Young Nudy Is Still Trying to Live Happy, Despite Trials and Tribulations

Atlanta's Young Nudy is no big fan of New York. He says the weed is doo-doo and the people are stressed. It's also not helping that the 26-year-old rapper born Quantavious Thomas has arrived in the city on the gray rainy Tuesday after Memorial Day, when the pleasures of the holiday weekend have given way to work-week dreariness. Traffic held him up on the way to the Billboard offices to discuss his latest album, worsening his impression of NY. 

But he's found one enjoyable thing since coming to a city he otherwise finds uncomfortable: Oreos in water. As we talk, each cookie in the sleeve takes a bath in the plastic cup of office-cooler water before he pops it in his mouth. Must be a texture thing. “Oreo in water? Man that shit good as a motherfucker,” he says, looking pleased. He smiles easily and genuinely. Oreos in water sounds like a joke, a fast-one to pull on a gullible friend in the school cafeteria, but he eats all six cookies that way. Try it, you’ll like it.

Nudy’s latest is Sli’merre, a full-length collaboration with Pi’erre Bourne, the 25-year-old producer behind Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia” and Tekashi 6ix9ine’s “Gummo,” among other idiosyncratic heaters. His often twitchy, off-kilter beats are an acquired taste, and he’s selective about who gets them. His partnership with Nudy is one of his longest and richest; delivering on that promise, Sli’merre is one of the best rap albums of 2019.

When they met, about six years ago, Bourne was primarily an engineer and Nudy was only dabbling in music. Nudy had an idea of how he wanted to sound but not much else. “The sound I was trying to find for my voice, Pi’erre knew how to bring that shit out,” he says. Nudy speaks and raps in a thick East Atlanta accent and is given to mumbling a little bit when he talks. Paired with Bourne's beats, Nudy doesn't sound like much else out.

Despite the success of Sli’merre, it’s been a tumultuous 2019 for Nudy. On February 3, he was arrested with his cousin, 21 Savage, during a traffic stop; Nudy was booked on assault and gang-related charges, while his cousin was detained by ICE. Two weeks later, the rapper was released on bail; his attorney maintains his innocence. Despite making some of the best music of his life this year, he's not given to sweating his status in the industry. "When you fighting for your goddamn freedom, I ain’t gonna stress about no goddamn music," he says.

Speaking with Billboard, Nudy discussed recording Sli’merre, his unreleased song with Playboi Carti that’s creating a streaming controversy, and how he’s feeling about his future.

When did you start working on Sli’merre?

January. Except for “Extendo” and “Long Ride” -- I had been made them. The rest of the songs, I made in January. I stayed in Miami for like a month, recording. I’m used to going to the studio in Atlanta. When I go to different states, each state got its own energy or some type shit. Miami is more player. I had all types of energy -- you can tell on the album. I like Miami though.

If you were recording an album in New York it wouldn’t sound like Sli’merre.

I’m already working on some shit right now, to tell you the truth. I just ain’t gave it no name. I don’t know if I’m working on Nudy Land 2, or if I’m working on something else. I ain’t figured it out yet.

Before I dropped Nudy Land, I had the choice to drop Nudy Land or SlimeBall 3. I let the fans pick. Y'all can get the street shit -- that SlimeBall 3 -- or y'all can get the fun shit, we gonna turn up, I’m outter space, outta my mind, I’ma say anything, you feel me? Fans were like, we want Nudy Land.

Is that mindset where some of your crazier song titles come from? Like, “Loaded Baked Potato”?

“Loaded Baked Potato” and “Fatsane” were the first two where I was like, "I’m finna name these shits something crazy." When I made “Loaded Baked Potato,” off top I named it “Loaded Baked Potato.” Then I said, "I’ma give all these motherfuckers some crazy-ass names."

I love the title “Black Hippie, White Hipster.” Do you feel like it covers some of your various fanbases? Me being the white hipster in this case...

Yeah, man. And I’m the black hippie man. We all smoking weed and kickin’ it. We doing our thing. Most motherfuckers feel like hippies are white, but I’m a black hippie. I like smoking weed. I’ll sit there all day and smoke, for real for real.

When you were in Miami, was Pi’erre with you? Do you two record together?

