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A Matter of Time: A Conversation with Not.Alone

By Ahriel Nari

Sometimes, you have to go out of your way to find good music. Other times, good music finds you. One day on Twitter, I asked my followers to put me on to some local artists. One of the names that kept coming up was Not.Alone, a group from the DMV that effortlessly blends hip-hop, jazz, and soul. The collective consists of multi-instrumentalist producer DÆTÄ, singer/songwriter Marc Amour, and rapper/producer Nomad the Native.

I had the privilege of interviewing the trio inside of their creative space, which is located inside of a picturesque Prince George’s County home. Marc greeted me at the door. As soon as I stepped foot inside, I heard melodic sounds echoing from the basement. With Washington Redskins paraphernalia and Afrocentric art plastered on the wall, the basement creates a cozy atmosphere for them to create music. When I arrived, Nomad and DÆTÄ were in the middle of choosing a bassline for a track. The intensity with which they were listening to the song was one that can only be emitted from artists who are dedicated to their craft. After meticulously going over different ideas, they finally settled on a bassline, but they were seemingly unsatisfied. “Let’s come back to this later. We don’t want to keep Ahriel waiting,” Nomad said – and so we began.

Ahriel Nari: Where did you guys get the name Not.Alone from?

Nomad the Native: Not.Alone came from, ideologically, we believe that art and music can be a unifying experience. I remember Jay-Z said in an interview that when he’s at his concerts the Black kids and the white kids are all singing Jay-Z lyrics. At least for that concert, that moment, those couple of songs, there’s no division between people. It’s just everybody enjoying themselves and everybody is together. So that’s the idea behind Not.Alone: when we’re doing music, or any art for real, we want to be able to highlight the shared experience of living.

AN: Wow, that’s beautiful. So, how did you guys first meet and start making music together?

Marc Amour: Me and Nomad met because I went to University of Maryland Eastern Shore. His cousin Desmond and [I] became real tight – that’s like my best friend. One random weekend, I rode back to this area with [Desmond] and that’s how me and [Nomad] met.

Nomad the Native: I met DÆTÄ in college. We went to Frostburg State University together. My fraternity, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., was hosting a talent showcase. [DÆTÄ] was the house keyboardist. There was a portion of the event where a bunch of people were gathered around the piano and he was playing different riffs and loops or whatever, and people were just freestyling. That’s how we met – I was freestyling around the piano while he was playing at an event for my fraternity. We just stayed cool around campus. We all eventually got into working on music together in 2015. There were songs here and there that I was working on that I tapped [Marc] Amour for in 2015. A couple months after my solo project dropped [in early 2016], I was unsatisfied with it, sonically. So, I tapped DÆTÄ like, “Yo…what if we worked together? I have a bunch of production ideas and structural ideas. [DÆTÄ] has a bunch of knowledge as far as music theory. So, let’s start a music collective and see what happens”. While we were bouncing around ideas, we just had random voice notes of chord progressions and [were] thinking about what our purpose was. We were still figuring out our direction. I was like, “Yo. What if we added another person”? So that’s when I reached out to [Marc] Amour.

Marc Amour: The first time I actually met [DÆTÄ], [Nomad] had me pick [DÆTÄ] up. I was like, “Why am I picking up somebody? I don’t know this person.” It was funny because I pulled in the driveway and [DÆTÄ’s] Dad came out. He was like “Hey!” I was like, “Hey!”. He’s like, “You waiting for Marc (DÆTÄ’s government name)?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m waiting for Marc.” He’s like, “Who are you?” I was like, “I’m Marc!”

[everyone laughs]

AN: Were y’all music majors [in college]?

[DÆTÄ raises his hand]

Marc Amour: I didn’t get into singing until [Nomad] brought me [into the group] in 2015.


AN: I see! Name all of your instruments, [DÆTÄ].

