Poetry in upward motion

University junior Nathan Ejuwa, EJ, set to release hip hop EP featuring Rhymesayers artist and more

Story by Zack Katz, Currents Editor

Zack Katz: The ins and outs of Ascension — can you break it down for us?
Nathan Ejuwa: It’s a project that I’ve been working on for about two years total, but the recording process was over three days at a studio in the cities called Cherry Sky. There are ten Minneapolis-based artists featured, and the cover art was done by a good friend of mine who goes to school here, Laura McDew — she’s a gifted artist. The sound of the tape is something I haven’t really ventured into before … it’s very Minnesota.

ZK: Speaking on the production, you mentioned there are some J Dilla and Madlib-esque beats. Does that fall into your comfort zone stylistically?
EJ: It’s definitely become my comfort zone. That’s why I’ve realized this is the time to put this project out.

ZK: Comparing this EP to your former projects, what would you say has changed lyrically or thematically?
EJ: Definitely the content. I always think it’s funny when rappers rap about rapping. “I got the hardest bars!” It’s like, cool, but you’re not saying anything with substance. I would say I’m conscious of the subject matter I put into these songs. There’s something specific for every track.

ZK: Did you and the featured artists pinpoint a direction you wanted to take for the Ascension EP?
EJ: The definition of Ascension is forward progress and upward motion so it’s kind of about movement in a positive direction. A lot of the tracks are reflections of the things I’ve overcome and positive thoughts and energy sent towards where I hope to see myself and the people I surround myself in the future.

ZK: Do you prefer venues or a house show setting in terms of audience engagement?
EJ: Man … I would say there’s a different vibe for each one. I’ve had a lot more fun performing in houses here in Eau Claire. In a place like Minneapolis, I would lean more toward the public venue. I definitely have fun with both.

ZK: What are your plans for promoting this effort? Any shows, music videos or things of that nature coming up?
EJ: I guess I should clarify that my main target is the Twin Cities. I definitely plan on going through sources like City Pages, The Current, basically any publication that will accept my news release.

ZK: Representing the cities sounds great, but how do you plan on getting your name out around Eau Claire?
EJ: For me, Minneapolis is where I came up. So hitting the Twin Cities is my main priority. Eau Claire, though? I’ll be spreading some hard copies around so that I can hopefully get some presence with this college base.

ZK: You’re a forensics student. How do you think that plays a role in your music, or music presence?
EJ: One of the EP’s artists Josh Evens – Dem Atlas of Rhymesayers Entertainment – and I are actually really good friends at this point in life because of forensics. We met through forensics at Eagan High School. Before that I only wrote poetry and never really had a beat on it. After high school I had all this poetry, but no beats … so when I started getting into beats I ended up combining them and began putting out my first songs during my freshman year here. So forensics to me was kind of what sparked my interest in hip hop. Now, it keeps me on point and it keeps my head in the right place. I look for every opportunity I can have to get up in front of a crowd and say “hey, what’s up, this is me, I’m going to become a better performer,” so they’re kind of the same thing for two different audiences for me.