Novi Novak Exclusive Interview: The Real Novi Novak
Editor’s Note: I’m excited to bring you an exclusive interview with Novi Novak — one of hottest rising stars in the world of hip-hop Today. His music videos have been played over 6 million times on youtube (to date). Best of all: he did it all on his own. We love Novi, here on HipHop RX. Be sure to check out his videos at the end of this interview.
HipHopRX Intro to Novi Novak
Born “Robert M. Novak” June 22, in Chicago Heights (South Side of Chicago, IL). Novi Novak is one of the newest talents emerging in today’s music scene; except he is making a point to not only work for the number fans he’s accrued, but to work for them independently through his music talent with no major label help!
Through his music he portrays himself as a Supervillian and with good reason; he has always had the odds stacked against him since his early childhood. He was sent to behavior school after being diagnosed with ADHD.
Between the ages of 7 & 13 he was in and out of several behavior schools and homes. He learned to fend for himself at a young age and realized that life is what you make of it and he is determined to make his a success!
In June 2010 he released a “Ransom Freestyle” to show his lyrical abilities on a Young Money beat. The video received 250,000 total views in its first 2 months online.
In the new era of hip hop and rap, people are always trying to compare new artists to artists who have already established themselves among the greats. However, Novi Novak is one that brings his own unique style to the game— taking Hip Hop mixed with his personal life experiences and came up with a Mike Tyson punch line flow. This kid does not even give you a chance to recover before he is delivering another knockout punch line, bar after bar.
I was able to catch up with Novi Novak recently (exclusive interview below) and I have to admit that up to this day this is one of the most enlightened individuals that I have had the privilege of speaking to.
Novi keeps it 100% real. At the end of the day it’s clear to us that Novi is not only an extremely talented artist, but is also a role model who works extra hard to do the right things on his way to success.
Novi Novak – The Interview:
HipHopRx: For those who don’t know yet, tell us in two sentences who is Novi Novak.
Novi Novak: I am the definition of self-made from day one. I’m that guy that is all about lyrics so you can listen to my songs 15 times and hear something new every time.
HipHopRx: What would you say was the turning point in your life where you said “music is what I’m going to do”?
Novi Novak: Originally I was just doing music because It was what I used to fit in at an all black school. When I started getting better and better it was amazing at how many friends I made from it. I went from outcast to feelin like Outkast.
Right then that feeling of respect and the “Ohs” and “damn white boy” is what made me want to be a legend one day. I started battle rapping and from that point on I never lost a single one.
I beat anyone and everyone, I mean I was battlin outside gas stations, schools, liquor stores, parks, popeyes chicken, the football field, house parties, you name it.
I ended up in jail a few times but this last time I was sittin in there just thinking about what I had when I got out and all I could come up with was that I could rap. So when I got out I put everything I had into it from barely sleeping to just reading music forums all night learning all I could to get ahead and what It would take.
HipHopRx: Where did the name “Novi” come from or better yet why did you implement it as your stage name?
Novi Novak: I was given the nickname Hype coming from the ridiculous amounts of energy I use when I battle, jumpin around, pointin fingers and all the hand motions etc.
Then was like ok that’s not bad for a battle rapper…. but that’s a corny ass artist name. So I was like okay let’s go with my last name, Novak. It sounds aggressive alone as a name but good luck finding me in a search engine.
I had already known alliteration was used in a lot of artist to make their name more memorable and appealing (Eazy E, Dr Dre, Eminem Etc.) so I started messing with other words starting with “N” and it eventually led to Novi. Novi means ‘New’ in another language and that was perfect since I was a New Novak starting to take songs seriously.
Novi Novak on His Label, Writing Process
HipHopRx: We have heard that you fund most if not all of your music straight out of your own pocket. When we heard your first mixtape the sound quality was not bad at all. Can you tell us what recording equipment you used for your first mixtape and what equipment you are using now?
Novi Novak: I use an M Audio Sputnik Microphone, A MOTU Traveler Pre Amp, Yamaha HS80 Studio monitors, Custom Self Made Acoustic panels made from Owens Corning 704 Fiberglass board and Berlap I tailored to fit. With my gear the room set up is always symmetrical for mixing.
I use Pro Tools 9 now on a custom made studio computer, but my first mixtape was all done on a cracked version of Cool edit pro 2.1 to Adobe Auditon 1.5 on a computer I bought on craigslist for $300. I actually still use the SAME equipment today because I am the tracking engineer on all my tracks.
I found that recording everything myself gives me way more creativity and song making ability. Then I actually drive down to South Carolina with Majeed Fick where we mix the songs together and he works his magic.
HipHopRx: Who taught you how to make music using song structure, also how did you learn to properly record, edit and mix?
Novi Novak: Honestly, I taught myself. I started listening to songs more in-depth and realized pieces that were there that were missing from my own music. I would be like “Damn, why does theirs hook me like that and mine doesn’t” Then I read that Jam Master Jay taught 50 Cent how to melodize and create better song structure.
