[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
“If you set yourself up as the 'I don't give a fuck guy,' you can do whatever you want.”
This is Nobody explaining the creative left hooks of his singular and fearless career. Since his first release on Ubiquity Records in 1999, the multihyphenate born Elvin Estela has spiraled through down-tempo instrumental hip-hop, sad-robot auto-tuned love letters, club rap and psychedelic rock.
His collaborators list could fill up the rest of this column, including underground hip-hop griots Freestyle Fellowship, beat-scene pioneer Prefuse 73 and members of prog-rock shredders The Mars Volta. There was a mid-2000s sabbatical to mess around on guitar and record beautiful psychedelic squalls with singer Niki Randa, under the name Blank Blue. But his most famous turn might be as one of the four resident DJs at Lincoln Heights' Low End Theory.
If you've witnessed a relatively recent set, you might see the 36-year-old Nobody as the experimental electronic analogue to Juicy J. Whether it's Migos' “Versace” (before Drake added a verse) or an unreleased slapper from a little-known local producer, he intuitively understands the right song to play and the best time to play it. For the kids in snap-backs seeking the turn-up, no one more effectively ratchets up the intensity.
“I'm still constantly digging. Going through 20 mixtapes to find three songs to play out is just as valid as digging for a 45 back in the day,” Nobody says. In addition to his blue Ralph Lauren Teddy bear shirt, the Loyola Marymount grad has small diamond studs in each ear, a Louis V. satchel and toothpaste white-and-red Air Jordans — the style of a 23-year-old Atlanta rapper with the deep crates of a record addict.
“I always try to stay open-minded, because closed-mindedness has fucked a lot of musicians up,” Nobody adds. “They resist change and by the time it's in full effect, they chase it. I've never tried to follow.”
If there's a moral to his life, this is it. The half-Filipino, half-Puerto Rican first became obsessed with electro-rap and Miami bass at age 10. By the time he got his driver's license, the Carson-raised teen got into trouble for rolling to '90s hip-hop institution the Good Life to buy Project Blowed cassettes. The Blowed open-mic workshops and battles taught him how to write songs and understand music.
His latest album is last month's Alpha Pup release, Vivid Green, full of trap-tinted beats hard enough to knock a spliff out your lips, with a few nods to his tender side. Unlike the scavengers on Soundcloud, there's no desire to chase a trend. No less than Flying Lotus publicly shouted out Nobody as the first to play trap at Low End Theory.
If you made an all-city list of best party DJs, Nobody is at or near the top. He can drop a '90s alt-rock set at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and then head to Low End Theory to seamlessly mix The Strokes into Mobb Deep's “Shook Ones Part II.”
His ability to not give a fuck affords him freedom. And there's no telling how many DJs and fans he's exposed to new sounds and influenced to stop taking themselves too seriously. His success reflects the goal of many artists: He's sustained a thriving career across multiple incarnations and multiple peaks. Right now is yet another.
“A lot of guys hold onto what they think is real, but for me, nothing is real,” Nobody says. “You've gotta keep moving and discovering new music. Once you stop doing that, you've lost your passion for it.”
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