Afro Dey: NSG Roots
“No Sleep Gang” or “Never Stop Grinding”, popularly known as NSG, is an energetic UK based group taking over the airwaves with it’s unique hybrid sound mainly blending Afrobeats & Bashment. We got the chance to talk with group member Abs about their debut EP Roots. It was great getting more insight on NSG and their journey to world domination.
How did you all meet & what brought you all together as a group?
In school. Kruddz and I are in the same age group. We actually were in the same classes and the younger ones were in the grades below us. We grew up going to school together in the same area and did all the same teenage things together.
We came together originally through friendship and played football together. But the only time we would all really be together consistently is when we’d hang out in this house with a studio which actually belonged to J5.
Where are you all from originally?
Me, MJ and Mojo are Nigerian; Kruddz and OGD are Ghanian. Actually, Kruddz and OGD are blood brothers, while me and MJ are cousins.
Whose Jollof is better?
We went to Ghana and Nigeria in December (2019) and had this debate. As a Nigerian, I was not happy because we went to this spot somewhere in Lekki and the jollof wasn’t sweetening me. Based on visiting both places, Ghana jollof was better.
What was it like going back home?
For some of the guys, it was their first time going back after a long time. It was a surreal experience going back home and there was a spiritual connection. Mojo had never been to Nigeria but speaks Yoruba fluently. That was his first time there, and he felt like he was at home since he didn’t have to speak English that much. Some of the guys from Ghana went to visit their secondary school while we were there. I normally don’t see them cry, but they were getting a bit teary eyed. When we got back, I told the guys I felt like I had a spiritual cleanse in Nigeria. We were all experiencing our roots and that's when we finalized that we would call our debut mixtape ROOTS.
Can you describe the mixtape artwork for us?
We were thinking, “What’s the message we want to deliver and get across?”. We are known as the Area Boyz in the UK; you can take us out of Africa but we will always be Africans. We’re very into our culture. Although we’re in London, I can eat my pounded yam everyday. The main message is to connect with your roots and know who you are. On the cover art, you see the Nigerian and Ghanaian flags on the globe and those are our roots. That's what we represent. Even though we are in the UK (hence the UK flag) what defines is what’s beneath (aka the roots). Then the globe represents our quest for global domination.
Why 18 songs on the project?
That’s funny because I asked the same thing. We literally make songs everyday, but we were selective about picking songs for this project that fit our theme. We originally started with 12 songs. However, we had this energy in us coming back from Africa and the songs we were making just fit. At that point, we now had 18 songs and we were like,”We can’t add anymore guys. It's 18 already lol”
There are 6 of y’all. When making songs, does everyone have to be on the track every time?
In NSG, everyone has to be on the song! It's doable. It's easy to get everyone on a song as long as it doesn’t sound too long or jarring.
What’s life like in Hackney?
Hackney is the ghetto man. It toughens you up. It’s also so mixed and diverse. The diversity in the area makes you embrace it. There’s so much going on and you can learn so much about other people's cultures and upbringing. It’s also easy to fall into the street life growing up there. But, it all ties back to your roots. When your African parents are in your head, you’re gonna realize you wanna invest in yourself and your future.
What are some of your favorite songs on ROOTS?
Personally, one of my favorite songs is “Drunk Guitar.” Legendary Beatz is on it, that’s why I love it. It’s spiritual vibes when you deep it. “Lupita” is another one. It’s for the black queens and they’re going to love it. There's this thing where I go on the ROOTS drive with a few YouTubers and a few friends. Anytime we play it, the reaction just makes me smile.
What does NSG stand for today in this present moment?
Right now, it’s no sleep gang and never stop grinding! Oh and Nigeria slash Ghana! That’s the agenda we are pushing: Africa to the World!
How did “OT Bop” come about?
“OT Bop” came after “Options”. If you watch the end of the “Options” video, you can see we were dancing the “OT Bop” at the end. When we watched it back and started incorporating it into performances, we decided to make a song around the dance. Foreplay had the beat and we did that really quickly!
Okay, quick throwback. Tell us about you all’s “Whine and Kotch” remix?
That was our first ever song! I actually can’t watch that video again. I remember that video like it was yesterday. it was our first ever video and we were so excited! At the time, we were like woah this is lit! It was nice.
What’s the relationship between Carribeans and Africans in the UK?
It’s actually all love, despite the little battles here & there. As Africans and Carribeans, we push the culture doing all the dances and stuff. In the UK, we have ACS (Afro-Carribean Society) in Uni and we all gather our own backgrounds and come together. Musically, mostly everything that’s popping out of Hip-Hop started from a Jamaican background. It was a no brainer for us to use “Political Badness” as our intro for ROOTS. It’s heavily influenced by reggae. But, even alot of drum patterns are heavily influenced by African drum patterns if you really listen. Overall, I believe Africans and Carribeans are one.
Growing up, who were your top Grime, Carribean and Afrobeats artists?
I came to the UK at 8, and Grime was popping! But, I could only listen to the guys I could understand. Skepta is #1 for me, then Giggs, and a few more underground guys like Johnny Gunz and other local artists from Hackney that we grew up on.
As for African music, I was listening to a lot of Wizkid, Wande Coal, 2face, 9ice, Psquare, Shatta Wale, Sarkodie, R2Bees. For Carribean music, it was Vybz Kartel.
As a collective, we were brought up on a lot of the same stuff. If I’m listening to something nice, I’m sharing it with NSG.
Tell us about you all’s relationship with J5.
Kruddz and OGD’s older brother is J5, so it’s a family thing. We used to go record at their house growing up. We were using J5’s unused equipment to start. J5 has been around from the jump, he's our mentor. He’s produced so much of our music. He’s all about quality over quantity. For instance, we can play something in the studio today, and he'll delete it if he doesn't like it. But, he’ll always tell us why he deletes it. It’s tough love. J5 is an all around wizard! He’s just great! The things I see him do in the studio are just different!
What are some of NSG’s dream collaborations?
Wizkid, Burna Boy, Ed Sheeran, Post Malone, Rihanna. We want artists that culturally know what they’re doing.
Personally, let me get a song with Wizkid! We actually were supposed to collaborate with him on this album. It’s actually a funny story why it didn’t end up happening lol. But, I’m very hopeful we’ll get that opportunity again in the future.
What’s your stance on the Black Lives Matter Movement?
I’m saddened by the way black lives are being treated, but I’m excited about this revolution. Social Media is the revolution that’s going to show the truth and continue to bring the movement to the light. If it wasn’t for that 9 minute video of George Floyd having a knee on his neck, we would have never seen it. Also, this lockdown is allowing people the space and time to realize things. In a way, this time is needed. This movement is stronger than ever because people are waking up and learning. As blacks, let’s go where we’re celebrated. It’s easier said than done. But, let’s go to Africa. We need to embrace where we’re from and invest in Africa. When we have a United States of Africa, I promise you they aren’t still going to be looking at us like we’re inferior. That’s NSG’s biggest thing! We want to invest in Africa. We are going to Africa, doing shows there, because that’s home & where we are celebrated more!