It’s a humid Saturday afternoon during the second-annual Melanincholy Festival at the Milo-Grogan Community Center, but the invigorating energy from attendees makes up for the discomforting heat. Between introducing myself to local visual artists whose works are on display and viewing a brief performance by Apollo Akembe, I’m also anticipating meeting DJ Na$ty, born Nassir Williams, a Columbus based producer and DJ, by way of Rochester, New York.
Columbus has become home of an abundance of producers, ranging from local recognition to national fanfare. 18-year old producer Ras Jahlani competed against local high school artists during the Instaband East semi-finals during his senior year at CAHS, establishing notoriety and even connecting with rappers such as OG Vern and Bizz for collaborations. Fort Hayes graduate Lege Kale amassed nationally renowned fame with his signature distorted and bass-heavy production, having co-produced ‘iSpy’ by SuperDuperKyle featuring Lil’ Yatchy. DJ and producer KMB has also gained attention for his bouncy, rhythmic sounds, releasing his own project based around music by singer Brandy entitled #HelpMeMeetBrandy. On a grand scale, DJ Na$ty aspires to reach the same platform as his musical peers.
Once I’m notified that he’s parked outside, I instantly recognize Nassir without having met him in person before; he’s tall and stately, with a solid gold nose hoop and extremely long eyelashes. As we both greet each other, we make our way inside the building, grabbing bottles of water and having a brief debate about Kendrick Lamar’s discography progression, and it’s clear that Nassir is well versed in music. At 21, Nassir has literally made a name for himself as DJ Na$ty through the Columbus music circuit, and I automatically recall his set at Dark Room, which was held in March at Gypsy Café in the Short North. At one point during the set, he played ‘I Get Around’ by Tupac, transitioning it from ‘Computer Love’ by Zapp, and even mixing in some throwback Bow Wow.
“I was in my zone, I wasn’t worried about anyone,” Nassir says in reference to the performance. “I use a lot of 808s, bass, kicks, I love samples.” As Nassir explains his favorite production tools while creating a beat, he name-drops producers such as Kanye West and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest as being his musical guides. Though he moved to Columbus from New York in the second grade, Nassir has grown familiar with artists in the city’s scene. He beams with elation when speaking about wanting to work with Yogi Split in the future, also noting Correy Parks as one of his favorite artists here. “In Columbus, I see nothing but success,” he says. “We have to all come together and help each other. You can’t make a wave if everyone leaves.”
During the middle of the festival, we head to the Long Street mural, where my grandmother, jazz singer Jeannette Williams is pictured on the latter part of the piece. While there, Nassir becomes more in-depth about his musical background, even mentioning that his mother was a songwriter, having once written for singer Tweet of early-2000s fame, and most recently featured on ‘Mad’ from Solange’s A Seat at the Table. “I started DJing last summer,” he says, adding that he was taught how to produce by his uncle around that same time. So far, Nassir has only collaborated with artist and friend Bryce Burke, but as we continue viewing the remainder of the mural, he also touches upon an upcoming 3-song EP called ‘Stevie & Me’, based on the vivacious works of Stevie Wonder.
I tell him about my own personal record collection, having at least ten Stevie Wonder albums, with Innervisions being my favorite by him. Nassir plays ‘Too High’ by Wonder from his car radio, the first track from the same album. Nassir talks about sampling it for the EP, all while being enthralled by the movement of the song. Our conversation comes to a standstill as he becomes locked into the sound from his radio, just the music and him.