You might imagine your favorite signed rapper reclining in a mansion, surrounded by gilt-framed Supreme posters, and contemplating how best to show off their new video game character-inspired chain to an Instagram Live of 6,278 followers.
But Young Nudy is outside.
Our first call for this interview got pushed. The 28-year-old rapper, born Quantavious Thomas, chose to go to a local mall with his family instead. And when we talk a day later, the sounds of giggling kids and an ice cream truck jingle fill the air behind him. His face, forehead, dreads, and blue skies cycle through the screen in that order as he twirls the FaceTime camera absentmindedly as he talks. The air is fresh and he’s in good spirits.
“I’m a neighborhood type of nigga, so I still go to my neighborhood and shit,” he says, stomping through crunched leaves to find a quieter spot as voices fade into the background and he nods to someone who addresses him as “Slime.” “I like to come out here and kick it, maybe barbecue and shit. But not on no bullshit though, just on some chill shit.”
If every rapper is a breath of fresh air, Nudy is the freshness of your first acid trip. He isn’t your most technically gifted lyricist, mastermind of melodies, or avant-garde spitter who sledgehammer-smashes brand name drops into each of his verses. But on the flip side, he isn’t a devilish rap troll with numbered face tattoos or a memeable lyricist inspiring a cult of followers. Nudy stands in another realm entirely, muttering into the microphone of a funhouse. That’s a shit description, but there’s nothing that quite easily explains his music — and that’s what makes him one of the most intriguing rappers in the industry today.
To be so idiosyncratic, it usually takes some kind of predisposition towards rap. You know what I mean — the hard-on that every rapper had for the craft when their parents played Nas, Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, or some other lyricist that was every hip-hopper’s Michael Jordan growing up. Not for Nudy. He just started doing it. “I ain’t really have no motivation on why I just started rapping,” he says. “It was just some little shit that I was doing. It wasn’t no goddamn plan type shit, like “Yeah I want to be a rapper.”
Nudy got into it in 2014 with the release of “Off the Head.” He was rough around the edges, but that comes from being green. Then another song, “Learn To Get Dat Money” with LV, came out (and actually ended up going viral later for how ridiculously loud that Nudy rapped “GET YOU SOME MONEY”) that proved Nudy had a long way to go.
But luckily for him, his cousin, rapper 21 Savage, actually started making music that year, leading to his development potentially being expedited tremendously via the success of 21’s debut single, “Picky.” By the next year, 21 Savage’s debut project The Slaughter Tape found him quickly becoming a stalwart figure in Atlanta’s buzzing rap scene, while Nudy, growing slower, was finding his place. Nudy decided to finally take rap seriously after he collaborated with 21 for “Air It Out,” and saw that people were responding to his verse.
This time period taught Nudy an important lesson that would come to define his cool-headed approach to being a rapper: “You got to be patient with this,” he says. “You can’t rush this. I never rushed this shit — I just took my time and stayed patient.”
While 21 Savage was escalating, Young Nudy’s growth was halted after getting locked up for a probation violation for being around the guns that appeared in the “Air It Out” and “Don’t Beef” (another one of his early record) videos. When speaking to The Fader in 2018, Nudy revealed that most of 2016 led to it being “one of my worst years,” but there was a major upside — Nudy’s breakout project, Slimeball was dropped on the masses.
On it, Nudy got rid of his early kinks, and he also developed a unique sound anchored by an eclectic selection of beats. This was due to the fact that for some of the tracks, he worked with then-rising producer Pi’erre Bourne in a way that pushed both of their careers at lightning speed. First connecting with Bourne in 2015 through his cousin Cory Mo, Nudy says that the producer would sneak him into the studio so that they could work late at night.
“I used to have to get up at 1:00 in the morning whenever I was going to the studio with Pi’erre, because I know I can’t go into the studio until 2:00,” says Nudy. “Once I was there, I wouldn’t leave until 8:00 in the morning.”
