Toronto-based hip-hop artist, Nilo Blues carries the influence of his life as a Vietnamese-Chinese Canadian in his diverse music. As he doesn’t prefer titling himself as a rapper, becoming an artist was almost inevitable with his upbringing. It all started when he first discovered YouTube in the fourth grade and decided to take his journey into music.
“My Mom was a salsa dancer and was always bumping 90s/00s R&B in the house,” Nilo says. “My Dad was a DJ and put me on rappers like Tupac, BIG, Jay Z, Young Jeezy, Three 6 Mafia, etc. They split up when I was young so I was always soaking in the different sounds on different occasions. I started listening to Pop/Alt/Rock of all kinds and was genuinely interested in learning the cultural impact of music in all forms at a young age. I was also surrounded by music of all sorts growing up in the dance world. From Hip-Hop to Contemporary, I loved moving to different sounds and a lot of my favorite nostalgic joints are songs I grew up dancing to.”
He says that listening to these diverse sounds at a young age helped him understand and unlearn the meaning of genre.
“As a reflection of our generation, music has become so genre-fluid and now you can find influences from every world in one track,” Nilo says. “I feel like my music is just another vehicle to voice our generations’ thoughts and it’s a direct interpretation of what it means to grow up in this day and age.”
The name, Nilo Blues is a creative persona and has a unique back story. The word, ‘Nilo’ comes from his real name, Colin spelled backward without the letter C, as well as his favorite color being blue.
“I always see myself in a sea of blue when I’m listening to my music,” Nilo says. “R&B consists of two words, Rhythm and Blues. The production will handle the rhythm, and I will fill it up with my pain/emotion, or you could say my blues. It can mean anything you want it to, it serves the same purpose to me as Childish Gambino serves to Donald Glover. It’s about persona. One that’s always changing.”
A few weeks ago, the Toronto musician shared his new vibey song, ‘She Like It’. According to him, the track is a mirror to what we hear today in the pop-trap vernacular, while it digs into the real dynamic at play between men and women of today’s generation. Yet, he still is leaving it open enough to take what they mean from it.
“It’s all open for interpretation, so every instance is singular,” Nilo says. “I just make music I’m proud of and I take what I want from it, but that’s for me to know and understand. Music can act as a landmark for time and space. I think creating the environment around the song is what makes music special and sentimental.”
He also adds that he can see ‘She Like It’ pairing with the “getting-over and getting-out” phase of a relationship.
“I’d like to picture a group of ladies in the drop-top whip blasting the song and singing the hook because it’s Summer and they’re all finally over their shitty ex-boyfriends,” Nilo says. “I’d also like to picture a group of sad boys sitting in a McDonald’s drive-thru bumping this track and going through heartbreak together while still trying to feed their ego, aka. me and my homies in our Junior year of high school.”
Listen to ‘She Like It’ below:
As a musician, when you put so much of yourself into your music, you can sometimes learn something more about yourself when you’ve completed it. For Nilo, it depends on the song.
“The learning happens during the writing process, the finished song is just an afterthought of the lesson,” Nilo says. “At least for me personally, writing has always been therapeutic in a sense. When I’m writing about certain concepts that hold a heavier meaning, it’d be irresponsible for me to not hold an emphasis on learning more about myself and the nuances of the concept.”
As we are living through strange times today, it can feel like a completely different social climate to release a song. Nilo’s priority, however, has been staying informed and standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I understand the responsibilities of having a platform even if sometimes I feel too small to be heard, so my main focus has been sharing useful information and being an echo of our black brothers’ and sisters’ voices,” Nilo exclaims. “I haven’t even really thought about music for the past week with what has been going on. I’m keeping the focus on the fight for justice, and less on my music right now.”
Nilo Blues’ self-titled EP is set to release on August 7th. Meanwhile, follow him on his social outlets below to keep up to date on his work: