Something’s been brewing in the Scandinavian rap scene for a while, and rapper Noah Carter is the source of much of this buzz. The Copenhagen native’s fusion on trap, old-school hip hop, R’n'B and grime have created a distinctive sound that feels simultaneously contemporary whilst also unique to Northern Europe. In collaboration with Levi’s Made & Crafted new Scandinavian inspired menswear collection, Noah Carter took us on a tour of his neighborhood and discussed what he’s been up to since his debut album, Couch Dreams came out earlier this year. Discover how he plans to break out of Denmark and take on the rest of the world.
Your album came out back in May, what have you been working on since then?
I’ve got a new project dropping at the end of this year, just working on that, doing shows and doing photoshoots and interviews, chilling. I’m trying to stay busy, it’s better than staying at home.
There were no features on Couch Dreams, it was all you. Is that something you’ll stick to for the next project?
Nah, I think I got one or two features from some people I wanted to work with on the first project so I might have to bring somebody in. The thing about the first tape, we did that with a single producer as well, it was just me and him so we’re trying to stick to the same thing but we’re going to bring people in on this one a little bit.
Cool. Who’d be your dream feature, who would you like to work with most?
Dead or alive?
Let’s do alive first.
Maybe Lauryn Hill or Frank Ocean.
And what about dead?
It feels like there’s a real buzz coming out of Copenhagen right now, why do you think that’s happening?
I just think it’s time and people really try to get into the music and show that talent is not only defined elsewhere.
Obviously rap’s always been focussed in the US, do you think the internet has democratised and spread this out a little?
I think the internet definitely helped a lot, especially when you look at somebody like Drake and everyone in Canada and the whole thing that’s happening there. When people are shown good quality rap music that’s not based in the US, no one has to be opened up I think. Also the Instagram thing and how everyone has access to everything, everyone has a big platform where you can put out your music and everyone can give it a listen whereas 10 years ago the internet wasn’t popping so much. The internet’s definitely playing a big part, it’s definitely helped me as well.
It’s interesting you mentioned Drake because he’s indisputably the poster boy for Canadian rap. It seems like that’s the role you’re aiming to fill for Danish rap. How does it feel being the representative of that music scene for your entire country?
It feels good because in terms of Danish rap, there’s been people before who would rap but it’s always been buried with the accent and the whole story behind it and the whole thing. It kind of just clicked for me and I had stuff that people wanted to buy and were interested in. If that’s the case, and I’m going to be the poster boy for Danish hip hop, I’ll be honoured, definitely.
You grew up in New York for a little bit, is that right?
Yeah, from 8-10 I was in New York with my mum but I missed Copenhagen so much that I really wanted to go back. She stayed there for another year, then I came back and lived with my grandfather.
I know it’s only a short period of time but how do you feel about time spent in the US, do you think that’s played any part in your musical development?
Yeah because a lot of the music I heard at the time definitely inspired me and the whole feeling of being away from home, I definitely feel better in my music and just travelling around and going to new schools and just experiencing it. I like being alone somewhere for the first time, definitely. I think there’s definitely a part of my journey in it. It helped shape me.
Danish rap culture’s a creative melting pot. It takes from a lot of the other places.”
Listening to your album, I feel like there’s quite a broad range of influences, you’ve got some sombre synthy sounds in the production and then a frenetic grime sound, how would you characterise Danish rap or Scandinavian rap, what is it you think that defines it?
The thing is, I wouldn’t say there’s no culture, there’s definitely going to be more culture around it but because there’s been so little culture, strictly Danish rap culture’s a creative melting pot. It takes from a lot of the other places. They listen to grime, then they listen to French rap, then they listen to Canadian rap so they try to implement that into the Scandinavian thing or the Danish thing. Definitely for me, it’s a broad sound to the music that contains a lot of different sounds. For me, here, nobody can get on a feature that will be interesting or good enough to rap with me on the songs, I got to try and do all these hooks with some crazy voices in there and try to broaden my range because I can’t really get no features back here.
Speaking about Copenhagen generally and your connection to that city, what is it about Copenhagen that you’re trying to communicate in your songs?
That’s a good question. I’m not really sure! I’m not sure I’ve found out yet to be honest.
Obviously historically and culturally, hip hop has always been political, do you feel that you’ve got a political message yet?
Nah to be honest, the whole political thing here in Copenhagen is kind of the same, there’s discrimination and there’s stigmatising of people of minority. I haven’t really got into that lane, not because I’m not conscious of it but maybe because before I speak on those matters, I would like to have a platform where people can hear me. So just coming out of the gate and being all political, they don’t want to see us do this, it’s a turn off thing for people and it’s not that it’s not a priority of mine but first and foremost I have to make music that makes me feel good. I’m not saying that making political music can’t be good but you really got to be into it and know what you’re talking about before it makes sense. I definitely have to get more into the politics before I start speaking on that.
How do you generally put a song together, what’s your method?
I think the process changes for each track, sometimes I hear the beat first and then I sit down and write or I go freestyle something. Maybe I get an idea in my head first and then I get a melody and go to the studio and start recording. I’ll try this out and I’ll try to hum the sound. I’m not very musical in the production so I’m humming it and trying to figure out what drums I would want. I think the process is different for each track, definitely. It’s not like I’ve got a ritual where I got to have five bananas or have almond milk there or whatever.
When it comes to the production, do you get involved or do you let producers do their thing?
I like to fall back and let the producer do whatever they want to do because sometimes they’ve got a better ear than me. Other times I like to be involved in everything but I’m not always a perfectionist. Sometimes I’ll have some crazy ideas and I’ll say “what if you did it like this, or what if you did it like this” and they’ll go, it’s a good idea in theory but you can’t just do that. Then I fall back and be like, okay, cool. I try to be involved as much as possible though.
I know you’ve talked about which artists you’d want on features, are there any producers you’d be really keen to work with?
A lot of producers, like No ID or Kanye West could be crazy. There’s so many good producers, anyone that’s worth working with where the energy is good or the chemistry is right.
Cool. I read an interview that when you were younger, your mum was into old school hip hop and R&B and stuff, you can hear that in a lot of your music now. Is there anything that you listen to that people might not expect?
I don’t know if it would be a surprise but I’ve been fucking with this English band called Submotion Orchestra. Really dope. So that might be one thing, other than that, I really don’t know. A lot of French music, French rap as well, it’s kind of big over here in Copenhagen, like PNL, there’s a lot of good artists.
Maybe just as a final question, where would you like to see yourself in a year?
All around just better, work more and focus more. That rush when you feel like you’ve accomplished a bit and you kind of just fall back and you start and get into Instagram life and follows, all the girls. I think I’d like to just be more focused. I’m trying to see how far I can go this year and then next year trying to repeat the same thing.
Check out the full Levi’s Made & Crafted collection on Levi’s web store.