Rapper Naaman Rodges knows he’s getting into the game later in life than most. He’s less than a month away from turning 41, yet he’s been making music for only about two years. However, in that span, his ascension has been rapid. Last year he was nominated for best hip-hop in the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards. He’s fresh off a performance at South by Southwest, sharing the stage with other Fort Worth hip-hop stalwarts like Smooth Vega, Lou Charle$, and Lil’ Sick at a showcase for Vega’s noted talent buying company, Premier Live. And, finally, next month, he will drop his first official single, “Adrift on a Sea of Voices.”
The song may suggest he’s adrift, but the novice MC –– if not exactly young –– feels like he’s in exactly the right spot.
“I’ve always admired [rapping], and I’ve always thought it was something I could do if given a chance,” said Rodges, who performs simply under his first name. “I never realized until much later that if you want a chance at it, you’ve got to take your chance.”
“Adrift on a Sea of Voices” is charged with an up-tempo beat punctuated by a classic soul horn section, giving the song an old-school ’90s, top-down, “Good Day” vibe. But despite the bright mood of the music, lyrically, Rodges is tackling some challenging subjects.
“The poetry of a lost cause / Beauty exposed in all her flaws,” he flows on the second verse. “A mask of grace covers a beaten face / I’m ashamed of the thing that happened in that place.”
The lyrical and musical contrast, he said, “was planned to be that way. It was planned to be a sad song with a happy bop to it.”
There’s a theme of redemption to the track. Whatever darkness lies in his past, he uses it to inform his present, putting all he’s learned to paper and then into the mic.
“I put my pen to the page / I channel the rage, the hate, the dismay,” he raps. “You can’t ignore me / Sit back, relax, and enjoy the transitory story.”
In the brief three and a half minutes of the song we learn where Rodges comes from, where he his, and where he’s going.
“The funny thing is that most of those lyrics [came from] a journal from 15 to 18 years ago when I was first writing raps,” he said. “I was combing through some of those old moments – so it’s partly about the past, it’s partly about my current state, and it’s a coming-out piece, too, I guess.”
Though he’s only recently begun to put them to music, Rodges is no stranger to words. He said he’s pretty much always written and that there was something about his lyrical prose that he eventually realized lent itself to verse. This inspired him to try and learn music production. He spent a year learning how to manipulate production software before beginning to add his own rhymes. On “Adrift,” Affalon Productions’ Joshua Ryan Jones produced the drum track, but otherwise, the jazz and soul-inspired beat – as with most of his music – is completely Rodges’ own making.
His writing hasn’t been limited to scribbling prose into notebooks. Most of his creative life has been spent as a comedy writer. He was a founding member of local improv/sketch comedy group Shut Up and Prance! Originally started with just Rodges and his writing partner Riley Morris, the group now features a host of local crack-ups and personalities. SUAP is perhaps best known for their Wondercrust Movie Watcher’s Club, in which comedians mock cringe-worthy films in front of a live audience. Most recently, he was named head writer for the fledgling city-focused internet talk show Hello, I’m Tony Green, which just taped its pilot episode in front of its own live audience at Shipping & Receiving Bar last Saturday.
“Adrift on a Sea of Voices” drops on Thursday, April 18, the same day Rodges turns 41. He hopes a video for the single will follow shortly and help to continue to build his momentum.
“I’ve got a couple of really great folks sort of dug in and committed to figuring out how to do it,” he said of the potential video. “It’s kind of a high-concept music video. I didn’t want [a video] where it’s just me rapping to the screen. I want to take a little thought and some time – like everything I do, I guess. It’s all sort of slow and thought out.