Photography by Michael del Rosario
“I’m really just trying to make the best album of all time” Nick tells me casually as he’s tidying up around his studio on the North Side of Chicago. A friendly sign hangs over the black couches in the rented out studio space, “Your mother doesn’t record here! Please leave studio as clean as you walked into it”. Not that there’s much to clean. In fact, the only mess I see is the large McDonald’s cup Nick sips on and sets down while he hustles around. But Nick carries on cleaning while we settle in and get comfortable around the studio.
Nick apologizes, says he can’t work if it’s messy around the studio. Fair enough. This is my first time meeting Nick Carter Green, and I’m already a bit humbled. For a Chicago rapper trying to make the best album of all time, he sure is a lot calmer than I would expect. But if it’s not apparent from his hello, then just looking at him will tell you that he is an artist and he is very-much from Chicago. He’s dressed comfortably in a cuffed white tee, black joggers, black vans, and a Blackhawks cap (all blacked out of course).
Nick tells me he’s booked all day capturing takes with some musicians coming in later. He’s at work on his upcoming project—the yet untitled follow up to his 2015 projects Nineteen and Live. Nick grew up on the South Side of Chicago and has gone through various turns in his career to end up here as Nick Carter Green. He even gave up music for a while, before deciding to not only go for it, but to go for it full damn speed ahead. He’s still only 24, but he has visions of greatness glowing in his eyes.
Nick says he’s going for a classic, a fact he reiterates as he starts setting up on his MacBook. An album as good as Take Care and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Something from heartbreak that inspires and stands the test of time. It’s clear that Nick’s been up to something to say this. His music has always been enjoyable to me, inspired, and relatable. Nick is a talented singer, writer, instrumentalist, and has a special energy to his rapping voice that reminds me of fellow South Sider Chance The Rapper’s own squeals. But now he’s trying to vault himself up with the giants of music.
He loads some songs for us to listen to. The lights are dimmed. No greatest of all time work should be heard under bright lights. Nick lets u know a bit about the opening track. According to him, we’re going to recognize this song, but it’s going to be different, like something we’ve never heard before. An eerie tracks plays with guitar plucks leading the way. There’s some faint, mysterious female vocals around, and Nick’s voice is lighting a path. There’s an explosion and the song breaks away. The song ends, Nick excitedly swivels around from his chair, “Did you catch that!?”.
I didn’t to be completely honest. But before I could fake it, Nick clarifies how he messed with Beyoncé’s “Haunted” and looped it in the shadows of his song. The sample existed like a wraith, a wispy reminder of the icon whose shoulders Nick is on.
And there are a lot of icons Nick is looking up at. Kanye, Drake, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Prince, and even Nickelback are name dropped throughout. These are the heights worth climbing for. He says that he wants this to be as enjoyable as any other classic record you go to. If you only have enough storage on your phone for say a Frank Ocean record, or Nick’s project, he’s trying to make it a tough choice. And as more tracks play, it becomes a legit debate amongst us on how classic albums are made and viewed.
Another track flies through a flurry of seven different styles. The ever-existing presence of everyone that came before him. Seven different references, seven different icons, seven different places in time and space all linking together on this one track. Among them were Nick’s derivatives of a classic Disney love song and a recent Billboard topping track. In Nick’s world, broads in Atlanta are only a minute away with a magic carpet ride.
The tracks are vivid, ever-changing in fluid motions and breakdowns. Just when you think you caught up to the beat and Nick’s flow, he’ll rip it apart through some kicks, a section of strings, a sample here and there, and he’s zipping off elsewhere. He tells me the songs exist “as chapters” with a few motifs and characters binding the storybook together.
I continue to listen and smile whenever I catch a fun idea, lyric, or sample. Video games I used to play, animes I used to watch religiously, songs I knew every word to, they’re all here. Reborn through Nick. It’s one thing for a DJ like Diplo to mix together two artists on a fader somewhere, it’s another to incorporate them into your being and push out a song so uniquely yours.
Many of the tracks are still skeletons, Nick claims he recorded all of these takes sitting on his bed, with the MacBook on his lap. He used the laptop’s built-in microphone. The ideas and concepts are there, but the lines still remain to be colored in completely.
Despite this, the sounds are still huge and loud. Genres are bent, strings and horns are always right around the corner. Most of these songs have 5 or more producers. Only one track has only been touched by a single person, and that’s because it’s the newest song. Nick is laying it all out there. Nick can always take something—a voice, a saxophone—away, but he says he can’t add it back in later. With such a variety of sounds, probably the nicest constant for me is that it still sounds like Chicago art with a Chicago voice. You wouldn’t even have to talk to or look at Nick Carter Green to know his home. Hearing his music is enough.
Earlier, Nick showed us some working track titles and asked us if we knew the story behind one of his titles “Here, My Dear”. He explained how in the 70’s, facing a divorce and lawsuit from his estranged wife, Marvin Gaye hid away. The proceedings decided that the divorce would be finalized if Gaye gave half the royalties of his new album to his ex-wife. Gaye went to work on his album knowing it would end up benefitting his ex-lover, but still felt the need to put in his best work possible. He ended up making a classic album for his ex-wife, presenting it to her as simply “Here, My Dear”.
We’re getting ready to head out only to find out the studio’s been rained on heavily while we were holed up inside. Nick offers us a ride which we accept, and even returns when a phone gets left behind. Then he’s back to work, back to fill in those track skeletons with his own story.