Jeremy Nutzman’s talent has never been in question.
For over a decade, the 34-year-old rapper/singer jolted various projects to life: Bight Club, Spyder Baybie Raw Dog & 2% Muck, Pony Bwoy. But sustained success always proved elusive.
“Pony Bwoy kinda started as an excuse to do drugs, then we just drove it into the ground,” he says of his last duo with Hunter Morley. “Shit got really... it probably got properly dark.”
The adopted son of a white evangelical family from Andover, Minnesota, Nutzman had swerved from being a classically trained musician at a Christian college to being homeless, drugged out, and surviving on social currency within the music scene.
Things remained properly dark as Nutzman conceived Velvet Negroni and dropped the psychedelic, experimental R&B outfit’s first album, 2017’s T.C.O.D. That following year, a switch flipped. Nutzman pulled his life together and enlisted two stud producers—Elliott Kozel (aka Tickle Torture) and Psymun—to begin the highly collaborative process of making Neon Brown, which arrived in August.
“Working with producers that are prolific and responsible—they’re both super pros,” Nutzman says. “It’s the difference between me working in duos that are extremely unhealthy, toxic relationships. Having the third peg there is huge, just for perspective.”
Nutzman describes his current Velvet Negroni mindset as “beyond night and day” different from his previous projects, and so are the dividends it’s yielding. In the lead up to Neon Brown, all he did was stack wins: recording at Bon Iver’s April Base studio in Eau Claire; earning a fan in Kanye West, who adapted Velvet Negroni’s “Waves” for his 2018 Kid Cudi collaboration Kids See Ghosts; and opening for indie-rock powerhouse Tame Impala this past summer.
“There’s no mood board of specific things that needed to be involved,” he says of the Velvet Negroni formula. “I’m just experimenting, trying to pull out of my subconscious. I plan to write poetry, proper poetry—definitely not kitschy, tongue-in-cheek satirical shit.”
Objectively, Nutzman has leveled up, having shattered the glass ceiling that hangs over so many Twin Cities music-makers. He still considers himself a local artist, though he admits there’s a perspective shift these days when boarding international flights—“the exact opposite of local,” he laughs.
And having finally found his creative sweet spot, Nutzman is focused on sustaining the success that came with it.
“I wanna keep Velvet Negroni alive,” he says. “I don’t wanna, two years from now, be like, ‘All right, so now it’s Hot Tub and the Jets—I’m Hot Tub and the Jets now!’ My goal is to stay fresh and stay stayin’.”