| Artist Of The Week - Notar
| Monday, November 22, 2010
Born in New Haven, CT, Notar’s had two huge influences that have affected him from day one. First there’s his family’s work ethic. Having owned a grocery story in Hamden for generations, Notar’s never known a time when his family wasn’t doing for self. Second is his family’s musical side. His father was a trumpet player and it wouldn’t be long before Notar followed in his musical footsteps. Half Italian and half Lebanese, Notar went his own route musically, and it’s done him well. An emcee backed by a full band, Notar recently caught the ear of Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz, who started a label and quickly inked Notar to a deal.
Now residing in NYC, Notar has made a name for himself in the hip-hop scene there, as well, most notably at Freestyle Mondays. This week I caught up with Notar to find out more about his music, how the closing of Sin Sin, which was the longtime home of Freestyle Mondays, affected him, and how seriously we should take his blog’s title of Notar for President.
Adam Bernard: How does a kid from New Haven link up with Adam Duritz and land on his label?
Notar: A pretty crazy series of events. I recorded a demo about a year and half, two years, ago, and played it for a mutual friend. He played the demo for Adam and Adam dug what he heard. I don’t think he had any intention of making a label. I think he wanted to work with me and it was more one artist appreciating another artist and wanting to school him into the rules of how to go about this and how write great songs and come into your own. That’s how it happened, but I’ve been doing music my whole life. My dad was a trumpet player and after he died I picked up his trumpet. It was a way for me to connect with him and stay close to that until I figured out what I wanted my own tool to be, and that was to be a lyricist. I feel like I can get my message across better through my vocals than through the trumpet. I’m not saying I don’t have a huge love and admiration for it, but I just wanted to relate my message that way.
Adam Bernard: And with that you became a Freestyle Mondays veteran. Freestyle Mondays is going to continue at Bar 13, but it recently had its last event at Sin Sin, the spot where it started and spent many years. What does the closing of Sin Sin mean to you?
Notar: The closing of Sin Sin means more to me than I can probably sum up in a few words. That placed changed my life. The emcees there, people that were there when I first started going there, to people that were there up until the last show at Sin Sin... I consider them family. I’d help any single one of them out. There have been numerous occasions where I’d sat in the back of that place and talked to someone who was having a hard time. It was about more than just rapping, there was a camaraderie in it and an energy in that place that is unmatched. I met some of my best friends there. As you saw at the show (at R Bar on November 3rd) I saw iLLspoKinN (in the crowd) and didn’t think twice about calling him up on stage and ripping with me. If I was at the VMAs or Grammys and he was in the front row I’d probably still pull him up. There was just a really big respect between emcees there, it was never “I’m better than you,” this that and the other, it was the way that community should be and the closing of it is something I’m going to hold dear to my heart and I wish them all the luck at the new spot.
Adam Bernard: Let’s get into your EP. Tell me about the song “Alcoholic.”
Notar: The thing about “Alcoholic” is it’s been getting a lot of attention. It’s really a song that is meant to be, and will be, on my full length, Devil’s Playground, which encapsulates temptation, drug use, sex, anything that the devil would laugh at; death, war, things of that nature. I think once the full length comes out and people go back and hear “Alcoholic,” and hear what the theme of the record is, they’ll better understand why I decided to come out with that and write it.
Adam Bernard: You also have some pretty deep songs on your EP to balance out the more party inspired joints. Tell me a little bit about “Stranger.”
Notar: “Stranger” was a song that I had written that ties in three people that are really close to me; two very dear friends, one being my best friend who passed away last May, and my brother in law who was in Iraq at the time my sister was pregnant with her second child. I wanted to take the letters I was getting from them, and images from the news, seeing things that were going on not only in Iraq, but Afghanistan, as well, and places out in the Middle East particularly, and I wanted to form one character, so I made one character, and I spoke as if I was him, and took him through different situations and different scenes, if you will, of what my friends and family were going through at that point in time. I called Adam up and asked him to sing the hook. He loved it and sang it and that’s how that song came about.
Adam Bernard: How much does your ethnic background factor into your music?
Notar: Not as much now as it will. There’s definitely stuff that I'm holding on the back burners for future things; some issues in the Middle East that I’m pretty passionate about, and my Italian side a little bit, as well. As of yet it hasn’t really infiltrated. Right now it’s kind of like me as a person. It’s a good intro to where I plan on heading artistically.
Adam Bernard: You noted earlier that your father passed away, and I was reading a post on your blog where you mentioned it was from Leukemia back in 1991. You were very young at that point. Did you have any other father figures in your life to guide you after that, or were you more on your own?
Notar: As far as men in my life guiding me, no, I was on my own. I touch on that on the full length that’s coming out. I actually lost him and his father within the same month, so I didn’t have many men around growing up. I had myself, for the most part, and my mom was kind of like my dad and my mom. It definitely shaped me to be who I am today, good and bad. It was definitely tough, and it’s definitely an issue I still think about every day.
Adam Bernard: Without a father figure around I’m sure you had to teach yourself a lot, like how to shave. Is there anything else you had to teach yourself that people might take for granted?
Notar: I taught myself how to fight. I did pretty well. I pulled a couple kids out of class for calling my sister names a few times and I can’t even count how many times I was suspended for sticking up for my little sister in school.
Adam Bernard: So your little sister got you into a lot of trouble.
Notar: Definitely. For sure. hands down, or hands up, any way you want to look at it. You go through it and you learn. I had great women in my family. I had great role models. My mom is a workhorse. When my dad died and she took over the store. She’s a huge person within the leukemia / lymphoma society. She volunteers her time, she runs the store, she works 12 hours a day.
Adam Bernard: Wow, that’s incredible. To end things on a lighter note, your blog is titled Notar for President. Would you really want that job?
Notar: Absolutely not, and I will never have that job, hence we can have a little bit of fun and say Notar for President. Whether you like it or not those are my issues, those are my views, and I guess we’re all the president of our own world, so to speak. It was something I came up with during the last election and I just went with it. I just said fuck it, Notar for president. That’s it. Definitely not a job I’m looking to have anytime soon, though. Certainly not with songs like “Alcoholic” on my album.
Labels: Artists Of The Week
|posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:29 AM