I’m so excited for today’s post! Last week my friend Aaron Simon, the artist known as NomiS, released a new video and single from his upcoming album. I asked him if he’d be up for an interview and he graciously answered some questions. Before reading the interview you’ll want to watch the video.
Hey Aaron, thanks for taking the time to chat for a few minutes.
No problem, its my pleasure.
First and foremost, I have to say that I freaking loved “Traffic.”
Thanks, man. That puts quite the grin on my face. It’s always a great feeling when people respond and receive your art in the way you’d like them to.
Totally! So, before we get going I have to apologize this is the first time I’ve ever, you know, “interviewed” someone so… Could you real quick give us an idea of who you are?
Of course. So, I go by the moniker of “Nomis”, I write songs and poems about things that I think are important, I’m from Oceanside California, and I’m intensely passionate about issues of social justice.
How long have you been writing and performing?
Yikes, let me think. I started writing consistently when I was 16 years old. I started performing and began to take it seriously back in 2004. I did a few small releases here and there, but my first official solo album/release wasn’t until 2008.
Has social justice been a theme of your work from the get go? Or, is that something you’ve grown into as an artist?
What’s interesting about the question is that the answer is “both”. I feel like it’s something I’ve grown into, but when I go back and listen to the old stuff, I hear traces of it throughout a lot of the songs. It’s like it was always in me but I didn’t know what to call it or what to do with it. Unfortunately, it took me far too long to figure it out. In hindsight I wish I would’ve embraced this overtly justice-centered approach to my music 5 years ago.
That makes sense. As I see it, it seems to be unique to you as an artist. I can recall a few artists that get behind an issue but none in the hiphop sphere, or at least not as overtly as you do in “Traffic”, “fLAW”, “The Wretched”, and other works. What’s your thinking behind writing these songs? Do you intend on writing pieces with a mission? Or, do you set out to write songs and the works you write end up having a mission?
I am 100% intentional about “writing pieces with a mission”, but that wasn’t always the case. It used to just come out sometimes naturally, but this is what I’m referring to in terms of wishing I embraced this 5 years ago. Being intentional is very crucial as an artist. Took me a long time to figure that out.
To what degree would you say intentionality is the responsibility of an artist?
With something as specific as “social justice” I dont think it’s a responsibility. I just think it’s wise as an artist to make it obvious as to what you stand for. If you want the people to rally behind you, make the banner you want them to raise very clear. That way they can decide if they want to stand with you or walk away. That being said, I do think every artist (or anyone with a platform) has a responsibility to be mindful of their platform and how they use it. As I say on my new album, “A person with a platform is a leader. Simply for the fact that he has one”.
I love that, “A person with a platform is a leader. Simply for the fact that he has one.”
Can I ask you a few question about “Traffic”?
So, I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for when the video started. Initially, I was confused about the guy driving around, frustrated in traffic. I mean, we live in Southern California and traffic sucks, that’s just reality, but the frustration of the man in the narrative didn’t match my assumptions and the (wonderful) intensity of the music. It makes more sense as the video goes on but I’m curious why’d you start “Traffic” with such a mundane situation?
As you know, “Traffic” tells two stories. The latter story is the one that I want the listener to consume, process, and act on. The first story serves two purposes. The first is artistic being that it sets the tone for the second. If you noticed, the language and phrasing of the first verse is mimicked in the second verse. The second and more important purpose is perspective. The first story sets the tone of a situation most can relate to. We’ve all been late for something while stuck in traffic and in the moment it feels like the worst situation in the world. Our comfortable lives affect our perspectives so much, that being stuck in really bad traffic is a talking point over the dinner table as “the worst part of my day”. What a blessing our lives must be if being stuck in traffic is the worst part of our day. The second story is there to put that in proper perspective.
I felt that when watching, I was like, “Man, I hate traffic so much.” And then… That second story. Wow! It’s hard not to watch without your heart breaking. That opening shot with the man standing up – faceless. Yikes.
