When you first meet the rapper known as Nance, one thought may instantly pop into your head: Man, this dude is handsome!
With his perfectly coiffed hair and unblemished facial features, it almost seems puzzling why this guy would want to struggle as a rapper, instead of making a lucrative living as a male model. And don’t think people in the local hip-hop scene haven’t stepped up to this pretty boy, questioning just how legit he is as an MC.
“Over the years, I guess I’ve gotten that to my face before,” says the Raleigh-born, Wake Forest-based Nance (full name: Christian Nance), 24, discussing his past at a downtown Raleigh bar. “But I don’t see it necessarily as a problem right now. I mean, as long as I bring good material and I keep improving, I really don’t pay attention to it, man.”
It turns out Nance has been rhyming and flowing since his teen years. “I always define it as being, like, a very organic process,” he says. “I started writing in middle school and high school. Next thing I knew, I was freestyling with people and rapping at parties and, then, recording my own songs and distributing them around school and getting kids to buy them.” He looked to guys like Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West and A Tribe Called Quest – rappers who all share a flair for conscious hip-hop – for inspiration. “Like, once I started really understanding what the artists are saying and their stories, it was just kind of something I wanted to do,” he says.
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For the past couple of years, Nance has been picking up fans, both in the scene and in the audience, via his live shows. When he co-headlined a show at Lincoln Theatre last year (a show that he says attracted around 250 people), he got the attention of fellow Raleigh rapper King Mez. “He hit me up on Instagram and said this is a big deal,” he remembers. “I think that’s when a lot of locals really started paying attention.”
When Nance was in Los Angeles earlier this year, he met up with Mez, who has made LA his home ever since he began collaborating with Dr. Dre. (Mez appeared all over the Grammy-nominated “Compton: A Soundtrack” album the gangsta-rap icon released earlier this year.) “He was kind of showing me the stuff he was working on and I showed him what I was working on,” he says. “But just seeing his progress from, you know, when he was here to out there, and seeing him out there with what he was doing and the kind of songs he was making, it was very inspiring.”
But it’s not just rappers he’s been buddying around with. He recently collaborated on a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” with Chapel Hill-bred, YouTube/Vine star (and notable “America’s Got Talent” performer) Anna Clendening. “We knew of each other – we were Facebook friends and whatnot,” he says. “She does a lot of cover songs, so I just threw my own original verse in the back end of that song she covered. So, yeah, it was a lot of fun, definitely out of my comfort zone as far as the type of song we did. And I really liked the turnout of it.”
Nance is still striving to get people to look past his dashing demeanor and appreciate his skills on the mic. He will headline a show this Saturday night at Kings, where audiences will hear tracks from his 2014 “Thank You for Having Me” EP, as well as tunes from his upcoming “Everything I Need” project, scheduled for release early next year.
“I definitely want to make a living off music, provide with music and travel with music,” he says. “As long as I can work on my music and have fun with it, it doesn’t matter what you really look like, man. I mean, music touches everybody. It happened to touch me in a way that made me want to re-create it and make it pop.”
Who: Nance, with Kid Infamous, Shane Mozeli, Casey Battle and the Lost Generation
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kings, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh
Details: 919-833-1091 or kingsbarcade.com