Attacking the World: An Exclusive Q&A with Richmond Rap Legend, Nickelus F

by | Apr 12, 2024 | HIP HOP & RAP, MUSIC

Interviewing legendary Richmond rapper, Nickelus F, is an unreserved journey into a vast and uncharted creative wilderness. From the moment you start talking — you talk — about everything — from culture and politics to theology and secret histories to quantum mechanics and the expanding universe. The distance you can travel in conversation with Nickelus F is as unpredictable as it is endless. Nevertheless, the time had come to leave the oral traditions of Mali’s Dogon Tribe behind and focus on MMCHT, his long awaited 11th studio project which can be added to a formidable catalog of over 20 mixtapes. 

We caught up with Nickelus F at our studio last week, not only to talk about the new album but his legacy as one of Virginia’s most prolific artists. 

nick f interview and photos by landon shroder rva magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder, digital illustration by R. Anthony Harris

Landon Shroder: Congratulations on the new album, we’ve been listening to it all week, its amazing. 

Nickelus F: Thank you. Thank you. 

LS: On the intro track for MMCHT, it seems like there are a lot of things on your mind. What’s the world looking like to you right now? 

NF: Right now, the world is looking like a big opportunity for me to build and cement my legacy. You know what I’m saying? I’ve spent a lot of time honing my talents as an artist and preparing myself to attack — to attack the world. Really putting myself, and my music out there, and setting a standard of excellence that my fans can expect, you know? 

LS: Are you finding things inspiring or cynical these days? Because there is a certain heaviness to the new album. 

NF: For me, it’s completing the objective. This is what I said I was going to do with my life from the time I was young. I said, “one day I’m going to be a professional recording artist” and I’ve had the same vision for my life since a child. This time around, my approach is to do it how I want to do it. Looking back on the past, even though I did my best, I feel like I never really maximized the potential I had. But this time around, I will. 

LS: I feel like your albums have always been deeply observational, but this album seems almost testimonial. To paraphrase the track Just F, “Fuck Petey, Fuck Nickelus, fuck all of that shit… its just F.” There’s a lot to infer from a lyric like that. 

nick f interview and photos by landon shroder rva magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder

NF: I would say that’s close to the mark, it’s definitely testimonial. My last album was Stuck in 2018. At that point in time, I was in a completely different space and had a completely different outlook on life — I felt beat down and literally stuck. But I was back in school, and I was hopeful about the opportunities in the future. 

I’m in a way better space now, and a lot of the positioning on this album was definitely testimony. I did a lot reflecting on life, and what’s been going on with me over these past few years. 

LS: Do you feel like you achieved everything you wanted out of this new record? 

NF: In terms of the art, yeah, and the difference is how I approached this album. This time I thought, what is the message that I wanna get across? What is it that I want people to feel? What am I communicating to my contemporaries — to other rappers? What am I saying to the game — to the culture? 

LS: So what message are you trying to send with this album? 

NF: My statement is this: “Yo, I’m rapping at a really high level, and I don’t think a lot of y’all are on par with me.” Right? In terms of having a handle on the craft, the technical aspects of rap, and the range in song style and delivery.

LS: The way you feel you’ve mastered the art form? 

NF: Mastery of the art form, that’s the statement. And I’m continuing to further master all aspects of this, regardless of the type of song — regardless of the bounce, the beat, the topic, the subject matter. 

Yo. I’m slaying shit. So I’m here to push the levels, set bars, and shatter expectations of what a rapper at my age could do. 

LS: That’s fucking awesome. Can I ask you some questions about being a rapper in your forties? 

NF: Of course. 

nick f interview and photos by landon shroder rva magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder, digital illustration by R. Anthony Harris

LS: On Ziplocs, there’s a lyric, “They asked me about my age and I say I’m eternal.” How’s your creative evolution unfolded now that you’re in this new life stage? 

NF: As a creative, I feel super powerful. I feel like I can accomplish whatever it is I need to accomplish creatively. As long as I know what I wanna say and what stance I wanna take, I feel like there’s no roadblocks. 

LS: Do you feel like your priorities have changed as an artist? 

NF: For sure, I think more so right now. I’m at the age where I want to show my growth. I wanna continue to elevate the level of my writing, hone my artistry, and continue carving out my lane — I feel like I don’t sound like any other rapper. I created this whole approach, this is F shit. I’ve analyzed what it is people like about me as an artist, what I like best about myself as an artist, and I leaned into that. 

LS: What have you found during that process of self-assessment? 

NF: That’s super interesting. I’ve realized that people like me for my writing. There are rappers who have great beats, cool voices, unique looks, you know what I mean? But I feel like my biggest selling point is the actual lyrics. So that’s one thing I honed in on; I also adjusted the way that I write, record, and deliver my songs so that I could have a great performance without killing myself on stage. 

nick f interview and photos by landon shroder rva magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder

LS: The rap press is saying you’ve got a new imprint — Trick Dice. Are there plans on building out a roster or expanding into music publishing? 

NF: Eventually. I’ve been getting that question a lot. Having a label was never really a thing that I thought about. But as I’m maturing and getting the pieces and people around me that want to help. And this is my chance to maximize on the potential I mentioned earlier. So right now my focus is getting it off of the ground, off of the back of my music and my catalog. But eventually I would like to expand the roster and work with a couple artists. 

nick f interview and photos by landon shroder rva magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder, digital illustration by R. Anthony Harris

LS: A few years ago you occupied this really interesting space, acting as a bridge between the rap and punk scenes in Richmond. Do you think that bridge still exists or was that a certain time and place because of venues like Strange Matter

NF: I would like to think so. That’s just Richmond culture, right? Our city is special, and that vibe transcends any one musical genre, and more so speaks to the essence of the city. But not everybody can walk that line. So, I think there’s a lot of common ground and there’s a lot of opportunity that’s still yet to be fully explored. 

I also want to give a big shout out to Phil, Mark, and Bobby for each playing a big role in setting up a lot of shows and bringing those crowds together. We found mutual happiness in the music and created great experiences. 

LS: Any plans to tour to support the new album? 

NF: Definitely. We have a lot of shows coming up, some spot dates over the summer, but we’re planning a tour for the fall and winter time. 

LS: Where’s the tour going to take you? 

NF: That I can’t say right now. There are dates that are booked, but it’s something that’s still being put together. 

nick f interview and photos by landon shroder rva magazine 2024
Photo by Landon Shroder

LS: For all the vinyl collectors out there, are you gonna press the new album? 

NF: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you can also expect vinyl releases for some of your favorite projects in my back catalog. 

LS: You continue to inspire, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. 

NF: Thank you. Oh and before I go, I want to tell everyone to check out my website, thanks again. 

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Photos by Landon Shroder
Digital illustrations by R. Anthony Harris

Landon Shroder

Landon Shroder

Landon is a foreign policy and communications professional from Richmond specializing in high risk and complex environments, spending almost 20 years abroad in the Middle East and Africa. He hold’s a Master’s Degree from American University in Conflict Resolution and was a former journalist and producer for VICE Media. His writing on foreign affairs has been published in World Policy Journal, Chatham House, Small Wars Journal, War on the Rocks, and the Fair Observer, along with being a commentator in the New York Times on the Middle East.

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