Nedric Nedo and Wes Green Talk about Baltimore, Art and Society
Nedric Nedo and Wes Green are closely affiliated, Atlanta-based artists. Nedo is a singer whose RnB style, at times reminiscent of the Weeknd’s, gives his music a smoothness and swagger that meshes perfectly with his often high-pitched vocals and heartfelt lyricism. In earlier songs like “All I Need Is You” and “Extraordinaire,” Nedo coasts over hi-hats and laidback melodies. His latest song, “Baltimore,” was a watershed that showed that Nedo had grown not just as a singer, but as an artist. The track’s opening lines, “Beat-up little seagull / on a marble stair / trying to find the ocean / looking everywhere,” mirror Nedo’s voice. Like the seagull, it resonates with sadness. But unlike the bird, Nedo’s voice still soars and swoops, just through falsettos and baritones.
Wes Green made the instrumental of “Baltimore.” It channels a bleak resignation, while its rattling hi-hats and airy bass-kicks gave it a defiant pulse—the way that the seagull is still kicking, even if battered. Sounding like some sombre collaboration between Tim Hecker and Illangelo, the beat was perfect for paying homage to Randy Newman’s song, which—as the Freddie Gray Riots proved to the world—never became irrelevant.
In our interview, Nedric Nedo and Wes Green share their opinions and beliefs about the city of Baltimore, the social situation there, the role of art, and their own artistic trajectories and approaches.
24OurMusic: Wes, the instrumental of “Baltimore” at times features hi-hats, snares, and other percussion that give it a hip-hop sound. However, the instrumental doesn’t sound entirely like a hip-hop beat. Do you consider yourself an RnB producer, a hip-hop producer, or someone not bound by genres?
Wes: I’ve always been a hip hop/rap producer. Recently I was signed to Zac Brown for about two years. He wanted to make music with more pop and rap elements in it. I’ve taken a lot of the things I learned making music for his label and incorporated it into my style.
24OurMusic: Nedric, what is your approach to songwriting? Do you write only when inspired, or do you hold yourself to writing a certain amount of words or verses each day? What are some things you try to make sure you do when songwriting, and what are some things you avoid? For example, do you steer clear of clichés, or do you not shy from tackling age-old topics/themes and trying to make them new?
Nedric: The first thing I do when approaching songwriting is analyze the feel, and think about how to turn that feel into a concept. Yes, I write based upon inspiration, but I take in stories, situations, and topics from all the people I converse with, not just my own personal experiences. This happens daily. I aim to fulfill needs that are not being met, topics that aren’t being talked about, and conversations that people rarely get to hear the other side of the story of. Music is cliché, it’s all in how you deliver it that makes the difference.
Here’s a look at the song that inspired this cover. I knew it as a Nina Simone song. I always loved this one live version she did. Nedo is from Baltimore. Thought it was a good time to remake one of my favorites. When we went to pay for the cover rights we found out the song was written by Randy Newman on his album in 1967, I think.
24OurMusic: What is your approach to beat-making? Do you think up a general melody, then translate it into something on a computer program, which you layer with other melodies? How do you compile the different aspects of an instrumental in a way that makes them complement one another, and form a unified whole?
Wes: Sometimes we make a whole beat and write to it. Sometime we do it like singer/song writers. We’ll play just the chords we want and write to that, build up around that. That’s how we did it on this one. Recorded to piano chords and I composed around Nedo’s vocal
24OurMusic: Does ambient music influence your music at all? I thought that I heard some resonances of Tim Hecker in the beat, but maybe that was just coincidental.
Wes: I wanted to do something dark but not sleepy. Emotional but not sad. I knew I wanted trap drums. I thought it’d be a good way to make it modern. The pads just fit the vibe right. It was right after the Baltimore riots as well. I love a lot of ambient music though! ☺ Portishead is at the top of my list but I love new people like Mr. Carmack and Cashmere Cat.
24OurMusic: Nedric, I see that earlier in your career you used to go by Murder Nedric. Now it seems that you go mainly by Nedric Nedo. Were you trying to tweak your image and persona when you changed your name?