Nah, he just sent me some beats and I picked what I want. Keeping it real, that n---a sent me probably like 200 beats. I’m a fast picker. I can hear the first five to ten seconds of a beat -- I ain’t even gotta hear the bass. Once I hear the little sounds, and it’s a sound I like, I want that. Or not, keep going. Keep going, keep going. Then go in the booth and make it do what it do.

It don’t take me long to make no song. I don’t go in there all stressed out, like, what the fuck, I need to say the best shit in the world. I just go in that bitch and have fun. That’s all I wanna do. I ain’t stressing myself out about no music shit. That’s the last thing I finna stress about. It probably take me about five minutes for each song.

I’ma tell you another thing: I freestyle to the whole song, through the whole beat, from the top to the end. Then I play the song over and I go in and find me the hook in what I said. Then I just put it together.

Have you watched Pi’erre make a beat?

Hell yeah! He just make them motherfuckers. I don’t really be -- I’m just now getting into, like, "Hey bruh make it sound like this, and make it whoop-whoop-whoop," you feel me? Back then, when we were starting, I used to just sit there and let him make that shit. I used to feel like, I don’t wanna say shit and distract the motherfucker. I don’t make beats, I’m just now getting into this music shit -- I ain’t finna fuck him up. That like a n---a walking into the booth while I’m in there rapping. I’d be mad, you feel me? Pi’erre just realize what type of sounds I want. I like weird noises.

The guestlist on the album features some of the best things happening in rap right now. How did you and Megan Thee Stallion connect?

I had the song and I was like, who should I put on it? At first I was like, I’m gonna put one of these n---as on it, but I kept listening to it and the way it sound, it was like -- a bitch supposed to be on it, you feel me? So I went to naming bitches to put on there and my DJ was like, you ever heard of Meg Thee Stallion? He pulled it up and I’m hearing her music, like oh this bitch fye. And she talking that real street shit. And she new! I like shit like that, so I said, "C’mon let’s do it."

You two didn’t meet until you shot the video. What was your first meeting like?

Shit, I don’t know. Some "wassup shawty" type shit. Laughs.] We just vibing and kickin’ it.

How did Lil Uzi Vert end up on “Extendo”?

Uzi my brother, man. I been fucking with Uzi for a minute. He been wanting to get on the song “Yeah Yeah,” like, "Fuck that, let’s redrop it, lemme remix it, whoop whoop." I was like, "Aight, aight." But then I told him I was about to drop an album, and he was like, "I wanna get on that motherfucker."

So I asked Pi’erre, which one of these songs you wanna put Uzi on? He was like, "Shit, 'Extendo.'" So I had sent it to his ass and then I had a show up there in Philly, and the venue goddamn had a studio upstairs.  When I came in that motherfucker he was already recording the song. Then he said, "You gotta do me a favor." He sent me some shit, I hopped on his shit -- that shit too hard.

He’s had sort of a tough year. His track “Free Uzi” got taken down. Now he’s working with Roc Nation.

He’ll shake up out that shit.

Is he doing okay?

Shit, I don’t ask n---as about they personal lives. Laughs.] What I know, shit, you making money? Yeah? Then aight then.

One of the strangest stories of the year is the fixation on “Kid Cudi,” the unreleased song you recorded with Playboi Carti that leaked.

They want that song so goddamn bad, they getting on my nerves about that shit. Laughs.] I knew that shit was gonna do good. Carti got a whole different type of fanbase. And I got some of them fans, and them motherfuckers get crazy. Carti got crazy-ass fans. That motherfucker weird.

He’s got a lot of fans who are really online.

Yeah, he do. He got a lot of Internet fans. Ain’t nothing wrong with that shit, everybody got they own type of fan.

Do you think the song will come out?

I don’t know. I ain’t gonna lie and say I do. Working on it, though. It’s some legal shit, other than that, it would’ve been out. One little sample] -- everything else in the beat good.

On SlimeBall 3 you rap, “You know I'm living happy” -- you and your family have had a difficult year; how are you feeling now? Are you still living happy?

I don’t know, man. Shit is goddamn crazy right now. I’m going through a lot of shit, just on some personal-type, life-type shit. Freedom-type shit. But other than that, I’m good. I’m happy. Free. Make some money. When you fighting for your goddamn freedom, I ain’t gonna stress about no goddamn music. For real. That’s the last thing I’m worried about.