chang Project’
It's been three years since the rap world first got familiar with Vallejo, Calif. rapper Nef The Pharaoh after his New Orleans-inspired record "Big Tymin" blew up locally and in the state of California. Since then, Nef has become one of the new, young leaders of the Bay Area rap scene, with his presence only getting bigger and more noticeable by hip-hop's elite.
Currently working on his debut album, The Big Chang Theory, the 22-year-old rhymer looks to give his fans a bit of an appetizer until the album launches, with an upcoming release, The Chang Project. The effort, dropping April 28, features 15 tracks and collaborations from the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Larry June and KILMFB signee and Sik Wit It label mate OMB Peezy, among others.
Nef, who recently dropped the video for "Spice" featuring Yhung T.O. of SOB x RBE, is gearing up to hit the road this spring to promote the project as well as the other ventures he has in the works, which include merchandising, pre-roll joints, natural cannabis oils and much more. This guy is focused on expanding his brand.
Soaking up game from E-40, his OG and Sik Wid It record label head honcho, Nef has learned the value of branding himself as well as the importance of getting money from various avenues. The Bay Area legend's wise words have stuck with Nef on his path to hip-hop stardom. Under 40's umbrella, Nef has achieved success in his burgeoning career, releasing his self-titled EP, Nef The Pharaoh, in 2015, and guest featuring on a number of buzz-worthy songs next to 40.
Now with a record label of his own, KILFMB, and a project on the way, Nef The Pharaoh looks to make 2017 the biggest year of his career. During a recent visit to XXL's office in New York City, the rapper chopped it up about his 2017 plans, his business ventures and the legend E-40 and more. Check out the conversation below.
XXL: You've been working on your album, The Big Chang Theory, for quite some time now. What's the status of the project? And is it still coming out in spring?
Nef The Pharaoh: The Big Chang Theory will be my album, but the project I’m gonna release before my album is called The Chang Project, so basically what you can expect on that is a lot of fun-filled tracks. I’m putting my heart into a lot of these songs. Any features that I’m doing on this project are people that I really take a liking to and really mess with on a daily basis.
I'm kind of like a weird cat. I really don't mix and master with too many individuals, you know? I keep the same circle. So if you hear me get on a song with someone on my project than it's real sincere. I either really like that person or I see something in them, so that's what you can expect from The Chang Project.
Will you be going on tour to promote this project? And what else can we expect from this release?
I got a tour coming up for The Chang Project and I got merchandise for the tour as well. It's gonna go crazy. Right now, I’m just branding myself. It’s really all about branding yourself and how you sell yourself and how you promote yourself. Like I shouldn't even call it The Chang Project, I should call it The Chang Experience, you know? Because it's a whole new experience, bro. I'm coming with merch, shows, like I’m saying, I’m putting you in a simulator.
Besides rapping, you've also managed to be pretty successful in other business ventures. Who inspires you to dabble into different businesses and what are the current ventures you have in the works?
The type of shit that inspires me to put my hands in different business ventures is [E-]40, man! You know, he's been rapping since the ‘80s and he’s been successful at it. He’s gone gold and platinum in the last two years, you know? So once you get in your head, man, that this rapping shit is easy, man, than you always going to be able to get to this rap money.
For me now, it's about seeing where I can put my knowledge and my brain to get other type of money I can receive, so that’s what I just apply myself to. I just tap into my brain waves and come up with ideas. I created the pre-roll joints. I got my pre-roll Backwoods. For those who don’t like smoking papers or joints, I’m coming out with an all natural hemp blunt, when it's weed wrapped in weed. I got natural cannabis oils. I have helium bombs coming out, man. I just opened my own touring company. I just signed OMB Peezy along with E-40, so he signed to KILFMB and Sick Wid It Records. It's just amazing, man. There’s just a lot of things coming from Nef The Pharaoh. I have my hands on a lot of shit this year, so people better be on the lookout.
What's the most valuable advice you've received from E-40 and why?
Every day is a weekend and every weekend is a day. That might go past a lot of people's heads, but what I got in my brain from that message was that you don’t know how fast everything can be gone. You can just walk outside the door and drop dead, you know? So leave something on this earth that’s going to leave a positive impact. Nothing negative. All the negativity should be out the window. Just being a positive human being. Always staying hungry. Always staying humble. That's what 40 teaches me every day with being in his presence.
You're considered one of the best new acts coming out of the Bay. How does that make you feel?
I feel like when Kanye West signed to Roc-A-Fella Records. I feel like I was the Kanye of the Bay and this the Roc-A-Fella. You remember that "Through The Wire" video when it stops for a little bit and they had this big ass show where Kanye said, "I’m the newest member of the Roc-A-Fella team," and he gets his chain? Well, when I got my chain that's how I felt and that's how I presented myself.
Do you remember when you got your Sick Wid It chain and where were you when you received it?
I got my chain in 2015. I remember I was on the block probably smoking or doing something ignorant and 40 called me and asked me, "What I was doing?" I told him I was posted with the homies and he was like, "Go to Southland mall. I got something up there for you. Just go over there. I told them I sent you," and I was like, "Aight." So I tell my cousin to take me to the mall that day and when we get there I was like, I don’t know what he wants.
I’m guessing he wants me to pick up something for him, so I go there and they just start playing my music when I walk in the jewelry store. I was like, Oh, shit! This is tight. So when I walked in they playing my music or what not, and all of the lights were gleaming and I remember I had my back turned at one moment and this jeweler named Karl comes out and he puts the chain on my neck as I turn around.
It was an amazing moment for me that just took my breath away, you know? I say with my generation—the chains, the rings, the diamonds and all of that—represents the come up, you know? We've been down for so long. We come from project homes. Section 80 and food stamps. So our jewels represent our wins so I’m gonna shine forever, man. I'm gonna make sure my seeds shine. My family shine. I’m gonna make sure I leave them with a nice stable foundation, you know?
As a young rap act out of the Bay, you've always shown love to the pioneers of rap and the OGs, but nowadays, with some of your younger peers, that's not the case. Why do you think there's a big disconnect between the younger generation of rap and the veterans in hip-hop?
That's 'cause a lot of these young punks don’t have OGs in their life to tell them you doing wrong. Sit your ass down. Reevaluate your thoughts because you sound like a dummy. A lot of these niggas think they created words and terms that they did not create. A lot of them get this alter ego, or big-headed, and it just becomes a problem to the rap community when really we just need to all come together.
The rap pioneers of this shit or the OGs of this shit should start giving out seminars or reach out to these young niggas 'cause they going crazy without guidance, and I feel like that's the No. 1 problem right now in the rap game. I gotta OG, you know what I mean? My OG keeps me laced and you know gamed up, but I’m seeing a lot of my peers don’t have that advantage and I feel like that's needed.
What's been the biggest moment of your young career thus far?
When DJ Khaled and Beyonce brought me out at the Formation Tour. Wait, that was actually my second biggest moment. My biggest moment so far in my career was when I met Kanye West. He shook my hand and he smiled at me. He made me freestyle and I rapped for him for like an hour straight. He even started doing little ad-libs and shit to it and it blew my mind. My smile was from ear to ear that day. Like I could really feel myself smiling that day.
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