Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and currently a resident of Dallas, Texas, C.E.N’s natural proficiency over poetry allowed him to produce meaningful and profound lyrics. Although he initially took the initiative to become a music artist for fame and fortune, he later realized that all he desires as a musician is to be respected and valued for the art he brings to the table. His music is deep lyrically and spiritually.
- Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
C.E.N.: I was born in Oklahoma City, OK, and was raised in a small town named Morris. I grew up in a musical environment. Most of my family either sang, played piano, or drums in church. My cousin was a rapper at the time. I thought that was the coolest thing ever and thought if he can do it, why not me and that’s what sparked the interest.
- Do you handle both the songwriting and beats on your songs, or do you collaborate with others?
C.E.N.: I’m strictly the songwriter, but I’m always looking to collaborate with creative people.
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
C.E.N.: Nelly, Jay Z, Nas, 50 Cent, Eminem
- What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?
C.E.N.: I’m honest and I reflect on real things that everyday people can relate to. I try to give you different vibes that you can use to get you through your day.
- For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
C.E.N.: I definitely remember those days. I used to let my friend hear my rhymes and he would tell me if I was sounding like other artists. Over time I started adding more of my personality and my own stories. What really helped me is when I stopped trying to follow trends and started picking beats I liked and talking about the things I related to most.
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
C.E.N.: This may sound corny or old school, but music especially Hip Hop is the voice of the people on the bottom trying to be heard. Now don’t get me wrong there has to be a balance every song can’t be about the world’s problems that would be depressing. I personally try to sprinkle in a few songs about issues that bother me. I feel like artists should stand for something.
- Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply focus on your own personal vision and trust that people will empathize with your sound?
C.E.N.: I say it’s 50/50 I never want to force anything. I can only rap on beats that inspire me, but my content may cater to a certain audience I’m trying to communicate with. But even then it’s up to the listener and some luck in my opinion. I’ve been doing this for a while and trends change so quickly. I just do me and hope the song I make in 2020 is still played in 2040.
- Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a beat, or a narrative in your head?
C.E.N.: When the inspiration comes I just listen to beats until I stumble across one that really grabs my attention. Then I may listen to it on repeat for a while and let ideas come to me. Sometimes the beat can determine subject matter. I may have a narrative in mind I want to speak on, but sometimes that has to wait because it doesn’t align with the emotion of the beat. It’s fun for me to hear the finished product. I surprise myself sometimes.
- What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your career or life so far, and how did you overcome the event?
C.E.N.: Musically, it was in the beginning when no one took me seriously. We live in a society where it always seems like the next person is trying to use rap to “blow up.” The difference between me and them is how when things get challenging I use it as motivation to keep going. The music industry is not a straight path or a smooth one. I appreciate everyone that has given me positive feedback, it is another way I keep grinding through the hard times. I lost my parents at a young age. An experience that taught me no matter how bad life might get…Do. Not. Give. Up. Dig deep, and find the strength to push forward. Giving up is never an option.
- On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?
C.E.N.: Getting a direct message from a person from Egypt telling me they like my song. It blows my mind that my voice has traveled to countries I’ve never been to.
- How did the moniker C.E.N. come about?
C.E.N.: It’s actually my real name Charles E. Nash
- With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
C.E.N.: Trolls will be trolls. I cannot and will not please everyone. I try to focus on the things I can control in my life.
- Which aspects of being an independent artist excites you most and which aspects discourages you most?
C.E.N.: When you are an independent artist you have a better understanding and control of where the money is going. I am able to say what I want. There is no confusion or surprises on ownership. Unfortunately, sometimes with independence the path to discovery can take longer. You do not receive the industry push, marketing, networking and cosigning to help you get exposure.
- If you had a choice to go on tour with any acclaimed international artist in the near future, who would you choose, and why?
C.E.N.: Jay Z, hands down. I have looked up to him my entire career. Having the opportunity to learn from one of the best to ever bless the mic could only lead to growth in my career.
- Could you tell us something about your latest project, and what fans can expect to hear?
C.E.N.: My latest project came with more growth and me continuing to open up, being more revealing and transparent. I’m trying new sounds and touching on different topics.
- Do you have a personal favorite track amongst your compositions that has a specific backstory and/or message and meaning very special to you?
C.E.N.: Right now it is Lil Angel. It is partly the humor, but also the fact that my life could have been different if either situation went the other way. I try to always remember how lucky I am to be free and to do what I do.
- Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excite you most?
C.E.N.: I really enjoy both there is nothing like being in a state of the art studio. But watching people vibe and enjoy your music with all eyes on you is an incredible feeling
- What’s your favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?
C.E.N.: Get money and love life!
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
C.E.N.: My latest video “For Real” I think showcases my versatility as an artist.
- What do you find most rewarding about what you do? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?
C.E.N.: It’s playing back the finished product and being in awe that I’m the person coming out of the speaker. Hopefully my story can inspire others to go for their dreams no matter who they are or where they come from. My goal is to win a Grammy.
Connect with C.E.N. on Instagram @ Cen_tha_g