EP Walkthrough: Nerve breaks down his electrifying new EP, Tall Poppy Season
The Brisbane-based rapper assembles an all-star cast of Australia's future for his brilliant, eight-track new EP.
Header image by Macami.
If you've been watching Australian hip-hop consistently go from strength to strength over the last few years, then there's a strong chance you've been watching Brisbane-based emcee Nerve be one of the driving forces behind it. Since his entrance back in 2017, the Meanjin rapper has thrived in both his sound and his acclaim, but in the last two years particularly, Nerve has strong-armed himself a place amongst hip-hop's most dynamic and forward-thinking names of today, and the league of artists defining its future in Australia moving forward.
His 2019-released EP Mumma's Boy brought a glimpse of that brilliance beginning to properly emerge, linking him up with hard-hitters including JK-47 and Triple One's Obi III Terrors and Marty Bugatti for a collection of tracks that introduced Nerve and his lyricism to the greater commercial world - i.e. those that had not already caught onto him in his beginnings. Songs alongside other heavyweights including Chillinit and Horrorshow furthered him even more, while tracks alongside Eyez and Aitch saw Nerve fly the Australian flag in the UK too, tapping into England's rap surge and gaining an entire new audience in the process of doing so.
Now, we reconvene two years later for the release of Nerve's next EP Tall Poppy Season, and if nothing else, the takeaway message should be how much Nerve has evolved and grown - personally, musically, creatively - in the few years since he was launched into a one-to-watch status with Mumma's Boy two years back. Spanning eight tracks just shy of 30 minutes, Tall Poppy Season gives Nerve the room to showcase his craft and with it, amplify exactly why he's being heralded as a newcoming heavyweight worthy of his time in the spotlight.
Tall Poppy Season is an EP that captures Nerve's talents as a multi-faceted performer. While guests including JK-47, Nokz78 and 18YOMAN help with verses and production, a lot of the release is centred on Nerve and his skillset as both a lyricist and producer, sweeping between facets of underground rap, grime, pop and beyond in a way that Nerve has consistently showcased throughout his career, but now, does so at a polish and shine beyond many others glowing up in a similar time.
"I really branched out on Tall Poppy Season; the bars, the beats, the melodies, the collaborations. Everything feels fresh, while culminating all the sounds I’ve experimented with throughout my whole career," he says on the EP, highlighting exactly what we're talking about. "It’s a cathartic and emotional release for me, and I know the fans will also get what they are searching for. The live shows for this project will be chaotic in the best way possible... Tall Poppies never die!"
Speaking of live shows, Tall Poppy Season arrives ahead of tour dates spread through June and July this year; shows that see Nerve elevate himself to new venues that soon are about to experience the energy and charm of a Nerve performance as they hit another new peak. You can find those tour dates below, but while we wait, you can listen to Tall Poppy Season now, and do so with a track-by-track walkthrough from Nerve - breaking down the EP's themes and creation one song at a time.
This one's kind of split into sections that represent different headspaces of mine. The first section is subconscious thoughts that swim around in my head without me even noticing, and the second half is what I express to vent the anxiety and frustration that I receive from those thoughts. Whenever I get migraines it’s from pent up stress so I figured the name was fitting.
ONE IN A MILLION
I knew people would expect a lot from JK and myself with anything we put out given our previous releases but I wanted to create something uplifting energetic but also allow space for us to touch on real issues that we resonate with socially and politically - all while making a tune that will slap at a festival and blow the trunk out of a Nissan skyline
One In A Million is made for anyone that’s weary of stepping outside the box and questioning the systems that they find themselves living in. Everyone can be one in a million at something - you just need to find your thing and put your heart and soul into it
BABY STOP RUNNING YOUR MOUTH
This song is probably my personal favourite from the EP. I recorded all of my vocals in my bedroom over a few hours during lockdown and freestyled the majority of them line for line. I think the fact that I didn’t write any lyrics down let me introduce a kind of brutal honesty into it, which lead to some topics I haven’t really touched on before.
Also, I’m singing for basically the whole track so yeah, that’s new for me too.
WHO THAT? (KNOW ME)
Similar to the previous track this was just me saying the first thing that came into my head. This is where I’ve been at and it's pretty honest. A lot has changed over the last few years socially and I’ve watched people’s attitudes towards me change and evolve… but I can see through that shit when I have to.
Boy Soda killed the backup vocals too. And 18YOMAN and Len20 on the sample for the beat is always gonna be fire.
I originally recorded the hook for this on my laptop mic in my bedroom when I didn’t have access to the studio and it sounded dope then so when I had the chance to get in and finish it off I went ham. This one was my first release with some proper melodic vocals on it and I felt like a cool mix to drop them in over a hard as fuck beat (prod by Skaro Beats btw).
Video came out crazy too. Shout out the video crew on this one.
WALK & TALK, PT. 4
So I actually made the beat and wrote my verse for this in about 3 hours. As soon as I was done I told Nokz he had to give me a call. At this point, we’d never met or spoken over the phone but I rapped the whole thing for him straight off the bat and told him I needed a verse from him the next day and that it would be for Walk & Talk 4.
He delivered, and here we are.
Nokz: “Nerve and I been meaning to get a collab in for about six months. Life gets in the way and we hadn’t had the chance to link and get something down. He messages me his number and says call me. Me being a fan, I grabbed the usos phone and called him right there and he spit the whole verse over the beat the and I was so amped as my friend and I were both massive fans of Nerve.
I challenged myself to get It done, put together the best verse I could and sent the demo. The rest is history. Was a 360 moment for me as I was a big fan of his previous walk and talks. He finally sent the final back and the mix of vocals just hit. We both said..lesssgo.”
Big anthem for the crew. A sequel to NO1 from the Mumma’s Boy EP. Made for shutting down live shows and finishing the night the right way.
Big manifesto at the end written by the homie Kyel Golly
TALL POPPIES NEVER DIE
This was one of the biggest musical therapy moments of my life. Went into the studio with Jay Orient feeling super depressed and anxious and came out 4 hours later with a piece of art and a much lighter heart & head. This one's pretty serious but a good way to round off the EP I reckon.
Tour Dates (tickets here):
Sat 12 June – The Zoo – Brisbane
Fri 18 June – Jive Bar – Adelaide
Sat 19 June – Jack Rabbit Slims – Perth
Thu 1 July - The Cambridge - Newcastle
Fri 2 July - The Lansdowne - Sydney SOLD OUT
Sat 3 July – Northcote Social Club – Melbourne SOLD OUT