DGB Exclusive Interview: MBNEL talks growing up in Stockton, signing to Empire and “Born to Win” project

Meet Stockton native MBNel (aka Nelly Nel), who’s one of the most promising young rappers on the scene, drawing in listeners in with the ability to both rap and sing on a track, MBNel is here to change the narrative on stereotypes and be a voice for those without.

MBNEL currently holds over a million views on YouTube and Spotify this caught the attention of major labels, with co-signs from HYPEBEAST and more.

Read our exclusive interview below as MBNEL talks growing up in Stockton, signing to Empire, and highly praised project “Born to Win”.

MIKALA:  How was it growing up in Stockton, California?

 MBNEL: Stockton is a small little city but it’s a lot of violence poverty, gang culture, kids running around with guns…You grow up to your environment, that’s just how a lot of the youth grow up.

MIKALA: With you being Filipino, was it considered unrealistic for you to become a rapper?

MBNEL: Uh, I mean in my city not really it was like , people weren’t really looking at the race, they were looking at where I was from, who I was, the people I was around, That really was it.  as you get farther in the game, like where I am at, then they start looking like ah, ah  he is Filipino.

Photo credit: Jeremy reyes snyder

MIKALA: How long have you been rapping? How did you transition into rapping?

  MBNEL: In total 2years-2 in half years, around there, I  liked writing, when I was in class I’ll just sit there Instead of writing notes I’d be writing rhymes, lyrics and stuff but I never really did nothing with it. I just put it away after. My friend had got a lil laptop and mic setup, that’s when I started messing around with it but just for fun. I wasn’t trying to take it serious or nothing, did it for fun like I said he got locked up, I grabbed his equipment brought it to the house so I had more time with it, and I started learning how to use the program and it just went from there. 

MBNEL: I started investing into it, putting more money into a better mic  and I finally invested into music videos, where I first shot a video and it blew up from there, it was getting crazy feedback so i just kept going with it

 MIKALA : You’re signed to Empire records correct?

MBNEL: Yeah, I have a deal with them

MKALA: How was the signing process with Empire 

MBNEL:  It was just I had just been working, they had finally reached out and then since then my relationship with them has been hella good it just they got me and we just been messing with each other, so that’s dope

MIKALA:  What are some things that you’ve done to  help with your own personal growth as an Artist?

MBNEL: Me, personally, trying to do more stuff for the community in Stockton, more positive things and putting more spotlight on that.

Photo credit: Jeremy ryes snyder

 MIKALA: What are some things that you’ve had to cut out get to where are you now?  

MBNEL: I mean it’s like a lot of things like said whether it be the streets, I mean stuff going on with the gangs and stuff, I mean that will always be there just cause I’m still in my area, I’m still live in Stockton, I’m still around it but like i said you just have to sacrifice, slow down,  just move smarter, and just stay focused.

Mikala: “I feel that”!

MIKALA: Now What was the creative process like for you while making  “Born To Win”?

MBNEL: Really it was really just  me learning the beats, I learned the beats up or whatever, I really want, I didn’t want the songs to all  have the same flow or same sound you get what I’m saying every song got it’s own lil mood and it’s own lil sound to it, and it’s really just the diversity of my sounds and growth of me  as an artist, so that’s why you hear all the different sounds and styles on it.

Mikala: Now On your  album you have collaborations  from Mazi, Lil bean, Teejay3K, How was it collaborating with these  different artists for this Album?

 MBNEL: It’s cool because, I’m a fan of them apart of me, I listen to their stuff, so I have them on my shit, my shit is crazy, like I said I’m a fan of them too.

Stream the highly praised project “Born To Win” below:

MIKALA:  I know this Isn’t fair to ask (Laughs) but What’s your personal favorite song on your Album?

MBNEL: My personal favorite… It’s between “Euro Step” or “Dear Jhene”!

Mikala:  I do want to talk about Dear Jhene being that I’m a parent myself and I felt that song a personal level. What made you want to write this song?

MBNEL: I wanted a song that was on the project to be more personal and I felt like the whole situation with me having a baby on the way that was the perfect opportunity to really write something about that subject and lay it down and really do it in a different way that I didn’t’ do on any of the other songs, it came out the way it came out.

MIKALA: You know when becoming a new parent you have all of these emotions. Anxiety, you’re like Oh my gosh and i’m going to be a good parent? You just have a lot of emotions… I wanted to know What emotions were you feeling as you were writing about your daughter?

   MBNel: I mean like you said, it was a whole bunch of different ones, excitement, anxiety, being nervous, it’s a whole bunch of different stuff so much is going on that the same time as far as the parent thing and the music, stuff going on in Stockton, I mean everything is happening it at once and I just put it all in my song.

Mikala: I do want to tell you congratulations that is very exciting as well!

MBNEL: Thank You, appreciate that!

MIKALA:Now you did mention earlier about your Community Outreach, What motivated you to want to speak to the youth at your old high school?

MBNEL: For one I mean no  one Stockton really did nothing like that you get what I’m saying? Stockton gets a lot if it’s name because of the negative news, the bad news you get what I’m saying… so i was like  with the outlet I got right now might as well do something positive, I’m a HUGE Nipsey fan as well so that was motivation on that too, it was only right!

Mikala: So do you feel like you have to carry your city on your back?

MBNEl: Hell yeah! Just cause nobody is really doing that type of thing,..you get what I’m saying? 

MIKALA:What are some things that you plan on doing to help the youth throughtout the community?

 MBNEL: A part of me going back to Eddison, I was trying Talk to the youth about basically just following their dreams, being whatever they want to be, don’t let nobody stop you from being what you want to be especially where your coming from but we got some planned we’re trying to do some Turkey drives, give back to the homeless things like that!

Mikala: Oh, Wow, That’s AWESOME! 

MIKALA: What are some upcoming projects for us to be on the lookout for?

MBNEL: Yellow Tape 2 , we don’t have an exact date on it yet but  as far as confirmed projects right now that’s pretty much it but i got a whole bunch of songs that’s lined in, ready, it’s coming!

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