DÆTÄ: Here’s the instruments I’ve gotten paid to play: trombone, bass, and piano. Instruments that I’ve fooled around on [are] drums – I’ve been picking apart guitar. I know how to play all of the brass instruments. I was a brass major [in college] so I can play tuba, French horn, euphonium, and baritone. My main three [instruments], though, are piano, trombone, and bass.

AN: Damn, you’re talented….

Marc Amour: We jih like can’t afford him.

AN: [laughs] I saw on Instagram that you guys do these poetry slams and that’s dope! Tell me about that. How did you guys get started with that?

Nomad the Native: Not A Poetry Slam is my lil’ baby! Not A Poetry Slam is a combination of an open mic and an open forum. We just kinda wanna foster a sense of community where people can talk about topics that are already on our minds, anyways. We had one last year, the very first one, where we talked about love. The last one we talked about feminism and women’s rights issues. The next one is gonna be another topic, you know what I mean? We want to [create a space] where people can share. A lot of the poetry is a catalyst for those types of conversations.

AN: What are your top 5 albums of all time? Take your time.

Marc Amour: For me, definitely Voodoo by D’Angelo. I really love DAMN. by Kendrick [Lamar] – between [DAMN.] and To Pimp a Butterfly [by Kendrick Lamar]. Somebody else jump in while I think…

DÆTÄ: I would say Jazz Loves Paris by Buddy Collette and Harlem River Drive by Bobbi Humphrey. For all you jazzheads, listen to those albums.

Nomad the Native: The first two albums I was ever given were Jill Scott’s first album, Who is Jill Scott? and Outkast’s Stankonia. The albums that made me want to rap were Kanye West’s Late Registration and Common’s Be. Then, to bring it back out of hip-hop, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions. I listen to that joint often as hell. So, yeah, I think that’s my top 5. I got a bunch of other joints that I like but I wanted to keep it simple.

Marc Amour: For me, I really enjoyed John Legend’s second album, Once Again. Then I’m going to say Late Registration [by Kanye West], also. Indicud, [by Kid Cudi] for me, was really, really, really fire. D’Angelo is my favorite singer. I really loved his first album. I love the contrast between his first two albums because the first album was so structured, and Voodoo was so loose and drunken. You wouldn’t really think the same artist made them.

DÆTÄ: Not to be cliché, but I love all of Herbie Hancock’s music. Any one of his albums you could name and I’d be like, “Yeah, I listen to the whole thing”. There’s just a lot of good music around so I can’t really [name my top 5 albums of all time]. Frank Rosolino had good albums – he got me through college.

AN: Alright, so shifting gears, how did you guys come up with the concept for your Black DeLorean EP?

Nomad the Native: Every once in a while, [Marc Amour and I] challenge each other by [sending] each other a beat or a song and be like, “Write to this,” just to see if the other person can do it, [in order to] stay sharp. I challenged him to write his verse on “Time Spent” to a different beat. He [wrote] what ended up being his verse on “Time Spent”. I was listening to “Kutless” by NxWorries when I wrote the first verse of “Waay Back” and part of that stuck in my mind – driving around in a car feeling fucking timeless and thinking about what it was like to be back in time. [Marc Amour] had written his verse for “Time Spent” and I was like, “Yo, these two free-floating verses are about time.”

Marc Amour: Which was not on purpose at all.

Nomad the Native: So, I was like, “Yo, what if we made an EP about time travel or some shit and call it Black DeLorean?”. I was thinking about driving around in a car, so the car time machine was the DeLorean and I love Back to the Future I and II. So, when we decided we were gonna make a lil’ EP out of these joints, we took references and our own ideas and threw them together.

AN: Did you all collaborate with anybody else on Black DeLoreanBlack or is it just y’all three?

Marc Amour: It’s purely just us – the production, the lyrics, everything. We recorded it ourselves. The only thing we did outside [of us] was get it mixed and mastered.

AN: What is each of you all’s favorite song from the EP?

