If someone were to write a book about the greatest musical cities on the planet Chicago and New York would definitely need to have their own chapters. It’s from that great artistic tradition that singer/emcee NeMISS ChiYork’s “Soul Electro Hip Hop” sound emerges.
NeMISS has been working to carve her own lane in the music industry for several years. She has opened concerts for well established acts like Common, The Roots, and Dres of Black Sheep, and her Bottom Line EP was featured on AllHipHop.com, OkayPlayer.com, and Centric TV.
The soul vocalist recently released her new single “Anything Is Possible”. The jazz-fused, uplifting tune is just the latest offering from the Chi-town native and current Brooklyn resident. DZI: The Voice connected with NeMISS ChiYork to discuss her recent work, possibly signing with a label, and the musical heritage of the two towns that inspire her.
Yohance Kyles: When did you discover your voice as an artist?
NeMISS ChiYork: I discovered my voice first as a poet at a young age. One of my teachers was in awe of one of my poems in sixth grade, Mr. Koerner. He helped me to realize that I was an orator. Then I actually started rapping and singing in my teens out in Chicago. I performed at the House of Blues Chicago when opening up for the legendary rap crews The Roots, Common and Black Sheep. I was in my teens…
One night while opening for Black Sheep, I stood on the beautifully architected balcony of House of Blues Chicago and looked down at a sea of people. I knew that I could touch millions after that tour (Chicago brick and promoter Duro put together). I knew I had a voice that would be heard around the world.
I rediscovered my voice when I traveled to Italy and was singing with Pur-elements and Kurt Fausette. I witnessed how inspired many Europeans are by classic and pure Hip Hop. It’s a different appreciation for music and art outside of the States. I also remember having opened up for the Roots. They have been amazing since day one and it was dope to get those experiences and moments of inspiration.
YK: You’re originally from Chicago and now live in New York City. How do those respective cities influence your musically?
NM: Chicago is a soulful city. Many valuable genres of music, soul, electro, and Hip Hop have influenced my style. New York has definitely kept me grounded in the foundation of Hip Hop and exposed me to so many other styles; Dub step, more soul, and electro. Hence my style is Soul Electro Hip Hop.
YK: There have been many highly successful entertainers that spent time at the University of Chicago. Was that school a place that provided a productive culture for aspiring artists?
NC: Ha ha. I don’t know. It’s a do or die school in terms of academics. A lot of economists, chemists and Nobel Peace Prize Winners come out of my school. But you also have Katherine Dunham the performing artist and Phillip Glass the music composer who spent time there. One thing is for certain. If you can survive U Chicago you have the stamina to do anything. It takes work ethic.
YK: Does being a vocalist and a rapper give you a different perspective about music than say someone who is just one or the other?
NC: Being both a singer and rapper expands your range or reach in terms of creativity, makes you limitless. I do enjoy rapping; in its pure form. Sometimes I just want to create a song just doing that, but I enjoy being on the outer limits and experimenting with music as well.
YK: What inspired your latest single “Anything Is Possible” ?
NC: “Anything Is Possible” is a motivational song. In that song I extend my reality across a bridge to meet my dreams. Now I must walk the walk. It’s like an affirmation song for me and an inspirational song for others. It says if you want to reach your goals, go get it. It’s yours no matter how long it’s taken you.
The second verse I say “I’m a trailblazer paving the way for the other shakers future high-speed racers” that’s also letting my listeners know that I am confident in my truth, but I also know that this music and art is bigger than me. Just a vessel in the body of our universe.
YK: You have a song called “Media” that’s sort of an indictment of the mainstream media’s treatment of artists. Do the celebrities themselves play a role in the hyperpublicity that’s common in today’s press?
NC: “Media” is not just about celebrities, but the song addresses the ever-presence and invasiveness of the camera; the lens in our society. It’s funny because “Media” is my underground joint. I believe that celebrities are pawns in the “Media” zoo.
