When it comes to God-fearing Hip-Hop artists, they are either associated with Christian Hip-Hop and Gospel Hip-Hop…or not. Very few artists are successful in both groups. Emcee N.I.C.E. (Novelist is Constantly Evolving) is one of those few.
N.I.C.E. has always been a writer since childhood. His writing started out in the form of poems and short stories. As Hip-Hop grew in popularity, consequently, rapping became another creative writing outlet for him. After his mom pushed him to use his gifts for God, N.I.C.E. decided to start his career in the GHH lane.
“I started out as a GHH artist, said N.I.C.E., “and it was old school heads like Soldiers for Christ that got me inspired to transition [my writing] into music.”
However, Emcee N.I.C.E. decided he had to move on from GHH. The church had not accepted the genre yet, which made GHH somewhat obsolete. So, the MC transitioned into the secular world as a producer. He never let his music become separated from his faith.
“I was doing more raps that were relationship based because I’m not the drinker I’m not the smoker, I was none of that,” said N.I.C.E. “So even in the secular world I was more or less focused on things that made people feel a certain way.”
In a way, N.I.C.E. flourished because of his focus. Sometime after becoming the lead vocalist rapper for the Hip-Hop/R&B group KansasCali, the group was called by Interscope Records to help produce the Tupac album Better Dayz. After producing around 20 songs, one was chosen for the album: “Thugz Mansion – Acoustic Version” featuring Nas and J. Phoenix. The album went triple platinum. Later, Nas placed “Thugz Mansion” on his album God’s Son, and N.I.C.E. gained another platinum plaque.
What increased KansasCali’s traction in the industry, and in turn increased N.I.C.E.’s, was their involvement in the 2004 movie Crash. They were the only independent group to make the movie soundtrack. Crash made over $98 million worldwide and won the Best Picture Oscar for that year. After Crash, KansasCali created songs for six more movies, including Kicking It Old School and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
“We did six soundtracks,” said the MC, “but Crash is what really spotlighted it for us.”
Nowadays, N.I.C.E. has entered back into Gospel Hip-Hop and has continued his success. His debut album, Praise, charted no. 1 on the Gospel Albums and Gospel Albums chart. A single from that album, “I Got Angels” featuring Richard Smallwood, topped on the Hot Single Sales and Digital Song Sales charts. His most recent release, “Glory to God” featuring Fred Hammond, hit no. 1 on the Gospel Singles Sales chart.
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When he started releasing these projects, people were blindsided by what N.I.C.E. brought to the genre.
“It was new to people. They were like ‘Yo, who’s this dude, Emcee N.I.C.E. that we haven’t heard of, just showing up and doing this,’” laughed N.I.C.E. “So word started getting around and then ‘ok, this guy is for real.’”
As his name suggests, N.I.C.E. is going to keep growing, personally and with his music, especially with his future releases. The MC plans to drop a single “God’s Bounce” August 31. In October the EP God’s Bounce will drop. Then in January 2019, he plans to drop his Gospel sophomore album God’s Show.
“It’s a combination of funk-meets-trap-meets-Gospel,” explained N.I.C.E. “It’s something different. There’s a lot of cadence rap and musical styles, so I try to be different. I did throw a little cadence in there for those that want some, but that’s not my forte.”
Now that he is back in GHH, the MC has a new objective: to unite Christian Hip-Hop and GHH to get the artists in these genres recognized for their music. Not only by the public, however, but by the Grammy Awards.
“When people see the Grammy Awards, they are complaining how CHH and GHH aren’t being recognized,” explained N.I.C.E. “What these artists don’t realize is that the way the Grammies work is a members-only type vote. If you are not a member, you are not going to be representing. So If I can get enough people to understand the power they have if they become members, CHH and GHH will become relevant.”
At the core, the veteran artist has stayed true to his faith. No matter where N.I.C.E. is or has been in the music industry, he always places God into his music, whether subliminally or blatantly.
“I have always wanted to find a way to get God’s word out; whether it was in your subconscious, where you really wasn’t paying attention to it, or now, where I’m direct,” said N.I.C.E.