Nico Segal & Nate Fox Talk New Album, Intellexual
By now, Chance The Rapper has established himself as a household name all over the world. While three Grammys, endless touring and national TV spots certainly keep his name in the news, it’s the team behind him that has helped carve a unique lane over the last five years. That collective, The Social Experiment has been, well, busy. The combination of Nico Segal, Nate Fox and Peter CottonTale are seemingly forever in motion whether its working on Chance’s music, their own or helping out with a ever-growing list of collaborators.
The most recent release from the collective is Intellexual, an experimental storytelling piece that satiated Fox and Segal’s need to create a project that stood on its own merit, not leaning on singles to keep a listener in tune from start to finish. The project is an outgrowth of their 2015 collaborative release, SURF. The roots of this latest project emerged in sessions for that as well as long days spent in Fox’s LA studio. Discovering a unique collaborative understanding between them, the experience slowly manifested into this collection which touches on much more than what they’re known for. Segal took his first step from the Social Experiment last year, releasing a jazz fusion album with his group The JuJu Exchange. With Intellexual joining his discography, its becoming increasingly clear that his team’s range goes well beyond what anyone could imagine. I caught up with the guys at Nico’s place on the north side of Chicago for a story on the night the project was released, with excerpts below.
How did this project come to be?
NATE: It was in those first couple of processes of making music that it we started to realize there was a different kind of connection here. A spicy connection. We always figured at some point at the appropriate time, we’ll expand on it and for me that point came in the SURF making during a song called “Pass The Vibes” which although Nico and I worked a lot on SURF, it was really that song that was specifically more just me and him and when we did that it was so easy….we were both doing things that normally in a room with a bunch of people we’d be uncomfortable doing but when we did it together it was like ‘well if I can do it then you can do it, here we go’. I think the ease of this made me be like ‘hey so dude I’ve had this idea for this thing called Intellexual for a while” I’ve had that idea since about the time SURF ended.
NICO: Like he said, from “Pass The Vibes” there was just a clear next place we were both heading musically that we were really trying to explore and we both realized through making music and getting to know each other as people that we grew up on a lot of similar music sometimes and have a big appreciation for great songwriting like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder and I think we just wanted to experiment and try to explore that world that we hadn’t really gotten to yet and we somehow felt comfortable doing that together.
What’s different about this project from past releases?
NICO: We worked super hard on this album. We have a lot of interesting topics and a lot of interesting moments. Kind of ambiguous, genre-shifting moments and I’m really excited to see how people receive it.
NATE: I think we really just wanted to drop it. I think that was really all we wanted to do was drop a fully encompassed album because that was what we found a connection in: music we were listening to was from albums. Things we would play from front to end and not change anything. And it may be 8 songs, it might be 11 songs, whatever the amount, it was the right amount, it was the right order, it was the right content, the right textures; the whole scope of the album. And I think we wanted to focus in on that too: making sure that everything was cohesive. Because a lot of times I feel like when I listen to an album, if I’ve never heard the artist before I can go through and be like ‘oh that’s the single’. And I didn’t want to feel like that on this.
How have the last couple of years changed anything for you two? You’ve won Grammys, toured the world, it’s been a lot.
NICO: We’re definitely blessed. Super grateful for all these opportunities. I’m super young, this guy’s super young to have a Grammy. Some of our favorite artists ever didn’t have a Grammy. That’s not to say that that’s our benchmark but it’s just another thing that happened super quick for us that we’re super grateful for and also don’t talk about a lot. But here we are releasing new music.
NATE: I think anything that happens to you in life will adjust your music and the way you make music and things like that. I think it’s all just perspective. People will experience that eventually if they make music and receive accolades or financial benefit or whatever it is they can take it two ways. They can take it as ok I did this, I can sit back now and I don’t have to be as studious or tedious about my music anymore and that in turn can have two effects. Or they can go the route and say ‘nothing has changed. All that happened was a situation where people acknowledged a piece of work. It was a good piece of work. I’m on to my next good piece of work. That tends to be from what I’ve seen of other people and ourselves, that tends to have a stronger impact on your longevity if you take that route.