RAPPER/PRODUCER NERVE TAKES US BEHIND HIS BANGING SINGLE, ‘A BOMB’
Words by Christopher Kevin Au // Photography by Chris Loutfy // Video by No1 Network
Back in April 2018, the triple j studios were set ablaze when Nerve, ChillinIt, Alex Jones & Huskii stepped in for an extensive cypher. It was a real moment; indicative of the underground scene's considerable gains and a stellar showcase of Australia's bubbling talents. But beneath the bars, there was also a few rampaging unreleased instrumentals, all of which were produced by Nerve. More than an emcee, Nerve is a one-man powerhouse who makes some of the most interesting beats in the country, also putting his mixing and mastering touches on projects like ChillinIt's Women, Weed & Wordplay.
The first beat on the triple j cypher opens the video in blazing fashion, the sort of instrumental to smack you in the face and command you to hit the rewind button. It begins with a dainty graveyard melody, before morphing into stern, robotic churns that shift with aggressiveness. It's this beat that would eventually become 'A Bomb,' the latest single by Nerve and undoubtedly his most ambitious yet. Off the back of 'A Bomb,' Nerve completed his first headline national headline tour, and he's understandably chuffed with the outcome - especially since his live 'A Bomb' debut was at a random Brisbane festival at a bowls club with 20 attendees.
"It was really weird, I just played a set to 20 people standing on the green. But my whole plan for the night was to play this new 'A Bomb' song, and I did. I didn't care what anyone else in front of me was thinking, because there was like 20 people," Nerve laughs. "For me, when I played it I was like, 'this is fucking hectic.' It was so much better live than any other track that I had done up to that point." The effectiveness of 'A Bomb' in the live domain can be largely attributed to its production, because while we've gotten used to Nerve spitting over throwback rap beats and grime, 'A Bomb' takes things to a heavier, more contemporary domain.
"It's definitely a trunk banger, it'll blow out the back of your car and shit. I've always treated 'A Bomb' as a song of itself, it's got no real links to any of my other music, which is why it was so fun to make it in to a big project," Nerve says. "The whole track just came together in like half an hour, an hour? Just venting, writing things while I was making the beat. You hear all these songs where people are like, 'Fuck my job, I just wanna do what I want and make stacks.' I'm basically saying the same thing, but from a completely twisted and flipped perspective."
While Nerve is a one-man powerhouse, he still has a core team to run things by. Onlyodd and No1 Network - two of the crucial figures documenting Nerve's journey and the evolution of Australia's rap and grime scenes - are an integral part of his creative process. "I took Onlyodd to the studio to record it, because it's at a point where I feel like I can't just go in and do everything by myself. I need someone's opinion regardless of how much music I make, because everyone listens to it and everyone's opinion is valid," Nerve says. "He was just like, 'Distort it. Distort it more. Scream!' We just made it in one night, and banged it out."
The single also has an equally ominous video, filled with ghostly face-paint, blood splatter and gore. It was directed by Sam Bradley, a friend of No1 Network. "We showed him the track when we were out for dinner. He ran to his car and bumped it five times, and then came back with this idea," Nerve says. "He came back two days later with a four-page PDF of all this shit that he wanted; a ten person film crew, all this crazy shit. And I just let him roll with it."
"We had one dude there who's job it was to safely hang people with nooses all day with harnesses. We had people running around with generators trying to do coffee because it was like out in the sticks. I just had fun creating this otherworldly vision and acting it out, because that's the sort of stuff that I like to watch."
With 'A Bomb' out in the world and the accompanying tour now complete, it's clear that the single marks unprecedented progression for Nerve. He was just named the triple j Unearthed Feature Artist of the Week, and it's an important creative stepping stone, too: "I think 'A Bomb' signifies a move away from just being like, 'I'm a rapper, I rap about rapping,' and becoming an artist."