Nef The Pharaoh On Breaking Out Of The West Coast: “The Bay Area Is Our Own World”

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Right now, it’s safe to say that Southern California is cranking out rap stars by the minute. With exceptional projects from guys like Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, The Game, Ty Dolla $ign, YG and more, the West Coasters have been providing the hip-hop soundtracks for today’s youth over the last several years.

The Left Coast has the game on lock, but we can’t forget about The Bay Area’s burgeoning talent — who refuse to be left out the conversation. And Vallejo’s hottest rising star and E-40’s protégé, Nef The Pharaoh, has next up.

Neffie’s music epitomizes everything the Hyphy movement has been about in the past but brings it to modern times. Having fun and going dumb-with-it are just a part of the young rapper’s repertoire. He’s carrying the torch passed to him by acts like Forty Water, The Pack, Keek Tha Sneak, and the king of the Hyphy movement, Mac Dre.

His breakout single, “Big Tymin,’ a glorious ode to the now defunct duo of Mannie Fresh and Birdman, has been on heavy rotation in The Bay and his self-titled EP is also available on iTunes now. Also, Nef is taking his energy all across the country as he’s opening up for G-Eazy on his tour while working on his debut album.

Things are looking up for the prince of The Bay. In his interview with VIBE, Nef talks about how he linked up with the Bay Area legend, his early days in music, plans for the future and more.

VIBE: How did you link up with E-40?
Nef: Actually, a former artist from Sick-Wid-It Records was a fan of my work before E-40 was, and I got a chance to show him my songs. Then, 40 hit me up, got me on his album (Sharp On All Four Corners) and kept paying attention to my music before he signed me.

I was listening to the song “Come Pick Me Up” on your mixtape. What was the relationship with your father like growing up?
My relationship with my pops growing up… it was off and on. He would come and go, so it was rough on me But he ended up coming back around as I got older like around age 19, 20. I forgave him, and he’s around now so it really don’t matter.

So pretty much your relationship with him got better as you got older?
Yeah, I was seeing him on and off, that’s it. But as I got older it got a whole lot different. I talk to him man to man. I talk to him like he’s my best friend.

What was your upbringing like?
I grew up in a house with three bedrooms full of like 18 people in it. My grandma was one of them people where if she seen you on the street struggling, she would tell you to come on, and live with her to try and help you. She helped me grow up and find my talent.

Speaking of your talents. At what point did you realize you could rap?
I was about 4-years old (laughs). I remember my first rap, too! It went like, “My name is Lil T! Lil T! My name is Lil T and I’m not three! I’m four and I got the keys to the door. I’m in preschool and I’m finna get some more.” That’s all I wrote, bro (laughs).”

What artists did you listen to growing up?
I listened to a lot of E-40 of course. But I listened to an artist from New York named Scientific, too. I don’t know if you heard of him or not. I’m a Nas fan. I’m a big [Lil] Wayne fan. I’m a big Big Tymers fan! I love Juvie, too.

Since you’re a huge fan of the duo, how did they influence your music, and inspire your “Big Tymin’” track?
Man, I loved the Big Tymers so much when I heard them. The inspiration was me flowing over a Mannie Fresh beat and dude wasn’t even tryna make a beat like that. And my brother was like ‘this something the Big Tymers would be on!’ I was like,’ man you ain’t never lied!’ And that night I came up with the chorus because I don’t really write my raps on paper. I wrote the chorus down actually. That morning, we paid for the studio time and knocked it out. It was easy.

How does it feel to be considered by major music outlets as one of the best new rappers to come from Vallejo since the legendary Mac Dre?
Man, it’s a blessing. I don’t never wanna get too bigheaded but people saying that really makes me realize that I’m making an impact and doing something good. I really try not to get bigheaded. I read the blogs, I scroll over and I love the good things they’re saying, but I never let it go to my head because I’m a person who loves the attention. I already know how I get, so I just try to stay humble and stay hungry.

Do you think those are big shoes to fill?
Not really because as a rapper, I’m a giant, and I can go in any shoes. I might dust off the shoes and make new shoes to fill — you feel me?

You’re opening up for G-Eazy on his tour. For those who haven’t seen any of your shows, what can they expect from you?
A lot of energy, a lot of jumping, going crazy. I still go dumb like the old school days. It’s just going to be a lot of fun and you can expect a party when I perform.

What’s your take on the state of Bay Area hip-hop right now?
I think the Bay Area is really coming up right now. If you came to the Bay Area, you would see a lot of talent our here making movies. There’s a lot of producers and songs, new dances, and fashion that don’t nobody know about. The Bay Area is our own world. I feel like we’re up right now, and not everybody is paying attention. But, I’m finna make everybody pay attention to the Bay.

Out of all of E-40’s expansive collection, what’s your favorite album from the god?
I would have to say My Ghetto Report Card because that one’s crazy. I feel like every song on there was a hit. It was the era where I was in school. “Tell Me Where To Go” was on there. The video was crazy, I got to attend the video way before I way I even met E-40. It was just dope.

Are you in the video?
I’m not in the video. Probably if you see me, it’s a thousand people in the video. But I got to attend the video. It was an open video set.