"I was not trying to put it on the album at all," says rising Twin Cities rapper Finding Novyon of his buzzing single "Lots." "I was like, hell no, you're insulting our album if you put this on. Our album is so much bigger and tighter than this song."
An immediately infectious club banger featuring a floating verse from Allan Kingdom, the song continues to gain traction and garner posts from national music blogs like Pigeons and Planes.
Eventually convinced the song belonged on the project, Novyon and producer Travis Gorman dropped their album #TheFoodNetwork earlier this month alongside the song's video, featuring Novyon and Allan riling up crowds on light rail stations and from atop First Avenue's awning.
It's Novyon's most popular track to date, but it is a strange introduction to his overall body of work.
"I was like damn, everybody's going to like this song. This is gonna be crazy," says the local MC who once caught the attention of Lil Wayne (more on that later). "It definitely changed people's perspectives a lot. In the last three months, a lot of my fan base has just been people from 'Lots'."
Deriving a dense texture from little else but a pulsating bass synth, stuttering minimal drum patterns, and heavily reverbed one-tracked verses dedicated to abundance, the song was destined to grab attention even before Kanye-collaborator and Stand4rd member Kingdom's signal boost.
Cutting straight to the hearts and minds of energetic turn-up culture, it's an enjoyably accessible standalone track that's among the strongest to grow out of Minneapolis, but it's not entirely reflective of the project's overall tone. Right from the outset it's clear the album refuses singular categorization, weaving between topics and energies in a way the reflects Novyon's multifaceted approach.
#TheFoodNetwork segues into "Lots" with the stretched synth samples and chilled melodic hook of downtempo introductory track "Fluorescent," and the breakbeat aggression of the chorus-less collaboration with Taylor Rave "Liquor Wine Deli Cheese," whose video turns the Surdyk's parking lot into a seedy neon backdrop for the song's blunt punchlines. "Hate My Job" finds Novyon dropping soft-spoken but bitter working man raps over a ghost of a beat, one that brings Gorman's penchant for minimalism to a new degree with quiet drums and looping whisper sounds.
The varying mood of the beats play as a pivot point between Novyon's lyrical leanings, but the single producer element helps anchor the project as a whole. Travis Gorman blends Madlib-influenced tweaked sample loops with drums that knock on the level of modern trap, and the resulting sound allows Novyon the luxury of dancing between a natural predilection for heart-on-the-sleeve honesty and a desire to dwell among the partygoers.
When asked if he was nervous the song's exposure would misrepresent his overall sound to new listeners, Novyon responded emphatically: "Fuck yeah, and for a minute it did. That was the kind of thing we had to be ready for," he says. "But the reception of the album has been good, a lot of people really fuck with it. I'm really excited about that because I didn't know how anybody was going to take it at all."
"Lots" is also not entirely out of place among Novyon's work, and one of his skills as a rapper is handling contemporary-sounding beats with an appropriate flare but subtly inflecting a different sensibility. Another of his recent singles intentionally plays both sides of the aesthetic fence: The JxhnScxtt-produced "No Xans" gives a turnt up middle finger to Xanax over dark trap production, grafting onto a heavily drug-influenced sound to denounce the users he sees among his peers.
"I used to do that shit when I was maybe a junior in high school. It's not fucking cool to me," says Novyon. "If you wanna get high, weed is tight. Do some acid or something, do something [to] expand your mind and get a good experience. Xanax is just like heroin. What are you gonna do when you're asleep?"
Prior to the release of "Lots", Novyon foreshadowed his own growing visibility on the Soundcloud one-off "Pre-Heat" ("Hold up, hold up, hold up / We ain't even hot yet"), banking on #TheFoodNetwork to reach even greater heights than his extensive back catalog. Both as a solo artist and as one-quarter of rap group the Rotation (with Travis Gorman and rappers Dwynell Roland and Devon Reason), Novyon has played a number of local shows and has connected with a wide variety of the scene's younger contingent.
He's been a presence on the scene for some time, dating back to his early days as Sweezer B, which established a lineage of simplified bass-synth-riding brash raps that continue even as his work begins to incorporate more of a backpack vibe. His former moniker almost landed him a relationship with Young Money Entertainment in 2011, when his track "Make The Hoes Say" caught the ear of label founder Lil Wayne.
"Universal didn't wanna sign me at the time, but Wayne was pushing for it to happen, like, oh I want this guy. But his shit with Cash Money [Records] wasn't right at that time, and that's exactly what he said," Novyon says. "Hearing my idol tell me, pretty much: You don't wanna be signed; this is not what you think it is. And if we are going to sign you, you have to be a lot more equipped. And at the time, I was 19 years old, and didn't really know what that meant then, but they wanted somebody that already had a big following so they could latch onto."
In the midst of that moment, he decided to change his rap name to his government name, with a slight twist: "I was dating this girl at the time, and she was like, you should do yourself a favor and find yourself. So, I changed my name to Finding Novyon."
Reflective of the name change, his following string of projects grew more personal and nuanced. And tough his new sound walks the line of the emo underground, rarely does it explicitly fit the mold.
"I feel like I just wanna be different." he says. "Luckily I stuck with my own shit and went my own way, and that my friends are where they are. I could not say I would be here if it weren't for Allan, either."
Quick to salute the artists who have paved the way for local fame to germinate, Novyon is especially excited about the young up-and-comers in Minneapolis hip-hop who he expects to push the city's profile even further.
"It's so tight, I love it so much. In the beginning, people really didn't support like that," he says. "I feel like now that we're achieving things a lot faster than a lot of other artists have before, it's jumpstarting people to pay more attention. It's gonna be interesting who comes up next. We're still young as fuck."
But with the success of his recent material leading to huge opportunities like opening for Big Sean and Mick Jenkins at the Hollywood Paladium on November 21, Novyon can definitely count himself among the artists making it happen right now.