Interview: THA RIVA
Interview by Carl Pietrusinski
Photographed by Chance Lee
Philadelphia rapper THA RIVA has released a new music video for his pulsing track Bread Winner, off of his latest mix tape One Mind. The video showcases the rapper strolling around South Philly, a humble shopping trip, and even an Allen Iverson cameo before the song switches up to Must Be Heaven (also off of One Mind). The video changes along with it, adjusting to the more relaxed beat, exhibiting an intimate performance from THA RIVA and a dance off between his pals.
“I’ve been around music for all of my life," said Nile Overton, when I asked what made him decide to pursue rapping. His family may have been the cause of that, as both of his parents were artists themselves. “my mom and dad would introduce me to all types of music like Vivaldi, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Erykah Badu, you name it,” Nile explained to me. But the musical influence didn’t stop at his parents. His older brother made sure to keep him updated on the current hip hop of his childhood to stay well-rounded. He recalls, “playing Sega Genesis and PlayStation 1 while simultaneously listening to Wu-Tang Forever, or a Jay Z or DMX album on a regular basis.”
Thus it really isn’t too surprising that Nile took up such an interest in music. Self-dubbed THA RIVA, he has released two mix tapes (entitled Breakfast Club and One Mind) as well as an EP (entitled FALL) and continues to fine-tune his craft with each release, all while balancing the life of a college student.
Along with writing music and compiling mix tapes, THA RIVA has been experimenting in the directing process of his own videos. He’s even screen written his previous two videos in addition to directing them. THA RIVA approaches his videos with a sense of earnestness and passion “I want my videos to be more than
me performing a song, I want it be a relationship between me and viewer,” he clarifies.
One of the ways that he has been strengthening that relationship is by studying and analyzing films by some of the greats like Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese. “I draw a lot of ideas and inspiration for how I approach making music videos just from simply analyzing their films,” said Overton.
The beginning of his video for the track “This Life” begins with THA RIVA and one of his associates seemingly plotting the day’s plans in a diner (possibly influenced by the robbers from the opening scene of Pulp Fiction). Then they head outside to a car as it pulls up. They pop the trunk and begin to describe their slight collection of intoxicants for the day (similar to the highway scene in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas where Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo rattle off their much larger and more dangerous assortment of options). Overton has noticeably seen his fair share of movies. With this considered, it’ll be intriguing to see where he goes with his musical and directorial aspirations next.
Hopefully we get to find out, sooner rather than later, as he is in the works on a new mix tape, which he plans to release this year. For now I guess that we’ll have to be content with what he’s offered us on Soundcloud. My personal favorites that I’d recommend are Back to 16, Icon, Water, This Life, and Pyramid Balcony.
Check out our full interview with THA RIVA below.
POND: What are your goals for 2015? Any new releases?
NILE: Yeah, I’m currently putting all the components together for my next project which will be entitled, Synesthesia. I’ll be recording that throughout the first half of the year as well as working on a small visual series that will tie into the project. My goals for the year however are to start to expand my following with this project, and the releases that will coming out along with it, as well as travel a bit and do more live performances.
POND: Who are your favorite artists to listen to at the moment/ in the past?
NILE: I’m constantly listening to different genres and artist so my music library is always changing based on what I’m listening to on any given day. But more recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Sade, hip hop is always being played but I’ve been bumping GZA’s Liquid Swords pretty frequently too, that’s one of my favorite albums of all time that always keeps me going. And I recently just downloaded Nirvana’s In Utero, so I’ll be listening to that real soon when the time is right.</p>
POND: What made you decide to pursue rapping?
NILE: I’ve been around music for all of my life my parents are both artists so as a kid my mom and dad would introduce me to all types of music like Vivaldi, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Erykah Badu, you name it. And on the other side my older brother who is much older than me would put me on with all types of hip hop. I remember playing Sega Genesis and PlayStation 1 while simultaneously listening to Wu-Tang Forever, or a Jay Z or DMX album on a regular basis. So when I got a bit older and start developing my own taste for music all of what I got from my childhood kind of evolved into this super diverse and curious taste for different types of music. I also have been writing and public speaking from a young age. By the time I was 15 all of those experiences kind of guided me into finding an interest in writing raps which then became songwriting, and after that I was hooked literally writing everyday knocking out two or three songs a week. Once I realized how much a liked it I knew that nothing else gave me the same type of passion or space to express myself in the same way so it was just a natural transition into seriously pursuing Hip Hop.
