Nolan the Ninja
(Left of Center, 2016)
In the second half of 2015, emcee and beat maker Nolan the Ninja went from treading water in Detroit's underground hip-hop scene to becoming something like a one-man tidal wave. The native Detroiter was featured in The Huffington Post, WatchLoud, Pigeons and Planes, Ambrosia for Heads, 2Dopeboyz, and freestyled for DJ Tony Touch. Nolan also received a huge shoutout from Detroit legend Royce da 5'9", who continues to mention Nolan whenever he discusses emcees on the rise.
Fast-forward to the present, and the Ninja aims to turn that tidal wave into a tsunami with the release of his album He(art). For this project, Nolan assembled an O.J.-like dream team of producers and emcees; Pig Pen, Sound Boy, 5ynoT, Phat Kat, Guilty Simpson, A-minus, Finale, Red Pill, Supa Emcee, MAHD, MoSS, Def Dee, Jay P, DJ Soko, Soe95, and Nick Speed. Despite the full cast, Nolan's bars and beats shines through as he picks up where he left off on last year's Fuck the Hype EP.
The album begins with subtle keys of "Opulence," a boom-bap cut in which Nolan wastes no time in bashing other emcees and staking his claim as one of the illest in the game. He adds a Roots voice sample with his raspy flow on, "Immortality" as he raps, "My mamma worried about me because I'm not in college/ She ain't hip to the fact that this rapping shit equals dollars."
Nolan keeps the lyrical firepower coming with "Dianetics," "Deploi," and "Epitome." He searches for peace of mind and heart on "Integrity," where he raps that "I know my moralities, never soul settling for a salary/ Rather be respected than to show impression/ Niggas love to show illusion and deception/ Which is why we keep the distance from peasants."
NTN addresses inner city economics in "40 Acres," blue-collar realities in "Reel Shit," and slows it all down on the inspirational title cut. "The world is yours fuck whoever tells you otherwise/ People despite what they can't understand/ And hate is even bound to come from your mans," he raps.
Nolan succeeds in making an album just as good as (if not better than) his previous project. He(art) is diverse in production, substance, and lyrics. He's not pounding the same content over and over again. But he also connects enough pieces of himself in each cut to create symmetry. Nolan sums things up perfectly in the last cut, "Coda": "I'm from the era where artists are quick to ride the waves instead of pave the way/ Which is why I call it disarray."