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Listening, let alone making hip-hop is not the norm in Kingston. At the age of five, when the Miami, Florida-born MC named Damon (“Nomad” spelled backwards) moved back to his parents’ homeland, he absorbed the world around him. Living in the capital city’s Uptown section, and schooled in Downtown Kingston, Nomad Carlos was a student in and out the classroom. With a cousin from the US living in the household, Damon had access to albums and mixtapes, along with heavy doses of “Rap City.” However, while Jamaica’s own Reggae and Dancehall borrowed their compositions and attitudes from much of the rest of the world, Nomad Carlos took an American artform, and applied it to his very unique surroundings. “We are influenced by a lot of what we see on cable,” he says of the island culture. “There is definitely a worldwide influence on Jamaica as a whole.” Studying 2Pac, Mobb Deep, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Nomad Carlos formed a Rap crew with fellow Rap lovers. Freestyling in the hallways and writing 16-bar verses about their pastimes, the collective eventually gained some local recognition. “Not fearing anything,” as he reflects, the outfit performed in Kingston as teenagers, at a time when Rap was never on stage in the legendary musical city. Looking back, Carlos says, “A lot of the crowd looked at us like we were crazy.”
A decade later, Nomad Carlos has proved that his vision was in fact crazy innovative. As one of the only working hip-hop artists from Jamaica, the MC balanced mixtapes (2012’s DJ Ill Will & DJ RockStar-hosted Live From The Yard and Me Against The Grain follow-up) to fully-produced solo albums, beginning with Fuel To The Fire. The 2008 EP was followed with 2013 EP, You’re Most Welcome. Looking at his latest work, he says, “Prior to You’re Most Welcome, I wasn’t being produced. I was just hungry and wanting to rap. Those projects, I feel like that’s what they were.” Although he may downplay the early work, songs like Me Against The Grain and “Murder Music” are compelling grooves that chronicle Jamaica’s danger, political underbelly, and finer offerings at once. Hip-hop in presentation and beat, the song—was well received in Kingston and NYC stages and has those trademark Dancehall elements.
Living amidst the music industry’s epicenter, Nomad Carlos continues to integrate Jamaica with hip-hop. Pay Attention, a show started by Nomad and few like-minded friends in 2012, is a Kingston showcase held nearly 10 times a year. Dedicated to spotlighting local talent, Pay Attention shows are the first of their kind. “When I was coming up, nothing like that existed, says the MC, who has also headlined during his releases. “It sounded impossible at the time, but we just made it work.” Funding early shows out of pocket, this dedication was something that the MC knew was paramount.
Since re-connecting with producer Sosa, Nomad Carlos’ music has received greater input, experimentation, and creative strides. “I’ve been in a much better musical situation since I’ve been in New York,” he says of the late 2013 stateside transition, and forming his ArkHouse Music Group team. Based in New York City, he, Sosa, and DavidEnco aim to not only further Nomad Carlos’ brand, but also to cultivate other talent. Nomad Carlos’ full attention is currently on “Distants” which will be released April 28, 2015.