Fate is a funny thing, and single moments can set the course of your destiny. N. C. Palma’s ability to pursue his passion for music happened serendipitously. After a chance meeting with Studio KAI’s founder, Vernon Hill, in 2018, N. C. Palma was able to elevate his interests in hip hop from classroom freestyles to proper commercial releases. Hungry to take his work to the next level, forging his own sound somewhere between hip-pop, rap, and R&B, N. C. Palma’s focus on developing as songwriter and creative has been well-received by his core fans. Now, the artist is looking to reach audiences on a larger scale with his latest track, “Morning in the Dark.”
Cutting through the mainstream noise, N. C. Palma is careful to temper catchy melodies with introspective songwriting. Bringing well-crafted ideas to fruition in ways that are as surprising as they are digestible, it’s with his visual for “Morning in the Dark” that he enters a new chapter in his personal journey. An abstracted deep dive into feelings of detachment and uncertainty, the bizarre, dreamlike sequence is juxtaposed with a performance of N. C. Palma against a unique light show set design. “Morning in the Dark” is memorable and elevated, serving as a glimpse into the potential future of Hip Hop and R&B fusion.
How have your Chicago roots influenced your music?
Being from the Chicago area made music, especially hip hop, uniquely accessible. By the time I was trying to emulate my favorite artists, my understanding of what makes good music was directly inspired by Chicago legends like Ye, Common, Lupe Fiasco, and so on. Coupled with the freshness of the off-kilter flows coming out of the drill scene and the tendency for Chicago artists to be unapologetically themselves, I think the music I make is rooted in an idea that’s culturally as Chicago as it gets: realness.
When did you first get into making music and writing raps? When did you realize you
wanted to take your music more seriously and secure more exposure for it in the music
I think part of me was always interested. I can remember writing a handful of verses as a kid,
and even collaborating with a friend on a Garage Band project for a music class assignment in
6th or 7th grade. Nothing would come of any of that, though. My first “release” was a 16-bar verse
over a YouTube beat while I was in high school; my friends still ask me if I have a version of that
saved somewhere. I don’t.
Around the time I started going to university, I connected with a friend of a friend called Joe; he
was just starting what would become Studio KAI and was recording me for maybe $20/hr. There
was no conscious moment where I started taking music seriously, it was just that everybody
around the studio developed together. Pursuing exposure is a function of believing what we’re
doing is worth seeing.
How does your unique fusion of hip-hop and R&B make your music stand out among
other artists? How did “Morning in the Dark” come to be?
At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make good music. Thinking about genres and how to
push boundaries or be alternative is a drain on creativity. Very straightforwardly, I think that my
lyricism is a step above my peers and that the mixes my team and I put out are competitive with
a good deal of the majors. We just don’t have the same visibility.
“Morning in the Dark” doesn’t have a special story. I think it’s important that what the listener
gets out of the song comes from the music and their own thoughts and feelings about it, rather
than whatever I say it’s supposed to be about.
What inspired “Morning in the Dark”? What will listeners adore most about this song?
There were definitely certain feelings I wanted to lean into while I was writing the song, but I
don’t know if anything was a direct inspiration. In a way, all the music I make is inspired by my
life, the people I associate with, and anything that’s going on around me. I guess that’s all to say
the song was inspired by a literal morning in the dark as much as a metaphorical one. I think
listeners are most likely to appreciate the song’s unpredictability and just how dreamlike and
surreal the whole track feels.
What was your creative vision for the “Morning in the Dark” music video? What was your
experience shooting it, and what should viewers expect from it?
Even though I had my own input and infinite veto power, the core ideas behind the video came
from my friends, Luis Rivera and Johnny Hernandez, at Make A Plan Media. The vision I had for
it was less about tangible shots we could do, and more about specific feelings I wanted to
capture. After a couple weeks of back-and-forth, we landed on an A/V script that we admittedly
didn’t follow exactly, but it provided the framework for the visual as you see it now.
Viewers can expect something that’s intentionally a little bit jarring; some people are saying it’s
brilliant and others that it’s convoluted, but whatever you get out of the video is uniquely yours. If
nothing else, we have some insanely dope set design and wardrobe choices.
In what ways do you think fans and followers will relate and connect with your music,
especially “Morning in the Dark”?
The music I make is really close to my personal life. The subject matter changes over time, but
the honesty I’m putting forward is appealing to a lot of people. Talking about getting your heart
broken or just feeling some type of way isn’t the coolest thing I can think of, but it’s the reality of
those feelings that people connect with. “Morning in the Dark” doesn’t have an explicitly stated
message, and so people are getting a lot of different things out of it. I think it’s to the song’s
Follow N. C. Palma: