Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Nelson Dialect is an Adelaide-born and bred, New York-based, DJ, MC, songwriter, live performer and poet. I first saw a 13 year-old then-'Dialect' perform at a battle in the early 2000s (after my crew snuck him through the fire exit), and he was good then. Since those early years Nelson Dialect has gone on to be a formidable artist, collaborating on releases with the likes of Must, Alnitak Kid , Ray West and Despair. He has also supported the who's-who of touring international Hip Hop, released a book of poetry, DJ-ed Australia-wide, and now set up shop in New York to work under the tutelage of Ray West and the Legendary AG of D.I.T.C. for their Red Apples 45 label. This comes fresh after releasing monster collaboration albums with Alnitak kid (as part of Photograph Your Aura), and Pang Productions heat-maker Must. Nelson Dialect just keeps on building. So where is he striving to get to, and where does all this music come from? Nelson Dialect talks to BEAT CONTEXT.
Music is family
‘…I just saw the albums as a direct link to this world of everything I associated with family…’
I think (my early attraction to Hip Hop music) was as much adoration for my eldest brother as it was the music. He was everything cool to me, and you want to be hanging around your brother as much as possible. So to just be a little kid in his room, while he was listening to his albums looking at the art work, posters on the wall or if it was at a party in the family home, as there was always something going on at my house growing up with 3 older bros and my folks loved to have parties and family around. It would be Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Creedence in their dining room then my brothers in the backyard with Hip Hop. I just saw the albums as a direct link to this world of everything I associated with family, fun and the emotional mood of the household. Music was it. And then directly just the spirit and sound of the music was something I loved. I knew it was black music and culture largely that I was listening to, and it was that groove, the Funk/soul/r&b/jazz, that I instantly loved. It felt like the reason why I came to the planet. It was always the draw in to me. I didn’t feel other sounds as much yet like I did Hip Hop.
‘…something in me went “this is it, this is what I want to do”…'
I can remember always wanting to be involved with music. I used to clean up Mums records and CD’s after their house parties, was my first chore for pocket money. So DJ clean up work was my first job in some ways lol. I also actually learnt the flute growing up. I think my Mum wanted to sort of show hey you can play or do anything you don’t have to just do whats expected as a “boy”. Might’ve been the balance of having all brothers. But anyway, I eventually stopped that when I didn’t feel like it was a cool thing to be doing. Which I wish I didn’t. But I blame Raekwon. Because my brother tried to drip feed me the Hip Hop albums. He knew I was listening to them from a young age anyway but he showed me Wu Tang, and I was maybe year 4 and I just remember hearing Raekwon on ‘Knuckleheadz’, and something in me went ‘this is it, this is what I want to do’. Im not sure if it was ever for the spotlight, but since i’m here on planet earth to me music is the greatest thing I could spend my time doing. Its challenging, spiritual, character-building and life-affirming. Wanting to make music is just the everyday drive I have to have that connection and communication with others in life.
Music as a reflection of where you are at
’…it is about the emotion and your intention/connection to music and ultimately everyone else…’
(A song that hits me hard is) “Someday We’ll All Be Free” by Donny Hathaway – The story is he cried after he recorded that song when he heard it back at the mixing desk. To me that is what it is about. Being so in the spirit and connected to what you are singing about that it elicits that kind of emotion. I often turn to that song as a reminder of what this is about. It isn’t about money/fame/attention or false ego. It is about the emotion and your intention/connection to music and ultimately everyone else. It drives me because I feel I am so far from creating that kind of song and that is as much technical ability as it is creative ability & personal insight to tap into that. It drives me to create because it reflects where you are in life as a person. And I want my music to be in that spirit and to help people ultimately, by bringing them together through music. This will be difficult as someone who is not Donny Hathaway lol but as he sung in that song “Sing your greatest song, and you’ll keep going, going on.”
‘…I just want to share music and experiences with other people…’
I’m still striving for my art to write that next song which helps people ultimately. I want to improve. I certainly want to be in the room creating with people I admire & respect creatively. But the main path and goal is to be present and to create in a loving and sincere way. I just want to share music and experiences with other people. That’s what is important to me about making music
Hip Hop as vehicle for change
‘...to change daily is actually the most important thing to me...'
(I have undergone some changes recently, but) I think it’s all still me and Hip Hop, it is as relevant to me as ever. I love this art form. Always will, and the art to me has always represented the most revolutionary change as an individual and community. It has been like a handbook to individuals who have used their talents to change themselves and others through Hip Hop. Change is natural and part of being human. Also I think part of being an artist. I can’t do the same thing I was doing when I was 17, it wouldn’t show growth or improvement I think. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate where I was at that time but the only thing constant is change and to change daily is actually the most important thing to me. I don’t ever want to be stuck in a mindset or approach. Changing my hair or stage name or writing a book is just doing some different shit. There’s a cool Miles Davis interview where he talks about his experience with Jazz and changing styles and critics responses to his music and he said something to the effect of “white people like to put things in a box and get you to stay there” Obviously I am white but I am trying to not think like a white guy Miles would hate lol. Because you tend to see that kind of thing happen & it stifles growth and creativity among people when resistance to change is in the air. Its not fluid or a natural state.
The little decisions
‘…the little decisions that trickle down over the years to fill the well…’
(A while back I became I conscious of the fact that) every little decision effects the next and leads to where you are going. Trusting that and staying the course with it as a person and doing creative work in your life. There are a lot of ultra highs and extreme lows, particularly in this kind of world, but I try not to be swept in both and just make the decision to wake up the next day and do the work necessary. Being disciplined. I’m not perfect at it, and I daily try to resist laziness. I think part of that was quitting drinking alcohol very young. I did it because I was in clubs as a teenager rapping and drinking young, stupidly. I did some bad performances and decided it wasn’t going to make me better as an artist so I quit. That also changed my social life in a lot of ways, which meant more of a focus on my creative goals and less socialising, more studio/music, which in turn became my social life. I guess that’s a part of the little decisions that trickle down over the years to fill the well.
(If I could, I would advise a younger version of myself to) loosen up and don’t be so hard on yourself. Learn more instruments. Don’t be so sensitive or take on others opinions/energy. But also keep doing what you are doing because its all part of your destiny.
You can find Nelson Dialects music, including 'Magnetism' (produced Must Volkoff) and the self-titled album by Photograph Your Aura (produced by Alnitak Kid), along with everything else, HERE, HERE and HERE. You can keep track of what he is doing around the place HERE.