It was a chill mood when I walked into Serious Cartoons Records & Tapes to the smell of tacos and kiefy pre-roll for the Noa James / Nuglife listening party. Lesa J was there as ever being brilliant and facilitating new people meeting. Phantom Thrett had been so kind as to open his doors and cook while everyone soaked in the new album. I’ve only met Nuglife a couple times but he’s a really bright soul and fun to kick it with. It’s wild how Noa is always talking about something substantial with whoever is posted with him on a couch – the more I speak with him and hear his work the more it’s clear to me that this is a man very aware of the preciousness of time.
Their new album, The Majestic Travels of Orcamane and OGie, is a spiritual sequel to The Adventures of Young Orca, an IE classic that is now unbelievably over a decade old. It fits too – it’s chill, stony, melodic, positive and seeking of common ground between souls and artists. The intro’s synth sirens remind one of whale calls- Nuglife understand the James paradigm. Noa’s voice has been evolving from his grizzly bear growl of his early career to a more zen rap crooner of the 2020s and the album’s intro “Orcamane” is a great example of where his voice stylings are now and how subtle and thorough Nuglife's synergy with him is. Noa listened graciously as I shared my critiques and faves – I loved the Mescal and Cam Archer songs, the harder stuff near the end was less my thing but still really catchy and James is undeniably good at it. Berserk and Juggernaut continue the chronicling of Noa’s ever gradually increasing descent into the world of nerdcore while providing a positive space to crack concrete in. Noa’s ability to toggle between experimentation and musically chill comfort food is priceless and the triumph of control over one's demons and the emanating of positivity and generosity is an epic triumph. I've been listening back to James' older works and on each album he balances the beautiful and the darkness -in this album the heroes have returned to the shire in peace and success. Odyssean even.
“I just wanna roll up/ just wanna po’ up”
Nuglife’s beat tape The Beat Dispensary is more of a compilation than a beat tape and it feels like a great immediate follow-up to Majestic Travels - chill thick beats with lots of So Cal all-stars from the BrickToYaFace and EOTR Networks and beyond. A longer record with lots of Noa throughout, it’s a wonderful stony companion-piece to majestic travels. The Noa pieces are like motivational mantras that reflect the comfortable synergy the two have developed. The theme playing off the “dispensary” setting is fun and funny from the Rasta Doorman intro the songs that continue to play on the concept like “The Love Dispensary”. EOTR members Zzay and Don't Sleep are standouts on a collection of stellar and effective collaborations. When you consider his elegant and lush EP with Zzay in addition to these works it’s wild to think how much this cat Nuglife has done before hitting age 25 – he was one to look out for, now he’s one to listen to.