Nksoi Boulware, better known by his rap alter ego “Nkosi Echoes,” is a little known freshman rapper at the university. He can be found hosting rap battles with floor mates in the common room of Maria’s Tower. Other times, he can be heard loudly recording music from his room.
Boulware, an economics major from upstate New York, says he was exposed to rapping in the 10th grade. He started rapping regularly this past August, but as he remembers, his initial interest began when students were rapping on his bus and he started to rap with them. He didn’t know what to say because he had never done it before so he started listening to rap music. Every day after track, he and his friends would rap in the locker room.
“There were rappers at my school and I thought they were going to make it big, but that was irrational because they were obviously 10th graders just copying other people’s styles,” Boulware says.
While recording locker room raps, Boulware developed his own style of rapping. It’s described as a type of poetry where every word rhymes, as opposed to the last words of line or phrase. He describes his rapping style as similar to that of Asher Roth or Common. Boulware said he looks up to these artists as inspiration because their style is more poetic rather than just rap.
“I hate any type of rap that has to do with drugs, money, and cars,” Boulware explained.
Boulware likes to express himself through rap by projecting bad or good situations he is currently facing in his life—whether it’s with parents, death, or just going down the street and seeing something cool. When Boulware raps with his friends he says he usually closes his eyes and the words just flow out, sometimes without him knowing why.
“I don’t like collaborating with other people because it’s annoying. They usually have been affected by mainstream media that refers back to drugs and money and I’m not about that,” said Boulware.
Boulware enjoys rapping in quiet places where the soothing sounds of water can inspire him. He explained how his new college environment has inspired him musically: “I’ve never been around such a diverse place and New York City opens me up to more music. I went to the seaport and saw samba, and you could play drums and stuff,” he recalled.
Boulware really likes art in general as a form of expressing himself. In addition to drawing, he plays multiple instruments, including the cello and guitar.
The rapper says he taught himself to play guitar in the 6th grade and writes his own guitar music as well as his own lyrics. He explained that his mother and father, both instrumentalists, encouraged him to start playing instruments.
“My mom pushed me to play multiple instruments and she was always playing jazz and classical music while we were playing chess. She never wanted me to listen to rap because she thought it was trash.”
Boulware records his raps on his laptop. He doesn’t make his own beats and he uses beat instrumentals from YouTube with echoes in them. This is the reasoning behind his name, “Nkosi Echoes,” because he finds beats with echoes more interesting. He tries to stay away from mainstream instrumentals, and prefers old school beats. “If the song is sad and angry, I get a slow beat. If it’s happy, I get a fast beat,” he explains.
Boulware admits he doesn’t want a career out of rapping, but he hopes to maybe someday perform somewhere in front of a bunch of people. “I love people feeding off of my energy,” he exclaims. He would consider rapping for money, but his true goal is to become an architect. He knows the chance of making it big is one in a million and he describes his rap interest as more of a leisurely activity.
“I want to share my music with people because it’s interesting and they probably don’t know anything else besides mainstream rap like Waka Flaka Flame and 2 Chainz.” Boulware only posts his recordings online if everything is absolutely perfect. He says, “It takes me like 200 tries to record it perfectly.”