Nudy got inspired by Bourne’s work ethic during, which led to him taking his career even further. “We’d work until 8:00, and then he’d have to go right into a whole other session,” Nudy says. “So that nigga didn’t even really get no sleep. That’s why I fuck with him. He really worked for this shit.”
After the release of Slimeball, Nudy became a hot commodity. By the end of 2017, Nudy had two more projects out, Slimeball 2 and Nudy Land, and features with artists like Juicy J, Lil Yachty, and Offset were in the cut. Through Bourne’s production, Nudy’s music became stream-of-consciousness whispers over beats built around cartoon sounds — anchored by a fascination with horror, most evidently seen in the covers that featured iconic killer doll Chucky of the Child’s Play slasher film franchise.
Of that love for Chucky — Nudy almost didn’t show it, due to 21 Savage’s close association with slasher film star Jason Voorhes. “I always fucked with Chucky,” says Nudy. “One of my little folks just gave me the idea like ‘Shit, you should fuck with Chucky since you like him so much.’ I didn’t want to, because my cousin was focusing on Jason — I didn’t need anyone thinking I was on some shit like that. But I just went ahead and fucked with it and, shit, that played out good for me.”
In 2018, Nudy’s life changed even more — he signed a major-label deal with Paradise East Records, RCA Records, and Same Plate Entertainment, and when he released his Slimeball 3 mixtape that same year, it became his first project to chart on the Billboard 200. Nudy was finally in the big leagues. A little over a year later, he was nominated for a Grammy for his feature on Dreamville Records’ single “Down Bad.” After everything that he’d been through, it was finally time. Five years and six projects (including a 2019 collaborative project with Bourne called Sli’merre that came because they “just wanted to do that shit because we never dropped together before”) later, a debut album proper was finally on the way.
Anyways, the long-awaited LP that hyper-focused itself around Nudy’s symposium of hypnotic beats and even more narcotic lyricism, arrived in February of 2020. Its timing couldn’t have been worse: “As soon as my shit dropped, the pandemic hit like two weeks later,” Nudy says. “That shit really fucked up everything I had going — but it did straight with no promotion.”
The pandemic is still going, depending on who you ask, but that hasn’t stopped Nudy’s work. He’s released two more albums this year alone, Dr. Ev4l and Rich Shooter, both of which have charted on the Billboard Hot 200. And he’s already working on a follow-up, Spaced Out, inspired by “living outer space, above the clouds.” The pandemic’s been a “paydemic” for Nudy, and there’s no sign of slow down yet.
His success comes down to how Nudy approaches making music; instead of focusing on what it’ll sound like, he just goes into the booth to have fun. “I don’t stress myself out with this shit, because I know I like rapping ganger-type shit on fun ass beats,” he says about his process. “When I make my songs, I already know how i’m feeling, like if this song is gonna be ‘Fuck this ho, that ho ain’t shit.’” That process led to the creation of “Green Bean,” a psychosis-inducing manifesto which indeed mentions its titular vegetable. “When I did ‘Green Bean,’ my mind was actually on green beans — I was in the both like ‘I’m just going to talk about grass and some green shit’ and it played out like that.”
“Green Bean '' became a TikTok smash (just like Nudy’s 2017 song “Hell Shell”). Nudy’s fanbase is growing, changing its makeup, and he hears the continuous calls for new music. But despite the fact that he’s released two albums this year alone, Nudy actually doesn’t want to drop in the near future — even though he’s already recording.
“The reason why I don’t like dropping a lot of music is because I be thinking, ‘All right, they have had their time for this artist’s music and that artist’s music — now, they’re going to need some of me again and my energy,’” he says.
Nudy’s energy is what’s made the world fall hard for his music — and, from the sound of voices picking up in the background of our call, also responsible for a group of people having a good time in the street nearby. He’s outside, in real time. There’s a reason for that too:
“I’m just experiencing the world. I be just trying to enjoy everything for a minute.vAnd then once I'm done enjoying it and I'm and I'm feeling how I want to feel, then I go make the music and shit, you feel me?”