Nabo Rawk combines rap and wrestling
“It’s a dying art,” says local emcee Nabo Rawk, describing the state of hip-hop.
The wordsmith and music producer recently released his third solo album, “Bizarro World,” which reflects the gritty and nostalgic sounds of hip-hop’s prehistoric times.
“I’m recognizing a style that once was and paying homage to it,” says Nabo, a product of the late-1980s and early-’90s rap scene. “But I’m also doing my own thing. People might look at what I’m doing as bizarre, but I have my own style.”
Yes, some people might use the word “bizarre.” Nabo Rawk must be the only rapper who wears an array of Luchidor-style wrestling masks while he performs.
“I consider myself a hero when I’m behind the mask. A hero against all the villains,” says Nabo as he laces a pair of sneakers with brand-new white laces in his Somerville, Mass., apartment. “The villains would be the abusers of the hip-hop culture.”
Why wear masks?
“No. 1, I’m just too handsome,” he says with a maniacal laugh. “No. 2, I’m ashamed of hip-hop — I need to keep my identity secret. And three, it just looks so damn cool.”
In performance, Nabo likes to take the stage to ’80s rock music, like his World Wrestling television idols, wearing one of several masks.
He struts across the arena with a 10-pound championship wrestling belt draped across his shoulder and a young lady locked on his arm.
“I call them my valets — female valets,” he says with a grin. “I think it’s working out for me, I think people like it.”
During his set, various villains appear and slam Nabo into tables, beat him in the back with chairs, or attempt to get him in a chokehold — and the hero doesn’t prevail.
“Those guys represent the villains of the hip-hop culture,” he says. “How cool is it to come see this big tough guy, the hero, and all of a sudden this villain comes up and clobbers me with a guitar and then leaves. It’s like a metaphor.”
Nabo says he has been fighting those same villains in the real world of rap for decades.
“In the ’90s, people were buying records and singles were big, but it was the beginning of the independent movement,” he says. “That’s when the mainstream started getting bad and then the do-it-yourself era started.”
Nabo rarely stops moving. Or thinking. Between each sentence a flash of inspiration comes across his face and another thought comes out of his mouth.
He’s produced three albums on his own record label, Livingstun Park, while also taking the title of art director for his CD covers and manipulating enough words into rhythm to create a 19-track album.
Those tracks were recently released on iTunes, and many other digital platforms, and were accompanied by a promotional video for the album that hit YouTube the same day.
Once part of the poplar rap duo Porn Theatre Ushers, featuring close friend Mister Jason, Nabo now works on other projects to make his way back in the scene.
Currently, he collaborates with Boston DJ Paul Foley in the group Wasted Talent, a dance-crazed, electro-fused rap squad that caters to both the local hip-hop heads and the indie crowd.
“Wasted Talent consists of more visual characters,” says Nabo. “We have a guy in a gorilla suit, shadow dancers, a keyboard player in a hockey mask.”
Rap wasn’t Nabo’s only inspiration. Bands like Daft Punk and Gwar gave him the idea of incorporating costumes and theatrics into his performances.
“I don’t even know what people like anymore, or if I even fit in,” he says. “It’s like Bizarro World. I think I am in another world because everything is so generic. It’s all the same.”
Even though the ground is constantly shifting beneath his feet, Nabo knows where he stands.
“I’ll always rap the way I have been,” he says. “People will always say, ‘He’s old school.’ I just consider it true school.”