Nedric: Absolutely, I created Murder Nedric during high school, inside the rough walls of Woodlawn High. I wanted to have a name that defined what I felt when I approached music; I felt like I murdered it. I dropped murder from my name when I joined a boy band group called “WEST AVE”, where my hard work started to pay off. After my group, I picked up the nick name NEDO, and it became a part of who I am. It derives from me having a pretty neat personality.
Nedric: Looking back, it represents different stages in my career, like a bronze age, silver age, golden age, up until the present day.
Nedric: lol, it was Murder Nedric, Wes, very long ago haha.
24OurMusic: I like the idea of a name being a fluid, ever-changing reflection of who you are as a musician. Now Wes, you just mentioned the Baltimore riots. Was “Baltimore” meant to comment upon racist police violence in Baltimore in general, and the U.S. at large?
Wes: Yeah, I thought it was amazing how this song was so old but perfectly describes the city right now. Even when Nina covered it, it was 10 years old. It really says something about what’s happening there.
24OurMusic: Yeah, I hadn’t even thought of that but that’s true. The way that the song was apt for when Newman wrote it, and still has resonances today, sort of sends a depressing message that it seems as if some things never change.
Nedric: For me, it was a lot more personal, growing up in that, knowing the people, having family there, and understanding their perspective passionately. I heard the cries, and “Baltimore” was my cry out. I believe that when the record reaches a national level that it will impact lives and many perspectives.
24OurMusic: So it seems like, for Wes, you were trying to make a statement that Baltimore genuinely is a city that makes it “hard to live” when you covered Nina’s song. For Nedric, it seems like your experience with Baltimore is more ambivalent. Would you say that’s accurate? Has Baltimore been an overwhelmingly negative experience for you, or has your experience in Baltimore been more nuanced? What are some of the ways—for the better or the worse—that your experience in the city has shaped you and your art?
Wes: I’m from Atlanta. So it’s the outsider’s perspective.
Nedric: Ambivalent is one way to look at it. I love my city to the death of me but there are hardships and standard complications that we as a people in Baltimore face numerous times a day. You can’t have love without war. Baltimore made me the person who I am today. My drive, passion, and perspective on the world is a walking testimony of that. One of most talented cities there is on earth; and I came out of it.
24OurMusic: Do you think art can affect social change? If so, to what degree?
Wes: For sure. It’s happened before. Then that social change effects the music right back
Wes: Absolutely. The music changes as the people change. And people change with the music.
Nedric: I feel art has one of the biggest impacts on people’s lives, other than politics, health, and finances. People, especially Americans, use what’s defined as art on a day by day basis just to get by. We use it for guidance in some cases. A love song can mend a broken heart and music at a party can help you enjoy life’s most unforgettable moments. It’s a complete life-changer inevitably.
24OurMusic: Nedric, would you say that you conceptualize art as one of the basic elements of life? Something that makes life manageable? What does art mean to both of you?
Nedric: Correct, and the majority of artistic people would see the value in that statement. I enjoy art, but to get specific, my prescription is music; and being a creator of music is even more uplifting to my spirits. Being lost in a song or melody is one of the best feelings that I’ve ever felt.
Wes: I’ve been making music my whole life now. My life as an engineer and producer makes art a non-stop thing. Every moment you work on being the best person you can be, in order to be the best artist you can be. I agree about that feeling, Nedo.
Wes: It’s almost like what we’re always chasing as artist
24OurMusic: Mind telling us about any upcoming or ongoing projects?
Nedric: Upcoming projects are the album, mostly everything is TBD, but what can be guaranteed is total elite satisfaction from a project. Every session between me and Wes has an undeniable chemistry, we aim for the eons, it gets better, and better, and better every time. Our follow up single will be on its way sooner than later. For now “BALTIMORE” is the front runner and doing strong. God is good. You know? 🍎
Wes: Agreed! Hopefully be on releasing 2nd single next month.