“I don’t get high no more,” we think Nate Husser says when we accuse him of recording his immense, crescendo-laden future rap music while monumentally stoned. “It’s pretty sober. I don’t smoke weed or do drugs or nothin’, I just drink."
In the depths of YouTube lurks a clip of a young Husser - then one third of a breakout Montreal rap trio The Posterz - being interviewed on Venice Beach, full of energy, enthusiasm and wit. The Nate Husser that Gigwise speaks to on the phone from Montreal, however, is a mumbling, lethargic, muffled croak of a man, much as he is on his deeply soporific – and deeply inventive – post-rock and indie rap crossover records. This is hip-hop as drug-dreamy as it is dazzling, evocative and boundary devouring.
Take recent single ‘Paintings For The Blind (Millions)’ from Nate’s ‘Geto Rock For The Youth’ EP, a hallucinogenic rap throb seemingly designed to sound like your last blissed-out acid trip, in which Nate mutters “I just need a million bucks, bucks, bucks/I just need a trillion bucks, bucks, bucks/I just need a zillion bucks, bucks, bucks” like a small-time online drug dealer from 2011 slowly making a fortune from the bitcoin stashed on a hard-drive in his toilet cistern.
And that’s just the first layer of Nate’s stylistic onion. Elsewhere, you’ll find grand Germanic fanfares, post-rock noise climaxes and hints of Arcade Fire, grunge rock and even shoegaze. “That’s always been kinda my vibe,” he says. “Since a kid, I always liked all kinds of music, I love the very grand, epic sound of rock-influenced stuff, climactic music. I liked The Verve, Coldplay, U2, Nirvana, I like Arcade Fire.”
As probably the only Verve fan in the Montreal rap scene, did you stand out?
“Maybe. You didn’t really find a lot of people with the same interest in those songs. I heard them on pop radio. That’s part of why rap hasn’t been a big scene in Montreal or a known thing, because part of what helps rap culture in a city is a radio station, or several, that feed content to the people. So I had rock and pop music shoved down my throat.”
Otherwise, Nate had a by-the-book hip-hop upbringing. Rapping and recording his own mixtapes from the age of sixteen, Nate hung out on St Catherine, Montreal’s main downtown drag which he immortalised in the swelling, euphoric acid-daze of recent track ‘Catherine’, detailing the gunplay, murdered friends and gangland misdemeanours he saw there. “I done everything you could possibly do or imagine on that block,” he drawls. “I don’t wanna specify anything, it’s not like it’s cool, but there’s a lot of action there. Good and bad, clean and ugly, everything.”
Aged 20 he fell into his first rap trio, The Posterz, who made a small dent in the international rap scene, breaking out of Montreal to play shows in the US and Europe, “beginner’s success” according to Nate. But after a few years The Posterz fell apart. “Group project problems. Like if you’re working in school on a project, some people are capable of doing group projects, some people are not. Sometimes it has an expiration date, everything’s got an expiration date. It was nothing I needed to get out of, it just is what it is.”
On the side, Nate had been concocting solo tracks that merged laid-back trip-hop raps with the amorphous sonic swells, textures and big noise explosions of the most emotive and evocative alt-rock. “It’s been attempted but from what I’ve seen it’s all been a bit corny,” Nate says, but his jams were anything but cheese. His 2015 solo debut ‘Name Another N!99@’ found him dishing out sharp rap boasts over a haunted, hallucinogenic backing track that was half Tyler, The Creator and half Sunn.
During the next two years he shrank from the limelight, maturing into the force he is today. Blinking his way out of the studio only to guest as the bad influence boyfriend on labelmate Charlotte Cardin’s ‘Like It Doesn’t Hurt’ (“I was quite skeptical about it, I didn’t really wanna do it, but it ended up being dope”), it wasn’t until April 2017 that he unveiled his intoxicating experiments. ‘Can’t Blame ‘Em’, recorded in a Paris hotel room while “going for some punk shit”, was a bombastic, Germanic blast of Weimar cabaret piano, Tribe squelches and wild rants about the trials and tribulations of modern love. “Who is it you can’t blame? That’s me. For the shit I do, the shit I gotta do.”
Then, in November, came the Geto Rock For The Youth EP and the engrossing, folk-flecked cash daydream of ‘Paintings For The Blind (Millions)’, posing the question, just what would Nate do once it inevitably earns him his first zillion bucks?
"I can't give away all my venture ideas,” he says, “but I'll say I'm buying properties obviously, franchises, funding aid projects for the less fortunate and a wicked huge crib for all my fam."
Discover more Husser via his YouTube channel
Words: Steven Kline