Nikko McFadden
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Nikko McFadden

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | INDIE

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2012
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"Argus Leader Newspaper"

Nikko McFadden will be the first to admit that thanks to his wild teenage years, he could have become a statistic.

"I was kicked out of my house at 16 because of drugs, so until I was 18, I was homeless," the Sioux Falls rapper says while sitting in a coffee shop. "I let what I was doing take over everything. I was sleeping in a car for long periods of time, and I was sleeping in house to house. I was in and out of juvenile hall. Every single day was just a blur."

In October 2007, just weeks after he turned 18, McFadden went to jail. "I had three felonies for drugs," he says. "It was my first offense, and they gave me 13 years and suspended five of it."

Unlike many young adults in his situation, McFadden, now 24, credits jail for saving his life.

"I went from being intoxicated every day to sitting in there completely sober," he says. "After the sobriety hit, I realized that I had three full calendars to flip over before I'd get out. (This) made me not want to do it anymore."

Instead, McFadden worked on acquiring the skills needed to make it in the real world.

"I told myself that when I got out, I was going to focus on my work, family and music. Those were the only things that I wanted to focus on, and I wanted to do them clear-minded," he says. "My biggest motivation is my mom and making sure my little brother never has to go through the things I went through."

To accomplish this, McFadden enrolled in almost every class possible while in jail and spent the rest of the time before his release in May 2010 working on his music. These experiences were chronicled in his 2012 debut album, "Real Life Music Vol.1: Reflections of an Underdog." Saturday will see the long-awaited release of a sequel, "Real Life Music Vol 2: Ordinary People," that deals with the positivity that's now the focus of his life.

Question: When you were young, was there a particular artist, album or song that inspired you to look at performing?

Answer: I think my favorite song of the time, and it still is, is DMX's "Slippin.' " It's about his childhood and the things that he had gone through. It was just a real story. A lot of music is just entertainment, but this one seemed so relatable to me. The storytelling aspect is what really sparked my interest in music.

Q: At what point did you discover that you could put together a rhyme?

A: I started doing poetry when I was young. I was 11 or 12, and I'd give them to girls at school. I always liked writing. When I was 13, a friend and I wrote a rhyme together. We would rap it together at the same time, and it was so cool.

Q: What role did your music have in cleaning up your life?

A: That was really my outlet. I wrote letters, but nobody would return the letters. I didn't have money to call people. My only outlet was to write. I wrote not only lyrics but poetry. I also helped teach a creative writing class in prison. I would write so many different things. I wrote letters to myself. When I got out, I had six notebooks full of music and two more additional notebooks of random writings, short stories, poems and essays. I ended up getting poetry published in different magazines.

Q: Did your music change after jail?

A: It definitely did change. More so after I got out. In jail, you tend to dwell on things, so a lot of my music was about that lifestyle that I had came from. I went in as a teenager but got out as a man. I have all of these responsibilities that I never had before. I always like to write about real things and real experiences, so now I have all of these new real experiences.

Q: When it comes to creating the material, are you constantly writing down lines for future use?

A: If I don't write it down, I'll forget it. I'll sit down and vibe out on a song for, like, two days, and then I'll be done with it so I can move on to the next project. Sometimes I'll have two or three going on at the same time.

Q: What did you do differently on this new record?

A: My first album was more retrospective. I did a lot of storytelling from my past and telling about myself from the rearview mirror. This second record is called "Ordinary People," and I wrote it with the perspective of a generalized view of the present. I feel like somebody else could listen to it, and if they are going through the same thing, they'll relate to it. That was the concept for this record. Instead of people learning about me, maybe they can feel something that might be about them.

Q: Besides your music, are there other things you do to help prevent kids from ending up in the same situation as you found yourself?

A: I've been taking a lot of time in the past two years to actually speak to youth. I've gone to Volunteers of America. I've gone to LSS (Lutheran Social Services). There was a large conference at Augustana just last week, and I spoke to 75 to 80 kids. I told them my story, and after my final words, I performed a couple of songs. The response is what makes me want to do it again.

When I went to the VOA the first time and spoke in front of, like, eight kids, they all told me that finally they were hearing it from somebody who was like them rather than just somebody who was book smart. That was my problem growing up. I was hearing from people who only knew what they had read. I want to show that people just like you can change and do something different. You're not just trapped in this lifestyle.

I really love this and am very passionate about doing it. - Argus Leader


"The Real Deal"

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.

(Continued) - 605 Magazine


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