When Joey Bada$$ decided to open up his BADMIND imprint, he looked to 24-year-old Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn rapper N.A.O Quelly to help fill out the roster. Quelly, born Myk-Quel McCoy, dealt with tragedy and his own personal triumph in overcoming the death of his mother, and it lead to one of the most introspective and vulnerable times in his young creative life. N.A.O stands for New Age Outlaw$, his own collective of like-minded creators that he tapped into at NYCHA’s Stuyvesant Gardens apartments. What’s resulted is a focused, conscious new voice on the rise who seamlessly alternates between melodic reprises and hard-hitting singles like “Stick Up.” Today N.A.O Quelly premieres his latest music video in “O.S.S”.
The visual was shot in the Poconos in Pennsylvania where Quelly moved to live with his grandmother after the passing of his mother just days before his 16th birthday. He visits the graveyard and shoots outside of Gabel’s, an ice cream store that was one his mother’s favorite places to visit. Directed and edited by Levi Turner, the music video utilizes a nostalgic 4×3 frame with plenty of filmic grain and a focus solely on the young Bed-Stuy rapper with pictures of him and his mom throughout.
“Take it away, take it away, take away the pain/ All the trials and tribulations made me go insane/ ever since I lost my mom sh*t ain’t been the same/ And my partner on the run, he just went Usain/ Police ride Impala like they name is Tame/ I take a lot of drugs and still feel the same/ Break the chain, break the chain, break off every chain/ Grandma in the sanctuary and she steady praying/ Please don’t play no games, every loss a gain/ I might rob and stain, I might blow yo brains/ When yo energy is strong, leeches love to drain/ N*gga we can’t get along we are not the same/ On some sh*t, I’m thanking God that I’m here to see this sh*t,” he raps, showcasing the ability to switch between witty references to Tame Impala and Usain Bolt while still managing to capture the painful emotions when dealing with personal loss. N.A.O Quelly joined us for a brief Q&A about his latest project.
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“O.S.S” shows you truly opening up and being vulnerable on record. With everything you’ve recently gone through with the passing of your mother, how were you able to break through and continue your creative output?
Seeing my mom pass was my worst fear. When it happened I felt lost. Sometimes, I still do but through it all I try to do all the things that would make her proud. I know life is short, I just wanna live forever through my creativity.
What advice, if any, has Joey Bada$$ given you along the way after signing with his BandMind imprint? How have you two connected over the past year and what did you appreciate about his energy that ultimately made you sign with him?
In short words, he tells me to know my values, to read, to enjoy the journey and not to sleep on myself. He is a teacher. Overall he is the definition of a brother, we learn from each other, and that’s the best part about being around him.
You’ve described yourself as a “rebel with a cause,” so what does the concept of UNLAWFUL mean to you? And what more can we epect from you down the line in 2020 post-album release?
UNLAWFUL means everything to me. It’s about being Bada$$. I wanna do the things people say I can’t. I wanna break the standards and boundaries they set up for us. As long as I’ve been alive, maybe even longer, I’ve seen “the law” break the law, so I’m simply an unlawful, rebellious angel. There will be another EP titled TOO UNLAWFUL and my debut album Mykquel. I have a bunch of content, videos, more features more stunts and runtz.
Watch N.A.O Quelly’s latest music video for “O.S.S” and stream his UNLAWFUL project below. In more music updates, watch The Strokes perform at the Bernie Sanders’ rally in New Hampshire, where Julian Casablancas announced the release date of the band’s upcoming LP.