Fresh from the renowned Future Bubblers programme, the effervescent hip hop trio bring us up to speed on the interplanetary aura that unifies their artistry and being. Time to understand the ‘ness’ of Nutribe.
It’s difficult to imagine NUTRIBE ever sitting still. As they lock into pose to have their picture taken, the lens has barely snapped shut before they’ve contorted into another elastic shape. And even when their bodies hold still just for a second, there’s a constant harmony of staccato noises emitting from their formation; you can almost see the rapids of thought and ideas rushing between their heads as their bodies feel the suppress of static. Their unified presence is a life force of its own. That’s even before you add their music into the equation. When they pull together into frame, they become a North Face, fur hat and beret-clad megazord; a three-headed hip hop hydra sporting razor sharp rhymes instead of deadly teeth.
For a number of years, the trio of Stickydub, Yloh and Doopsman have been injecting a dose of classic hip hop and boom bap into Liverpool’s rap scene. But they’re by no means heritage-facing revivalists. They sound like a trio from the year 3,000 who’ve dug up dusty artefacts left behind by De La Soul, Slum Village and The Roots, inspired to put their own raps to record. The product is music centred on feeling and bodily movement – the latter often choreographing the vocal accompaniment. It’s an energetic blend that has led to support slots with the GZA and taking to the main stage at Africa Oyé. But, more recently, they’ve caught the attentions of Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Music, featuring in the third cohort of the Future Bubblers artist development programme.
Now back in their home city, Elliot Ryder sits down with the trio get the inside track on transcending the energy of the Nutribe ‘ness’.
You’ve been releasing tracks for a few years now, with a recent inclusion on Future Bubblers 3.0. When did the world of Nutribe start coming together?
Doopsman: When I was born.
So, friends first and the music came after?
Yloh: Yeh, the music came last though. We went through a lot of things first before we got to music.
D: We all studied dance at arts college in Liverpool. We all parted ways for a year; Sticky went to London, I went to Leeds and Yloh stayed here. Then we met back up a year later in London and done our ting.
Y: The London era was like a level up for the music, we concentrated on it a lot more when we got there. As for when all this started, you could say from the first time we met; that first time we all jumped on Virtual DJ. From there we just started writing raps and bars.
D: One of the turning points was a night out we went on in London. We were on our way to an event and we came across some turntables just left in the street. We were like, ‘Ah, should we take these back?’ but we were going out, so hid them and planned to get them on the way back. Anyway, at this event, the DJ failed to show, so we ended up filling in and DJing. When we went back, the turntables just happened to be there, which in any other circumstance in London, they would not have. So we took them home – now we make music…
So it seemed like it all started pretty casually. Is it still quite laid back, or was there a moment you thought, ‘We should try at this with a certain intent’?
Stickydub: There was one moment when we were having a jam with our friends in London, and I remember listening back to the voice memos and I was like, ‘Oh, shit, we can do stuff you know’. Then we started hitting up open mic nights, practising.
D: We started with Butcha B, our big brother – man’s got pure flavour. I remember on my 21st birthday in Leeds. We were in a circle, spitting, singing and just chatting shit. There was, like, 20 people around us and we were just in this zone of making noises together. It was a pretty pivotal moment.
Y: It’s pretty mad how people get the expression of what we give off, like the warmth. When it resonates, it resonates. It’s genuine.
You started out as part of the Collecta Family, a multidisciplinary art collective. Are you still part of this scene?
D: It’s still got the family umbrella, but without the name. It’s just Nutribe. That’s the family, that’s the thing.
Would you say you’re a reflection of a changing community, or one that was developed in your youth?
S: I’d say it’s hard not to be a reflection of the community we were brought up in. A reflection doesn’t necessarily mean the same, though, but you can’t escape that similarity. We’re part of so many communities; we’re of complex culture. Lots of our families are mixed, we’ve lived in different cities, our identities are complex. We’re a reflection of many, not just one. That’s what Nutribe is.
There’s quite a democratic style in the way that you perform in that there’s a collage of voices often present at one time. How did this develop?
D: I think it’s just how we are with each other. We have a respect. We strive on communication so much. That makes everything so much easier. So, if Yloh was like, ‘I wanna spit there’, we’d be like, ‘Spit there, go for it’. Standard. Cool, let’s hear it.
Y: It’s one of those where if Doops says he’s coming in, I know he’s going to come in with something that I’m going to be gassed with. We have that mutual artistry that is one collective voice. It’s just different voices in the one voice.
S: We just know our ‘ness’, n e double-s. We just know what our ness is. Our ness, our vibe. We’re just lacing our words with the same vibe, you get me? I just trust them. I don’t care how much that I say. I’m norrarsed. It doesn’t matter. I’m still there, my energy is being represented, pushed out.
