Rapper and musician Troy Nōka grew up in Austin in the ’90s, but these days he splits his time between our fair city and the larger entertainment metropolis, Los Angeles. It’s there he met R&B visionary Frank Ocean. The two worked together on Ocean’s “Nostalgic, Ultra” mixtape, and more recently, Nōka logged writing, programming and production credits on Ocean’s visual album “Endless,” one of two long-awaited releases the alt-R&B innovator dropped last month.
“Endless” is currently available to stream on Apple Music for subscribers only. The album plays as a long form music video that depicts the gradual construction of a spiral staircase.
At the same time, Nōka’s solo career is starting to build steam. His 2014 mixtape “GRTT” earned him a fair amount of prominent blog nods, and, as he prepares the second installment, buzz is building. The video from his latest single “Perfect Sense,” featuring British singer Natasha Bedingfield was released in July. It currently has over 130,000 views and is closing in on 1000 likes.
We caught up with Nōka to find out more about the Ocean collabs, the new single and what’s next for the ATX artist.
Austin360: Your collabs with Frank Ocean go back to the 2011 “Nostalgic, Ultra” mixtape. How did you first connect?
Troy Nōka: When he first moved from New Orleans I was one of the first people he worked with, he scored his first placement with me on this Noel Gourdin cut. Always been a good dude and extremely focused and detailed, a real visionary person.
How long were you working on the tracks for “Endless”?
I took a couple trips to NY to work on Endless, it was great, we worked close to 16 hours days for a few weeks. Felt like a moment in time where we were a part of making history and months later it looks like that was actually what was happening.
Were you introduced to the metaphor of a building a spiral staircase while you were working on these songs or did that come later?
He explained it to me later when the project was actually out, and a lot of people have their own interpretation of it so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But it does have a meaning, I was speaking with Spooky Black about it and to give you a clue, you measure twice and ….
Is it disappointing to you that “Endless” is currently streaming exclusively on Apple Music and do you know if there are any plans for a wider release?
I’ll let Frank share that with the world, but there’s no level of disappointment, I’m grateful to still be working with my bro 10 years later.
Did you have any sense that there was a second Frank Ocean album about to drop?
Yeah he told me while working on “Endless.” I thought it was genius just to have that much content ready and I can appreciate anyone that values their art enough to take their time and make sure everything is shared with their fans properly.
Right now you’re splitting your time between Austin and L.A. With these high profile collabs under your belt and your solo work picking up steam are you getting to a point where it makes sense to relocate completely, or is it important to you to keep one foot in Texas?
I gotta keep one foot in Texas. For one, it’s home no matter where I am and I want to do whatever I can to help the music scene there. Hip-hop and urban music is slept on there and there’s so much talent, so I do everything I can to shine a light on the city. My mixtape “GRTT” is dedicated to Austin. “GRTT2” is next, coming end of the year.
Can you talk about the song “Perfect Sense”? It seems like you’re drawing on some autobiographical elements while also taking a wide angle view on what’s going on in the world.
Yeah that song is basically a piece of my mom’s story, being a single mom, through my eyes. The second verse, it’s me talking to her about what’s happened since I’ve grown up. My dad was killed when I was 4, and we ended up moving because my step dad was in the Army. It was like my mom was always my angel and still is. Everything I share in this song changed my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of those events taking place.
“Perfect Sense” is me learning to deal with the hand I was dealt and appreciate it with gratitude. You can face it and embrace it or dislike it and fight it. I chose to embrace it. And as far as a wide angle, the world is wild right now, we need more love, more understanding, more education, and I encourage people to travel and to dream cause if you keep going everything will always make perfect sense.
What’s next for you and when’s the next time your hometown fans can catch you live?
I’ll be in Austin in November and I’ll be doing shows around March. You can stay tuned on my site www.troynoka.com for upcoming show dates. “Gotta Rep The Town 2” is on the way along with a follow up project to “Love.Fear.Pianos.” as well as another music video. Some production on other talented artists’ new music projects will also be coming out real soon. Also I’m currently on a high school tour giving back to the kids. I can’t tell you everything or I’ll be typing an essay but we busy.