Singer, rapper, and songwriter Naomi Mercer moved to the racial and economic powder keg South Central, California for affordable housing and discovered the most precious gift of all—her creative voice—through embracing the community and culture of her new surroundings. She’s emerged a firestarter MC with a sensual melodicism, a limber flow, and playfully irreverent lyrics. Under the moniker NMercer she celebrates her newly mined creativity with a volley of releases: a self-titled debut, out 5/7/13; a dancey EP, Crossroads, out 6/18/13; and a transcendent remix album, out 8/6/2013.
“In the past I sang in cover bands, and when I tried to write my own music, I didn’t have anything to say,” she reveals. But when her new neighbors began popping by to share newly minted hip-hop beats and instrumental tracks, she began to discover a fresh and authentic-feeling vehicle for self-expression. “It was a whole new frontier for me,” she says.
NMercer has been favorably compared to Santigold, MIA, Jessie J, Missy Elliott, G-Love & Special Sauce, The Pharcyde, Ke$ha, and Gwen Stefani. Her wry sense of humor, empowering lyrics, and accessible musicality make for an infectious blend. “I express positivity through humor, but it’s not so positive that it comes off like an after school special,” she says laughing.
Her self-titled debut blends rugged hip-hop beats, mesmerizing electro-pop hooks, and lush EDM textures. Her creative collaboration with producer wunderkind Justin Lassen has yielded a sound that’s Top 40-hooky and cleverly incisive. The woozy “Like A White Girl” mixes dreamy atmospherics, sultry vocalizing, and a supple beat for a hypnotic effect. Currently, this song appears on a compilation album alongside Pitbull, 50 Cent and Snoop that was distributed to 2500 gentlemen’s clubs around the country. The ominous “Who I am” is a throw down with brazen lines like I ain’t Ke$ha, don’t call me that/ I don’t sound like a retard when I rap/& I ain’t Ashley Simpson, cuz I can sing/ & that real shit I know how to bring.
Her boldness has been hard fought. She’s taken her slice ‘em dice ‘em rhymes to the stage winning over finicky hip-hop crowds. Behind the scenes, she’s recorded her own vocals and edited her own videos. NMercer is also an accomplished musician, having cut her teeth professionally singing Etta James songs at corporate events and luxurious house parties. Her honeyed hooks and unique vocal harmonies exhibit the weight and richness of the blues’s melodic heritage.
NMercer grew up on an island called Vashon, accessible by ferry in the Puget Sound, near Seattle. She grew up listening to a refreshingly eclectic mix of music, including such artists as Alice in Chains, the Pharcyde, the Beastie Boys, Joan Osborne, the Doors, Björk, Easy E, NWA, and Too $hort.
Soon after relocating to Los Angeles, she moved to South Central for the reasonable rents. “For the first time since I moved to LA, I felt like I was part of a community,” she says. “The guys on the block were all rappers or musical in some way or another. They’d would bring by sick beats and ask me to sing hooks on them,” she says. When no one was around, NMercer started writing her own songs. “It was the first time I wrote music where I felt like I had a sound and voice. I think it came out real because I made those songs for no one but myself,” she explains.
During this period of powerful growth she wrote the anthem “Stacks.” “While I was having this shift, I was surrounded by good people with no understanding of money and a super warped sense of what’s valuable and what’s not,” she says candidly. “This song is about a lot of things not the least of which is money management. “ It’s a banger with inspiring lines like: I want a condo, yo I’m saving up for it/that’s why you never see me stopping why you never see me sit/these fools be droppin all their dollars on the wrong damn shit/’n in a minute they got nothin to say for it how did we become a generation/that can never be savin’ up something.
NMercer producer Justin Lassen has produced opera and symphonies, developed highly esteemed sound libraries, and done remixes for artists like Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, Apocalyptica, and Evanescence. “He’s fearless with his music,” she says. He’s so bold with risks but he also understands song structure, great hooks, and great beats.”