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Nepotism Speaks on Shattering Expectations and Being The Person You Want to Be

Photo: Brandon Waller

Nepotism are a heavy hip-hop/punk band from Columbia, SC. Though in the case of Nepotism, that “hip hop/punk” quality is just a label. They aren’t focused on exactly what it is they sound like but rather that they are reaching people in a positive light, which is something that the South Carolina independent music community needs right now. The band consists of lead vocalist Rob Kershaw, drummer Deshawn Younger, and guitarist Alex Skiro. Extra Chill got a chance to sit down with them after their set at Makeout Reef in Charleston, SC on February 17, 2018.

I know genre labels are kind of an arbitrary thing, but how would y’all describe Nepotism? Or more, what do you guys draw from?

Deshawn Younger: Me, I’m not sure. At least currently, it’s all over the place right now. We get “punk” a lot but “punk” actually wasn’t on the list when we first started. It was just what it is. I didn’t even realize it was “punk” until years later. I went back and listened to it and I was like, “this is some really punk ass stuff right here! We need to do something about this!”

So did you guys go in with the mindset of “we want to portray this kind of attitude” or “we want to address these things”?

Rob Kershaw: At first not really.

DY: I’d say nah.

RK: The music just pieced together and I think we still don’t, we still have the intent to address certain things but we really just make music. And it kind of hits a certain chord.

DY: Yeah, Nepotism is kind of like a child finding its identity.

And do you think it’s gonna stay like that?

DY: No, not really. We do have a direction.

So what is that thing that you’re working towards? Or do you not want to disclose that yet?

RK: Not really… it’s in the ether somewhere. Like when it develops we’ll see.

But there are still certain things that you want to address with your music?

RK: Ohhh yes. The whole idea of media, and how media controls like… everything. So we’re structured around pop culture and everything that’s going on in politics but we try to do it somewhat indirectly, at least in the musical content. Because everything is pop culture, it’s something that people can relate to and question. With Nepotism it goes back to the concept of identity, like “who are you?”. “What do you want to be?”…

DY: And “Who do you want to be?”. And if you want to be that… be that. And you should feel safe in it.

RK: Yeah, I think combining all of those things, Nepotism is about that identity and finding it.

That’s nice, that’s a good sentiment. But where did the name come from?

RK: (laughs) So honestly, we actually had a dictionary. And we were just flipping through wondering “what could be our name” and “nepotism” came up and our thought was just “oh, we kinda know what means.” So we looked it up and went with it. We kept having to explain to people what it meant.

How did you explain it?

DY: I gave my opinion on what it means to me. Because, how I believe that this world is, and I’m not super cynical I’m willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but at its core this world is fucked. But from the definition of “nepotism”, I wonder why its gotta be negative? What if “nepotism” started out good? Isn’t that what we all work for? Don’t we work our asses off so that the next generation won’t have to work that hard? But when the line blurs it isn’t sacred anymore, and nothing sacred is held in this world for long. What it means to me is that nepotism is all of us. It’s him, me, it’s connection: when I rise, everybody rises with me. I care about my fellow man, I want everybody to be with me.

RK: Yeah that’s it right there. We’re all connected.

DY: There’s so much negativity out there, I don’t want to be a person adding to it. I’ve learned a lot of things, and definitely Nepotism has helped me grow, as a musician, as a man, it’s helped me work on loyalty, friendship, getting out of my introvertedness. I love it, I love this band I really do.

That’s outstanding. Now y’all are all from Columbia?

DY: I’m originally from New Jersey but I’ve moved down here now and I love the South. It’s quiet. Columbia kind of had to grow on me though.

Alex Skiro: There are certain artists and scenes that are coming out of Columbia now though that are exciting.

DY: Oh yeah for sure. Like we’re seen as being different.

Well that was part of the thing with Columbia, was after Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi) got big and when Washed Out was around the city a little bit that became the sound, was that “chillwave” sort of electro-indie pop music. And it kind of seemed like as an independent musician there you had to fit into that for a little while.

DY: Yeah it got cliquey. And that’s the thing is that everyone should get there time to shine. There’s untapped potential in everyone.

RK: Columbia is changing though. It’s not as exclusive, there’s so much talent there. And like you said after Chaz left there was this void. And that can be filled, it just doesn’t have to be filled by one. I feel like Columbia always has that “one”, like when it was Hootie & The Blowfish and then we had Chaz but there is so much talent brewing.

AS: And I think it’s getting more eclectic too.

DY: I think more events need to happen. We need more outlets.

Do y’all want to identify with Columbia going forward?

RK: I’d say yes. I feel like everyone needs to be represented in such a way, like Atlanta has their figures that represent them. I think that at the end of the day it’s all about influence, not the fame thing but influencing the next generation. So if one day people can look at us saying “those guys weren’t afraid to say that they were from South Carolina” then there’s hope.

Is fame on your radar then?

AS: The way I see that is that we aren’t really concerned with that kind of thing but we want to touch as many peoples’ lives as we can with our music. So we’re not really considering it so much with the fame as we are with just this sense of “let’s bring great music and a message to all of these people” and that’s what it’s then supposed to do is empower society. Fame is almost meaningless.

RK: I think that influence is really important, like you need to sort of provide people with material because you can’t really change people yourself, they have to change themselves. So if you give them influence and influential material that can change something within people and can grow and change a community.

But given that you guys are a predominantly black band in a state historically does not support black artists, have you found it hard to operate in South Carolina?

RK: When it first started it was really bad, we were an entirely black band then. But then here in Charleston y’all had the town hall things and everything where you got to hear these different sides. So when you’re from the South you face a lot of prejudice, and you get a lot of “we’re expecting you to sound like this”, but you’re coming in and sounding like something totally different. In South Carolina, Columbia in particular I think that the hip-hop scene suffers the most. It’s easy for us because we do blend hip-hop into our sound but we use live instruments so they’re still willing support us. But representation is very important.

DY: But we do surprise people a lot of people. They expect one thing and we are completely different, we always get someone after the shows saying “I was not expecting that.”

RK: It’s hard to be optimistic, but I do hope that things can change and that young black artists can play. When we toured up north we played with so many people of color and members of the LGBT community and it was so encouraging, so I would like to see the south start to adopt the things that they’re doing up north. It’s more receptive there, but here it’s a work in progress. Part of it is that we need more safe spaces, like house venues where people can come in and feel that they’ll be treated with respect. That’s all you can hope for.