POND: What are you majoring in at Duquesne?
NILE: Unfortunately I had to take my junior year off because of financial bullshit, but I am a Communications major in Duquesne’s School for Liberal Arts.
POND: Ideally, where would you like to be 10 years from now?
NILE: 10 years from now I’ll be well established in the music industry whether it be independently or major. Also be the head of my own record company and be traveling the world recording and performing my music.
POND: Are there any struggles that you’ve faced in trying to balance a rap career, schoolwork, and being a normal 21 year old?
NILE: Yeah absolutely, especially being a self-managed artist anything I do in regards to my music is built from me and the people on my team. Handling those things and being a successful student is something most people don’t have to experience. But the music is what drives me so I’m never discouraged by the trials of life, they actually motivate me more.
POND: What has been your favorite show so far?
NILE: There’s two shows I can say have been my favorite, the first and most memorable is back in July of 2012 opening in Philly at the TLA for OCD: Moosh & Twist. I had just come off of releasing my first solo project and performed with and in front of a bunch of friends so it was super turnt. The second was this past September a smaller more intimate event at Daily Bread in Pittsburgh also which friends were there supporting, and a lot really cool people attended who I was able to network with after, it was tight.
POND: Who is your dream collaboration and why?
NILE: I’d have to say both RZA and MF DOOM. RZA because of his musical genius and just information and knowledge he has, also because I’ve been listening to Wu-Tang Clan since before I can remember. MF DOOM because he has been a huge inspiration for how I’ve approached my music as an artist and also because of his musical genius and knowledge of probably everything too. Most people don’t know this but DOOM is the sole reason I use all caps for my name “All caps when you spell the man’s name”.
POND: Outside of music, where else do you draw inspiration from?
NILE: Film, I’ve always enjoyed a good movie, but over the last year and a half I’ve dedicated a lot of time to actually studying films of some of the greats, their styles, techniques, etc... Three of my biggest artistic inspirations come from Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese. Especially Lee and Tarantino I draw a lot of ideas and inspiration for how I approach making music videos just from simply analyzing their films.
POND: You’ve put together a handful of music videos and I heard that you help direct them. What has that process been like? Is it something you enjoy doing?
NILE: It’s been great! I’ve always had a hand in the treatment of my videos, but for the last three releases including “Bread Winner” I’ve invested more of my own creative vision into what the videos actually turn out to be. Particularly “This Life” and “Bread Winner” both of which were creative experiments of mine. I screen wrote scripts for both videos and had a huge hand, along with my good friend and videographer Brennan Peirson, in directing them. I approach them the way I feel like a film maker would, not a recording artist. I want my videos to be more than me performing a song, I want it be a relationship between me and viewer and I feel like I’m pretty good at screenwriting and directing, it gives me that same feeling that writing songs does which is amazing to be able to say.
POND: You’re a Philly kid living in Pittsburgh. So I’ve gotta ask, Primanti Bros. or Philly Cheesesteak for your favorite spot… what sandwich do you like better and why?
NILE: Not even questionable cheesesteak every time. Primanti’s is pretty good but I feel like in relation to a cheesesteak it’s trying too hard to be good. Cheesesteaks are simple not as messy and way more accessible, and they just taste better to me.
POND: What was your first CD as a kid?
NILE: I can’t think back to my very first CD probably something my mom or my brother probably got for me. But I can remember the first album that I was able to choose for myself and mom bought for me (for which I am still grateful) and that was Late Registration by Kanye West, which is still my favorite Ye album. I used to listen to that on my way to school almost every day in 6th grade.
POND: You have a lot of philosophical and existential lyrics in your music. Is that something that you have an interest in?
NILE: Yeah absolutely, if you listen to Fall EP and One Mind there are a lot of references to the metaphysical and gaining understanding of higher consciousness. I include that in my music because I feel like I have a responsibility to do so. My birth name is Nile that alone gives me a responsibility to live through the energy that name brings. Instead of using my music solely to boost my ego or a persona I can use it to spread knowledge, love, and understanding of one’s self and those around us. I never use that information just to say I can that defeats the purpose, I strongly believe in my music being just as mentally and intellectually stimulating as it is entertaining and enjoyable to listen to.