Yes, celebrities will try and use the media to sell albums, promote projects, and promote their fame, but the media is a monster of a machine it sucks them in and essentially the artist always takes a blow we are adored and abhorred. The song not only speaks to celebrities but it also speaks to normal everyday people under surveillance. The song is about the ever-presence of the camera. The omnipotence of this new technology is a powerful thing.
YK: As an artist what level of fame would you find comfortable for your career?
NC: Being able to have impactful music for generations through different mediums. Being able to travel, as I’ve done, and being able to create an anthology and/or catalogue of classic music.
YK: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you?
NC: So many; Chaka Kahn, The Beatles, Roberta Flack, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, MC Lyte, Gwen Stefani, Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli.
YK: What’s your opinion on the state of the female emcee in Hip Hop today?
NC: f =female emcee. F = f(x). X is the function of creativity. Yohance can you solve this equation? lol. Calculus man, the bane of my existence. This sounds like a question that would have been posed some years ago for someone who was just a female emcee, but if the public perception was that I am a female emcee in Hip Hop and you would like to know my opinion I would approach this question positively.
I will say that the female emcee is a retro label for some ambitious female artists, for example Janelle Monae and Jill Scott are rooted in the foundation of Hip Hop and Lauryn that goes without saying… but the idea of female emcee is an evolving category based on the function of creativity.
YK: You’ve had the chance to open shows for The Roots and Common. What did you take away from those experiences?
NC: I’ve taken away that A) anything is possible, B) that your art is a craft and no matter who you open for you still have to create your relationship with your fans. It’s still great to be in the vein of these artists as I continue to evolve.
Good meeting at Atlantic; good conversation and good information http://t.co/baEMCjl547
— Nemiss (@Nemiss11) July 10, 2013
YK: You Instagrammed a picture of Atlantic Records last July with a caption that said you had a meeting with them. Are you planning to sign with Atlantic?
NC: Right now I’m dating. I’m not in bed with anybody so-to-speak. I have my eye on some guys, some less famous but… I am going to need for them to be forthcoming! That is to be determined. You will have to stay tuned to NeMISS and find out. So far we just shared a dance lol.
YK: Chicago and Brooklyn both have very storied Hip Hop histories. If you had to pick one album to represent Chitown and one to represent BK in a time capsule which ones would you choose and why?
NC: First of all there is no way to get one album out of me to sum up the city where I’m from. From when I was wet behind my ears, though the thread of soul has no beginning or ends. Before I breathed oxygen on this earth the soul begins with Curtis Mayfield, Rufus and Chaka, makes its way through eighties and into the 90s with house music; Steve “Silk” Hurley’s “Jack Your Body.” Then house and would lend its way to Hip Hop.
“Can I borrow a dollar?” Common asked. The answer put Chicago on the map. Then we travel to the millennium One Day It’ll Make Sense Common, then Rhymefest and Kanye let us knew that Jesus walks and Kanye’s College Dropout. For Brooklyn I would have to say Reflection Eternal. Mos Def and Kweli put their staples in the thread for Brooklyn; for my ears. It’s all beautifully connected. This is a facet of the diamond of music and how it shines in my heart, in my life, in my soul.
YK: What’s next for NeMISS ChiYork?
NC: Singles. “Paint a Picture” the video is out with the legendary DJ Spinna on production. “Anything Is Possible” is my new single with music producer Suede Jenkins; video will be here in 2014. I am currently in the studio working with world-class musician Daru Jones, as seen on Saturday Night Live, and Nate Jones. We are working on some amazing live band soul music. I will be in music hubs nationwide and worldwide. Check nemiss.com for dates.
Tweet Nemiss11. I promise I will start to make more use of my Twitter. I promise, but I figure if Whoopi Goldberg don’t use it, and she’s the ish, then it’s not so bad that I have been slacking on my tweets. Oh yeah, fan NeMiss fan page on Facebook. The blessed aligns with the best.
For more info about NeMISS ChiYork click it
Follow NeMISS on Twitter @Nemiss11
Check out the video for “Paint A Picture”: