Nick León is a 22-year-old producer, straight out of Lauderdale, who is truly pushing the envelope. This is evident in his music, particularly his Inorganic EP (embedded above)—released this past summer via Space Tapes. His ability to incorporate psychedelia in his music is mainly what draws him apart, as he tends to experiment with the resources around him in the studio, and with his mind as well. His mind wanders, the soundscapes follow, and the rest is producer magic.
Overall, the young rising talent displays a level of virtuosity that leads us to believe that he is destined to go far. An avid user of Ableton Live, Nick plans to bring chills down the spines of thousands of hetty Floridians during his live set at Miami’s upcoming annual III Points festival. With that said, Citrus Rap took the initiative to catch up with Nick León about everything from his work on Robb Bank$’s Year of the Savage and The Underachievers’ Evermore, to his dream music festival lineup and ethos as a producer.
Citrus Rap: First of all, III Points is right around the corner, so what can people expect in your set?
Nick León: I’ll be playing all original music + a few remixes. I’m hoping to mess with people’s minds a bit. It’ll definitely be something to zone out to; trippy shit.
Who are some acts you’re looking forward to seeing live at the festival?
I’m ready to see my peers shine mostly. My guys Twelve’len, Robb, and Nuri of course. There’s a band called Kazoots that are amazing too.
If you could curate a festival with unlimited budget and ability to resurrect dead acts, who would be headlining?
I don’t know…maybe a Beatles reunion or something like that…or Aphex Twin…definitely Aphex Twin.
Coming up as a producer, you tend to go through a variety of stages until you figure out that signature sound. Would you say that’s the case for you? What would you say is your signature sound at this point?
I’ve been making beats for 10 years now—and it all started from reggaeton [Laughs], so it’s definitely changed. I think my “sound” at the moment is based on textures; I’m big on textures, layered soundscapes and all that.
What is your favorite song off of YOTS that you didn’t produce on?
“Leatherface” and “WIT” are my favorites right now.
You clearly have been busy this past year making music for yourself and others. Do you separate those processes much, or are you mainly locked into the studio churning out beats and sorting them out later? What exactly is your approach to getting into the groove of making tracks?
If I’m by myself, 90% of the time I’m working on my own stuff. When I work with artists, it almost always has to be in the same room. That’s how I prefer it. The music just flows better that way. Everything sounds better when everyone is on the same page.
What some people may or may not know is that you’re the executive producer of the rather impressive follow-up album from The Underachievers that just came out. Coming from South Florida, how exactly did you guys connect; and what events lead up to you being graced with the opportunity to take on Evermore?
Twitter is my plug [Laughs]. I sent UA a bunch of beats when they first got signed in 2012. We got cool, they kicked it at my house in Lauderdale one time after a flight layover, and we just kept in touch. I kept sending tracks and eventually Issa asked me to executive produce the album. It had been in the works for a little while.
Shouts outs to Twitter. So what duties did you take on as the executive producer?
As executive producer, my job was to make sure the entire album flowed, and that every beat was consistent. UA had the direction they wanted but my job was to compliment their ideas and make them come to life. I had to replay some samples on the album and got a few homies to add live instruments. I also mixed a good amount of the tracks on there before the album was sent to Daddy Kev.
Speaking of Twitter, we noticed the Holy Mountain cover photo on your Twitter profile. That’s very cool to know you’re a fan of the film. It makes total sense, considering that you mentioned to us in your “Florida’s Natural” interview that you’re into psychedelia. What else do you draw influence from when it comes to psych stuff?
I’m addicted to knowing the things you aren’t supposed to “know.” I read a lot. I’ll read some shit that will just ruin my day/life and perception on the whole world, but, like, I can’t look away [Laughs]. I’m a pretty positive person, but I know there is a lot of incredibly dark shit going on in this reality, so I try to shed light on some of those things in my work. The human condition is pretty psychedelic too—if people actually stop to think about it.
Your Inorganic EP is comprised of a lot of soundscapes and seems to only be suited for listening, rather than being rapped over. What do you apply to those solo tracks that separates from the rap tracks you make?
It’s like two different halves of my brain. The solo stuff is usually made when I’m left to my own devices like I mentioned previously. I just experiment: I’ll go crazy over voice memo recordings and messing with the audio until something comes out—that’s how this last EP was made. I would turn something, like the sound of my dog crying, into a synth, or something stupid like that. When I make music for artists, I either have to be with them or have a clear understanding of what they want. Otherwise, nothing gets done or it just gets boring.
What do you find is your biggest struggle as an artist? Producer?
My biggest struggle is just making sense, finding context to what I do, and explaining it to people. I’m a little bit schizophrenic with music.
“Sometimes I’m the rap producer; other times I’m the audio scientist.”
What is one of your favorite studio memories with Robb while making YOTS?
Follow Nick León on Soundcloud for more music.