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  • Paul Riley

5 Albums To Know Me: Nolan Lewis

Hailing from Los Angeles and currently based in Bethesda, MD, and Middletown, CT, Nolan Lewis has been making waves with his infectious pop-rap sound, gaining recognition from actress Beanie Feldstein and going viral on TikTok with his remix of Nicki Minaj’s “FTCU.” The rising independent artist recently unveiled his latest musical endeavour with the release of his EP, Do your eyeballs ever feel warm?. This six-track project showcases Nolan’s diverse talents, blending elements of hip-hop/rap, electro-pop, country, bossa nova, and psychedelic soul. The EP, inspired by his time with The Wesleyan Spirits, features the electrifying single “PACKUPNGO!” and highlights his commitment to championing Black and queer artists. With production, writing, and recording completed in under a month, the EP captures the essence of Nolan’s musical journey and promises to resonate with audiences worldwide.

In this exclusive discussion, Nolan opens up about the five albums that have significantly influenced his life and musical career, offering fans a deeper understanding of the artist behind the music...

Tierra Whack – Whack World

Nolan Lewis: I am somebody who really enjoys silly rap. The origins of hip-hop/rap were discussing the Black struggle in America, and things have certainly gotten better (at least on paper) from that point. So that gives our community the wiggle room to freely express ourselves, which is something I see in Whack World, as well as Tierra Whack’s entire discography and aesthetic.  It brings me joy to listen to this album! Even with her silliness, she also discusses serious topics surrounding mental health and is still taken seriously; she shows you can create whatever you want and people will support it, which is very inspiring to me. I’ve also met her in person, and we’re interacted on social media, so as a person I hold her dear to my heart, even if she’s forgotten who I am, haha.


Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee 

Nolan Lewis: This album was introduced to me by my father—a lot of early musical memories I have are with him, riding in the car to kindergarten listening to tons of musicians. Obviously, I was not in kindergarten in 2019, but when I visited him around this time he showed me the album. It represents my sonic goals as a musician, being to take serious topics—in this instance, Saadiq covers narratives about his brother’s addiction and overdose—but still turning it into something that has groove and creates a soundscape that, if you’re not listening hard enough, could be positively received. But when you take a second to sit down and listen, you realize how interesting and nuanced the lyricism is. It’s a perfect album to me.


Solange – When I Get Home 

Nolan Lewis: I don’t know what’s in the water that the Knowles family is drinking, but they cannot stop putting out incredible bodies of musical work. I had heard “Almeda” and “Binz”, but I got acquainted with the album when I started college. Initially, it was the background to my study sessions, but the under 40-minute runtime meant I constantly had it on loop. The more I listened, the more I would pick up on the intricate instrumentation and vocalization, as well as the masterful transitions. It feels like a musical version of visual art, it would go along perfectly with a Basquiat piece. It’s also so clearly Black while being ambiguous on the surface, like if you know, you know. And that’s what I appreciate, I love when artists cater to their target audiences and she has done it in a way where anybody can still listen and enjoy, but if you really know, you know what it’s all about. I think Solange is such a visionary.


Mamas Gun – Cure The Jones 

Nolan Lewis: Cure The Jones was introduced to me a few months ago by one of my friends, which I think is part of the reason why it means a lot to me, because it ended up becoming my personal soundtrack of the time we spent together. Being that it covers themes surrounding COVID-19 and plays with nostalgia, which is a very powerful tool in music, it certainly affected me. A major factor of this nostalgia is despite being released two years ago, this project sounds like it came from the 70s. It’s so impressive to me how the two eras of sound were so strongly woven together. I pride myself on having a very versatile music taste, and I think this album speaks to that as well. All around, it’s a great experience.


Kali Uchis – Red Moon In Venus 

Nolan Lewis: Statistically speaking, Kali Uchis is my top artist. She is one of my favorites, if not my favorite artist, I love her so much. Red Moon In Venus came out on my best friend’s birthday and we stayed up until midnight for the drop, which already makes it super special for me. However, this album was the impetus for a lot of my future work because it helped me get through a really tough breakup and its dramatic aftermath, which happened shortly after the release. I would just have this album on loop. It’s about love, losing it and feeling terrible, then rediscovering your worth and blossoming. It felt as if it was released for me, as if the universe knew this major life shift was about to happen and I needed a higher form of protection. Music really is therapy for me, and that’s the core of my work, healing and adapting. I don't like to say cope, I say adapt. As an album itself, it’s just so great sonically—all of the tracks are different flavors within the same recipe that come together and make a delicious project.


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