SLUG Picnic: youngassNICO
August’s SLUG Picnic lineup features youngassNICO, Phobia the Greatest and MOD. The show takes place on Aug. 28 at 230 S. 500 West in Salt Lake City. Tickets are $5 with picnic seating at 5 p.m. and music from 6–9 p.m. SLUG Picnic is sponsored by Daily Rise Coffee, Dented Brick Distillery, Gem City Fine Foods, GREENbike, Les Madeleines, Sparrow Electric and Squatters.
youngassNICO grew up near Baisley Park in South Jamaica, Queens, the home of the artist’s love for music. He started listening to music in ’98 thanks to $5 bootlegged CDs from the Rite Aid parking lot. Nico grew up in the era of Angie Martinez, Funkmaster Flex, DJ Kay Slay, Jay Electronica and more. He would walk around the block and immerse himself in the music pouring out of apartments and cars, spreading the word that 50 Cent was making it big. “As much as I like the new shit, I am so knitted in that gritty New York rap where your bars have to mean something,” he says. “I remember freestyling in circles back in the day where if your bars were not correct, you couldn’t hang.”
“As much as I like the new shit, I am so knitted in that gritty New York rap where your bars have to mean something.”
Nico opened an AOL CD his mom got in the mail and discovered Outkast’s Stankonia. Nico wrote down Andre 3000’s verses and replaced the words with his own, forming a personal collection of raps.
Nico relocated to St. George around his senior year, where he met Josh and Ethan. A mutual friend linked them up after recognizing their shared drive to make and love music. After a few life changes and a few awkward open mics at Jazzy’s, the trio made their way up to Salt Lake City. They maxed out a Best Buy card with a CD burner, a laptop and a mic and began making music in the city as Swell Merchants.
Nico likes the way he could go to the gas station for beer and run into friends—gallivanting around the city, checking out what’s happening at Urban Lounge, getting $0.50 wings at Poplar Street Pub and all of the other B.C. things (before COVID, before child). “Doing stuff around town like little, local bullshit shows, doing arts fests, just doing the grind of trying to make it in an untapped city is what inspired the music,” he says.
“Doing stuff around town like little, local bullshit shows, doing arts fests, just doing the grind of trying to make it in an untapped city is what inspired the music.”
youngassNICO set the bar high in 2021 with his single “MICHAEL FLIGHT,” his EP 2RIPE and a music video for “WISHLIST.” After experiencing major life changes in 2019 and 2020, he says, “I just had to get it out. Once Ethan passed, I was just in my head and trying to work my way back to normalcy. It felt good to listen to those songs again, to think about the music from a different perspective.”
A part of Nico was left behind in Ethan’s game room, the spot where the two would outrap each other as they played video games. With the loss of that driving motivation, Nico found support through his friends checking in with him, making sure he knew that he was still wanted out there and he could still make it happen. He is now motivated by making Ethan proud: “If he were here, what would make him make that nasty face?” Nico says.
“Once Ethan passed, I was just in my head and trying to work my way back to normalcy. It felt good to listen to those songs again, to think about the music from a different perspective.”
Of working through the grieving process, Nico says, “Just keep going, take the advice of the songs.” “NO QUESTION,” “RELINQUISH” and “FEAR” from 2RIPE include spoken clips from various media that supported him through his time of loss. As you listen to this EP, notice the cover art beautifully displaying a collage of Ethan.
If you can’t get enough of youngassNICO’s fresh content, you can look forward to a new music video for fan-favorite “MONEY MIND,” written during the 2020 summer protests. You can see youngassNICO at SLUG Picnic on August 28 at the SLUG HQ. If you miss it, you will most likely find youngassNICO spending time with his friends and family, playing Super Smash Bros. and listening to Victoria Monét.
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