D: Like we have a track without Yloh in it, and obviously it’s not the same exact flavour, but it’s still got the same element and ingredient.
So, Nutribe is a feeling?
D: It’s a way, it’s a ness.
Y: I can make a track by myself, that’s Nutribe. I could make pottery, that’s Nutribe. Doesn’t matter what the instrument is, it’s the expression that’s within in it.
Are each of you bringing a certain style, or have a certain musical responsibility? Is it very much a socialist sort of make up to the group?
Y: We all have unique tools, but we’re all happy to give opinions on each of them.
S: It all comes together in the expression.
D: I view it as a kitchen. If we were all head chefs on day one, it wouldn’t work. You need the Sous-Chef, the porter. We switch roles. And whoever is more active on a certain topic, we just roll with it.
Listening to the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan, there’s a strong feeling that every member is jostling for the mic, wanting their moment. Were these influences prevalent in your early days, and how did you break from the more self-promotional display?
Y: We do have tunes where each of us have our time to shine. But, you know, it’s not like one of us would be like, ‘Yo, it’s my time’. Rather, one of us would be like, ‘Yo, it’s your time, we want you to take the lead’. As much as we all shine together, there’s a certain time when one of us has got something special, and we want to highlight that.
D: Our music isn’t something we’re specifically trying to get out, it’s just what we do, how we step. We don’t bring each other down on that; we big each other up all the time. It’s not fake. What would be the point? I know mans is going to spit fire bars, why would I dash the mic from him?
S: Even back in the day when that competitiveness was there, I still believe in the Wu-Tang’s language, it’s like a sparring match. It’s not a bad thing.
Would you say your style derives from freestyle?
S: Most of our songs are written verses, but we write in very different ways. We incorporate that into our shows a lot. Usually we have a whole track that is just freestyle. We do write though, whether it be through voice notes, or notebook and pen.
D: Because we all project the same thing, we don’t need to be in the same place to write. Even without a topic, we can gel our words together.
So it’s almost like a subconscious being; one of you could write a few lines, and the other will naturally have the hook, or the harmony
D: It’s the ness. Once again, it’s the ness!
S: We know the lifestyle innit, and we live the lifestyle of Nutribe. We’re in that; it’s not a choice.
What we talk about, it’s all within that. The cohesiveness is embedded in that.
Was there a moment where you all collectively understood the ness?
S: Before we made music, we were already creating together, dancing together. I think the ness was something that was visible to others before it was visible to us. Other people could pick up on the energy between us.
Can other artists be part of the ness?
Y: Yeh. But other people think that they can’t be part of the ness as much as they actually could be. They might see an aesthetic, and not feel a part of it, but we understand it in a different way. It’s not how you dress, it’s how you think, your way of being. Anyone can be a part of it; it’s open.
S: I think just being around the ness, you become subject to the aura of the ness. If we’re here just nessin, then ness with us.
Y: It’s not exclusive.
A lot of your raps have a distinct colloquialness. Do you think you benefit from having the Scouse accent in a rap game dominated by southern accents?
D: Yeh, 100 per cent.
Y: It’s very stylised, unique in its own way.
D: Even without music, Scouse captivates an audience, just talking. It’s a recipe isn’t it?
Lately, so much of language seems bound up in charged rhetoric for negative purposes. Do you think it’s important to use language in a celebratory way?
Y: I think it’s important to be honest. You can write, see negativity and reflect on that. Everything you create, you can reflect on and learn more about yourself. As an outsource, everyone likes to hear positivity. Why wouldn’t they? People like to see three MCs having a good time, chatting goodness. Not your typical moody language.
S: I wouldn’t say that it’s necessary to emit positivity for an artist. I’d agree it’s all about being honest. You shouldn’t be trying to control your expression. I don’t think people should try to be positive, I think we just are that way. I wouldn’t write something and think, ‘Oh, that’s not positive enough’. It’s where we are at.
Does the mix of music, writing and dance help sculpt your style?
S: Out of all of those there, the one that we’re doing is movement. The broader term. This is all movement. It’s the first thing you do in your life. Without movement, there can’t be language.
Y: Everything is intersectional. Everything affects the other, you know, connecting those dots within yourself. You see that in yourself. There are times where I’ve written a verse, dancing around at the same time; I can see the similarities in the way the words and my body move.
So, do you have to see Nutribe to get Nutribe, to understand the ness?
Y: Best way is to be around it. The more you get, the more you get.
S: It’s just a higher dosage.
Y: Some people are fluent in music and get the whole picture from just listening to it.
S: It can depend on the person, though. But sometimes you can bump into people and…
Y: …and they just get it!
S: They just get it.