This month’s Spotlight is on the Puerto Rican and Chinese artist Nahoa Life from Pomona, CA. Nahoa participated in our Open Mic virtual showcase where he was named as Fan Favorite and Expert’s Pick! He is our Artist of the Week and performed on our 9/29 Spotlight Unplugged Instagram Live. At just 12 years old, he is certainly an up-and-coming artist to watch.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey as an artist?
I’m Nahoa Life. I’m a 12- year-old musician. I rap, sing, write music, and play piano. I’ve been into music since I could speak. I remember sitting at the piano playing and singing at age four (I wasn’t a prodigy and the song wasn’t very good but it was always just natural for me to go there). I learned to sing by listening to people like Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, John Mayer, Mali Music, Tori Kelly and more.
I learned to rap by listening to and memorizing my favorite emcees (J.Cole, Black Thought, Eminem, NF, Andy Mineo, and more). My dad is a dope musician and rapper, so I also learned from him.
When I’m not working on music, I’m homeschooling 7th grade. Even before COVID-19 I was homeschooled so it’s not a big change for me. My hobbies are playing with my brother and dog Zoe, studying apologetics, parkour, and magic.
How did you get your start in the music industry?
I started by performing in school and local talent showcases around age 4-5. When I was 11 years old, I told my dad that I was ready to go to the next level and take things more seriously. From that point on, I began to write and record music and in April of 2020 I released my first single “Who Am I” featuring Propaganda. Since then, I have released three more singles and videos and plan to keep releasing singles through 2021.
How did you get involved with Music Forward?
I went to All Access Fest in L.A. where Keith Harris was the guest speaker. It was full of great workshops and speakers, but one of the coolest parts was when they had an open mic. I signed up to perform and a few minutes later I was on the mic and all the teenagers were flipping out. After that event, I followed Music Forward on Instagram and saw the Open Mic Friday opportunity and got involved.
What is one of your favorite Music Forward memories so far?
My favorite memory was performing at the first Open Mic Friday with my original song, “Why” and I won both the “fan favorite” and the “expert’s pick,” so that was pretty cool!
Was there ever a time that you doubted yourself and if so, how did you overcome that challenge?
Honestly, a challenge I’ve faced is doing some of the behind-the-scenes or even on-camera interviews. I love music, I love the creative part, and I love performing, but sometimes the work related to “doing music” is challenging for me, mainly the interviews, because in a lot of ways I’m an introvert. With my friends and family I’m always talking, but I think with the interviews there’s a kind of pressure, and I’m talking to people I don’t really have a personal relationship with yet so it can feel awkward to me.
What is your songwriting process?
It’s not always the same. Sometimes I get a beat first and that leads to a melody and lyrics. Sometimes my parents give me a creative writing assignment for school and I can turn that into a rap or song. Sometimes, I write with my father and we collaborate or make changes and adjustments to each other’s verses. Usually, I like to walk and use my hands when I’m creating a song. I’m not sitting with pencil and paper or even listening to the music. I write in my mind first then record on my phone memo app. I’m trying to make writing a daily practice like a professional songwriter.
What piece of advice would you give to an artist first entering the music industry?
My advice would be to constantly make, promote, and perform your music and make sure the music you create is music that you would enjoy listening to if you weren’t the artist. If you have a gift, and I know you hear this all the time, never give up!
What are some of the changes you’d like to see happen in the music industry?
I would love to see more conscious, talented artists have a bigger spotlight. It seems like the music that gets the most streams and views are usually the ones that aren’t really the most musical or lyrical. I love when I see success for people like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, or Tori Kelly or just someone that created a really dope song because that reminds me that it’s not all negative stuff that can be popular.
How does music move you?
That’s a good question… it’s hard to put into words… it’s just in me. It’s a part of me, it makes me think, smile, jump up and down, and want to share what I created with everyone. It teaches me about love, God, relationships and things I have never experienced, but somehow I can still relate to because the person singing or rapping performed it in a way that helped me understand their pain or joy. I actually just wrote a song about music called “Play It Again” that should be out either the end of this year or early 2021, then you’ll really know how I feel.