“Who you know that flow like dis?!”
NinoSoSupremey screams these opening lyrics while wearing an oversized blue tunic and a wig overflowing with hair curlers. The rapper, whose real name is Christopher J. Brown, is on the set of his video “Granny Flow,” a song that contrasts a childlike irreverence with a penchant for stringing together raucous rap songs a la Vince Staples or Flatbush Zombies.
“Granny Flow” introduces the audience to two characters played by the rapper – a rambunctious kid riding in a shopping cart, spitting bars while sipping malt liquor, and an unkempt rapping grandma reading a newspaper on the back porch of her overgrown backyard. The video is by far his most popular yet, with nearly 7,000 views as of this writing, compared to 1,000 or fewer for his other videos. The rapper couldn’t account for the discrepancy in popularity, but it is possible viewers enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of “Granny Flow.” It is also possible that fans like it because the video is earnest. Beneath the bravado and braggadocio, the rapper is clearly just a kid having fun making hip-hop videos in his hometown, all while approaching lyricism and the craft of rap with methodical precision.
When NinoSoSupremey answers the phone (one of many he uses to conduct business), his giddiness is palpable. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” he told me, admitting his excitement even as he tried to hide it. His eagerness is belied by a kind of uneasy energy, as if he is both ecstatic and anxious about what is to come.
The rapper (whose friends call him Nino) graduated from college in May, and he will release his debut EP Pray for Summer later this month at a date to be determined.
“I’ve been working on this for about three years, so now it’s just about fine-tuning some things,” he said. “I want to give the listeners more of me, so I’m punching some things up here and there, adding my personality.”
When he began writing, Nino was focused on the logistics of rap, he said. He wanted to craft compelling lines that matched those of his idols, rappers like Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, and Kendrick Lamar.
“Wayne is different, and if you’re different, you’ll grab my attention,” Nino said.
The rapper shares Lil Wayne’s love of Vans and the skating lifestyle. Nino pays close attention to the style that he curates, and his love of the clothing brand Supreme helped him craft his stage name. Yet Nino found it hard to balance college and a rap career. Since he had to write during class or in the little downtime he had, he was never able to pen the caliber of song he wanted, he said. Education was important to him, so he never seriously considered dropping out. Instead, he often travelled the two hours from school at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, to home in Fort Worth to record in a studio.
“Everybody says they can rap, and everybody knows somebody who says they can rap, but Nino could actually do it,” said fellow rapper Eddie Daniels-Rivera. “That’s why I’m so happy he has the time now.”
In 2015, Nino’s friend Brandon Webb invited Daniels-Rivera over to meet Nino, then left the house to run errands.
“I come back, and they have three songs written,” Webb recalled. “It’s stupid how good Nino’s work ethic is.”
Webb talks like a publicist because, in effect, he is one. He and Daniels-Rivera are two of the pillars of S.O.S., a collective that Nino started to “help my friends eat.” S.O.S., which stands for SoSupremey, is just another version of the entertainment company-meets-art collective Nino has been trying to launch since he was young.
“At first, it was just kid shit, but then I realized I really wanted to assemble this collective of people I mess with,” he said. “It’s like a security blanket for all of us.”
The collective includes Nino’s cousin, who engineers for him, and several people to whom Daniels-Rivera has connected him over the years.
“And Webb is like my Draymond Green,” Nino said, referring to the notoriously brash defensive enforcer for the Golden State Warriors. “He’s a spokesman, and he’s not afraid to tell people what to do.”
Nino garners fierce loyalty from his friends, in part because they have seen him grapple with the challenges that listeners often hear about in his songs. He grew up in poverty, raised by a single mom and grandma because his dad was never around.
“Your mom can’t do everything, so you have to do some things yourself,” said Webb, who comes from a similar background. “You can hear Nino bleed the pain out through the music.”
Nino’s debut EP will address his unstable upbringing, family, and mental health. The rapper does not know if it will be 10 or 12 songs, but its release will be accompanied by a slew of music videos that, like “Granny Flow,” will showcase his goofy and dark sides.
“I’m just trying to have fun with it,” he said. “This is my full-time job now, so let’s see what happens.”