Not.Alone: [in unison] “Time Spent”

Marc Amour: My favorite [song] to perform is “Waay Back” just because of the way we end it. We don’t perform it the way that it’s recorded, for real. My favorite [song] to listen to is “Time Spent”.

Nomad the Native: I think of all three songs, it’s the full package of us.

Marc Amour: It’s literally the full package of us – the beat, the flow that I have, and the contrasting flow that Nomad comes in with.

AN: What’s been the highest point of your musical career so far?

Marc Amour: I really enjoyed performing at Adams Morgan Porch Fest because we really took a situation that was going to be shitty and flipped it. One of the things we learned very early on was to not depend on anything else and to always bring as much equipment that you think you might need. So, we had a homie of Nomad’s that was going to supply us with sound – just speakers. When we got there, homie’s speakers blew out. We were closing out that space. There was a whole crowd of at least 70 people by the end of the event. So, we’re out there and we’re just like, “Damn, these speakers don’t work”. So, we had this little PA joint that held us down.

Nomad the Native: We cranked that joint ALL the way up!

Marc Amour: It was one of those things that turned out to be great. I think one of the things that we didn’t consider was the first song that we performed and who the crowd was We were just like, “We’re great. We gon’ bang out these songs that we practiced”. The first song was “Black Don’t Crack”. When we got out there and realized who the crowd was, we just looked at each other and snickered. . It was a crowd filled with white folk, which is fine. It was funny seeing their reactions, but they were very receptive. It was great.

Nomad the Native: My favorite moment is January of [2017] we performed at the MLK Day Parade in Southeast [Washington, D.C]. We played “Unapologetic” and it’s really gogo. It’s jih like old school-sounding gogo, not like bounce beat or slow bounce. The crowd was rockin’. I remember there was some old lady that was out in the street. She was with the shits! Then, you know that eccentric aunt that you can talk to about anything that’s super open-minded? That aunt, one of my closest aunts, came to see me. It was tight that she was there for that. That sticks in my mind. What about you, DÆTÄ?

DÆTÄ: I liked playing at Black Cat with y’all. It was the first time I really saw people responding to something that I’ve done, personally. Another one of my favorite things that happens when I’m with y’all is the moment before people know you’re good.

Nomad the Native: YOOOOOOO, yeah son. That shit is amazing!

DÆTÄ: We were about to go on [at some bar] and [people] heard us do our soundcheck. There was this one dude in the crowd. He saw me practicing bass. So, I introduced myself like, “What’s up, bro? You here to see the music? Yadda, yadda”—just chewing the fat with him. He said, “Yeah, man. I can’t wait to hear what you guys really do”. He heard [the bands] the went before us perform and he pretty much did not vibe the whole night. Not being malicious, he was just being cool. We go on stage and he has the same [cool demeanor]. The beat dropped and yo, this man went [stank face]. I was like, “GOT ‘EM”. Then, he started vibing and milly rocking for like two seconds. I was like, “Yo, we just shook the ice off of this man!” Ever since that night, I’ve been really paying attention to when people really catch the vibe.

AN: So, what’s next for Not.Alone?

Nomad the Native: More music. We spent the last couple of years relatively quiet until March. So, this year we got more music. We’re trying to drop random joints – songs that are just on our minds. We want to be able to drop a project. We want more visuals because “Time Spent” was jih like a tester, it wasn’t even the whole song. We want to get into merch – shirts, some shit that we sell exclusively at shows or you have to fuck with us to catch. Is there anything else next for us, brothers?

DÆTÄ: The world.

AN: Anything else you want to say to the people?

DÆTÄ: All love. God bless.

Marc Amour: [plays guitar]

Nomad the Native: Dawg, be open to new experiences and new people. I’m trying [to] and I encourage you to do the same. Act like you’re not the only one here, my nigga. Act like you’re sharing this shit with somebody. Boom.

AN: Boom.

Black DeLorean is available on all streaming platforms.
Connect with Not.Alone!
Instagram : @notalonellc
Twitter : @notalonellc