Sorry, that wasn’t a complete thought.
The facelessness of the man felt like an indictment on my own silence.
Wow… That’s deep. And that’s also the beauty of art.
So… I have a question about how the story ends. In fact, it’s the reason I asked for an interview: Why didn’t he brake fast enough? What was the thinking behind ending on such a dark note?
You aren’t alone. A lot of friends and family have texted me saying, “Man, I love the video so much! Why did she have to get hit by the car, though? Why couldn’t she get her freedom?”. Well, the answer is simple. If her story ends well in that situation, the viewer/listener gets to walk away from the story feeling good. If I allow you to exit your YouTube page happy, you will not feel compelled to respond. You won’t feel any need or desire to act, care, or remember that girl and her situation. My goal in writing the song was to bring awareness to human trafficking, and move people to feel the need to respond to it as such.
It worked. I’ve kept going back and back to the video since you released it this past weekend.
Excellent. Like I said in the beginning of this interview, “it’s always a great feeling when people respond and receive your art in the way you’d like them to.” Or better said, in the way you intended for them to.
That means it worked!
Absolutely. I think as an artist and a Christian I have a tendency, because my theology is built on happy endings, to want to skip Good Friday (if you will) and go straight to Easter. This video ending so bleakly, seems to resist that temptaion. Was it difficult for you in the writing process to resist that temptaion?
If I’m honest, no, it wasn’t. Happy endings are predictable. I like to keep people on their toes. Catch them off guard and give them something they weren’t expecting.
I love it! And I appreciate it. I don’t think the world operates on easy happy endings, I think that hope is far more heavy than assumed. “Traffic” suggests as much, the bleak feeling at the end with that call to action. Though it feels hopeless, what’s the point of a call to action if there’s not some hope things can get better?
We are operating on the same wavelength.
I don’t want people to only feel sad. I want them to be inspired. I want them to feel like they need to do something! I’m trying to light a fire in people.
It’s working. “Traffic” and your other recent video “fLAW” have incited incredible conversations in my immediate sphere of influence.
Man, you’re just making my day, haha.
Awww, thanks! So, what can we do after our conversations to join in with you?
That’s the difficult, yet awesome, part about all of this. I know it can be hard to figure out, “Well, what do I do now?”. But, the great part is everyone can be involved in their own unique ways. I don’t expect the listener to hear my song and then decide they want to go write poems about human trafficking. I write songs/poems about it because I am a rapper and a poet. I was doing this before I was educated on the issue. Creating music is what I know how to do best, so that’s the vehicle I use to respond to things that are important. Use what you are gifted at as a starting point and proceed accordingly. Also, if you need more information before you can figure out what role to play, there are some great sources for info and action steps. Please take the time to visit Not For Sale (NotForSaleCampaign.org) and International Justice Mission (IJM.org).
Thanks, NomiS! I love that idea of: “Use what you are gifted at as a starting point and proceed accordingly.”
I’ve got two more questions for you, if that’s ok.
Go for it.
You mentioned earlier that “Traffic” is a track off your new project, when can we expect to see that?
Yes! The new album is called “Socially Just” and should be releasing late September or early October this year. The album features guest appearances from some great artists such as Propaganda, JGivens, and of course John Givez who is on the “Traffic” single. You can pre-Order the album now at https://nomis.bandcamp.com
If you pre-order, you get “Traffic” sent to you instantly.
Sweet! I cannot wait. If “Traffic” is any indication, it’s going to be an incredible album.
Last question: we’ve talked about this before, and it’s a big conversation that everybody is having but… Marvel or DC?
Overall, Marvel all the way. I got a lot of love for DC, specifically Superman, Wonder Woman and the Joker. But as a whole, it’s Marvel all day for me!
Well, that opens a can of worms for next time…
HAHAHA. For sure!
Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me about “Traffic.” I’m blessed and challenged by your work and cannot wait to hear the rest of “Socially Just.”
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