Nikko McFadden is making a name for himself, and this time around, it’s for all the right reasons. After spending time selling drugs, living on the streets, and behind prison bars, McFadden is pouring his struggles into rhyme, recently releasing his third album, Chapter 26. Looking forward to his performance at the 605 Summer Classic this month, McFadden reflects on the past that has influenced his passion for hip-hop and motivation for success.
What has fueled your drive for a career in hip-hop music?
Nikko McFadden: I started writing when I was 12 years-old. I loved writing poetry, and as I started getting into hip-hop music, my writing naturally transitioned into that. My parents divorced when I was 8 years-old, and I started getting into trouble soon after that. I was mad at the world. The whole father situation was hard for me. I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to be a man, how to shave…it was a tough learning experience. I wasn’t involved in a good crowd. I was kicked out of my house when I was 16 for selling drugs, and was homeless for the next two years. I got into trouble when I was 18, and ended up in prison for three years. I spent a lot of time on my music in prison – that was my escape. There were a handful of people who wrote me letters, but I didn’t have any visitors my entire time there. When I got out, I told myself I was going to be sober and do things the right way. I started to really focus on recording. I got a job and was working 65-70 hours every week, saving every dollar I had to put towards my music.
Where do you find inspiration for your music?
NM: My life experience drives my music. It gives it real substance. I reflect on my struggles and life lessons in my writing and put together beats and background vocals that make it entertaining to listen to. When I was in prison, music was all that I had. It was my way out. I went through a serious depression, and all I would do is write. All of those emotions show through my music.
When did writing and recording become more of a career than a hobby?
NM: In 2014, I did what every mother always tells her kid not to do and quit my day job to start working on my music full time. I moved to Omaha to be closer to my road manager, Harold Monday, and the Vado Films video crew. My singles were immediately put into rotation with 106.9, Omaha’s largest urban station. Last year, I had two full tours across 12 states, and threw the first annual Real Life Music Festival. We have the 2nd annual festival this September. I recently released my 3rd full length album, Real Life Music Vol. 3 – Chapter 26, and reached my 10 year anniversary recording at Cathouse Studios with longtime friend and engineer Mike Dresch. I am so blessed to be where I am. I’m living my dream.
How has your past experience changed you?
NM: I share my past experience to try and help others. I don’t like to preach, but I do talk to the younger generation. One of my biggest aspirations is to work with troubled youth and give back to the community that has supported my vision. I’ve spoken at the VOA several times, a group of 100 kids came to hear me speak at Augustana College campus, LSS, Boys and Girls Club, I love doing stuff like that.
Where do you hope to take your career?
NM: I have seven festivals coming up, including the 605 Summer Classic with my Real Life Music partner Philly Fate. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve been wanting to perform on that stage for years. I’m starting a business here in South Dakota with a friend of mine, Vaney Hariri, teaching artist development courses. It’s a 12-month program covering every aspect of a career in music, from marketing and branding to the motivation fueling the artist. Going into this business without having a mentor was really tough for me. I learned along the way, but if we could help others through our own experience, we could cultivate our scene. It would be a blessing. I would love to travel coast to coast if I could. Get a national distribution and have my songs played across the country. Ideally, I’d like to take this as far as I can get.
Find more info on Nikko and his music at nikkomcfadden.com.