When I heard that, I was still battle rapping and was like… “Song structure?” I thought it was just 16 bars and a chorus, 16 bars and a chorus, you know?
As far as production I bought a cheap laptop back in the day and used it to produce everything for all the neighborhood rappers. I had a Dell Inspiron 1100, a cracked version of Cool Edit Pro 2.1 and a $10 Logitech long neck desktop microphone thumb tacked to my grandmother’s wall.
I started learning from error and then would get on forums and read every single “Mix and master” thread until I figured out my mistakes. That only gets you so far though.
When I finally stepped in the 3 million dollar studio with Majeed Fick I swear at least 100 times I said ”OHHHH That’s how that do that?! Oh sh!t I could have been doing that?!” My potential 10 folded.
I was limited with my skills but when I had someone who knew what they were doing teach me…. It was spooky how many doors opened up like paranormal activity. I am still involved in the mixing process in every single song.
As I said above I record a song in my home studio where I am the most comfortable and then I bring it to the studio with Majeed and we mix everything together. I already know what sound I want for a track when I make it so I tell Majeed and he dabbles his magic until we think it’s the sound I was explaining and then all the sudden it’s alive and we touch everything together until it’s 100% on every song.
HipHopRx: We know your tracks have high quality lyrical content, how long would you say it takes you to write one of your tracks?
Novi Novak: I have spent 3 weeks writing one song but at the same time I have written numerous songs in one day. It really depends on the beat and how much I’m feeling it. I’ll write 60+ bars for every 16 I keep.
This ensures I make the right choice and I want to make sure every bar says something and also entertains the listener. I have a formula for my approach now that I just started implementing into my second mixtape. You can hear the huge increase in my overall style in ‘Real Talk 20′ I can only imagine my styles progression by my 3rd or 4th mixtape.
HipHopRx: How did you feel when you first found out that one of your YouTube videos had reached over 1 million views?
Novi Novak: I kept working, I remember saying ok now I want 10. A million wasn’t a big deal. There are a lot of people out there with a million views on 1 song. I want a million views on 10 songs. Like Jeezy said “I’m not tryin to do 10 million one time, I’m tryin to do a million ten times”
HipHopRx: Why did you create your own label?
Novi Novak: First off I wanted to not only legally OWN Swag City so there is no reprocussions later but I wanted people who were interested in investing in me having options to buy stock if I went that route. Of course there is the reason that I didn’t want anyone else taking the name out from underneath me.
HipHopRx: We also heard you turned down a certain label that wanted to sign you, however many may not understand why you did so, would you care to elaborate for them?
Novi Novak: From day one I have always been under the impression “Labels are evil” and “Being independent you can get so much further”. On the forums where I learned to mix there were always those discussions about record labels fucking the little guy and I would get involved.
I learned a lot from the forums that were made up of a lot of talented independent musicians. You don’t have the ‘Say So’ when you sign to a label so all your creative talent is nearly useless when you can only use it the way someone else wants you too.
It’s like having a blank canvas but they only let you use 2 colors to paint with. When you start getting into numbers and 360 Deals and I plan on endorsements and who knows what else in my future. Why would I give potential away?!
HipHopRx: Where do you see yourself 2 years from now?
Novi Novak: A house hold name, Someone everyone compares a new artist too, Cover of magazines, late night show appearances, SHIT loads of giveaways for my fans since I will finally be able to afford to give back to them for helping me get where I will be.
HipHopRx: Do you consider yourself a ‘Lyricist’?
Novi Novak: When I think lyricist I don’t think people rapping all positive and saying small things here and there. Anybody can do that. I see a lyricist as someone who is saying mutliple things through just 1 bar and they kill every bar. I in general have 2 to 4 meanings per 2 bars and I don’t have the existance of a filler bar, That’s lyrical. When someone takes the time to say so much in so little, that’s lyrical.
It can be entertaining, It can be emotional, it can be aggressive and it can be punchlines. Only problem is most lyricism goes over people’s heads because they are used to the stuff on the radio that is literally so dumbed down you hear the song once and memorize the lyrics. (Which is the radios plans to be catchy) But Good luck memorizing all of my lyrics the first time through if you catch all the lyrics.
Novi Novak on Life
HipHopRx: Out of all the new comers in the hip hop game, who would you say if any, are actually making waves and really bringing clever lyricism to the music scene?
Novi Novak: I rarely ever like an artist, so I’m so happy to say that the new faces we have been seeing in the game are faces I would love to see stick around. J Cole, Kenderick lamar, Big KRIT and Freddie Gibbs are all great new comers (as far as getting bigger goes). Other artists are doing their thing too but I have to point these guys out. You gotta bring something different in your own way now a days, damn near be your own Hip Hop Genre.
HipHopRx: What would you say to anyone who is trying to follow in your footsteps?
Novi Novak: I really hope for your sake you have a lot of patience. This does NOT happen over night. I sleep once every two days in general kinda like I’m waiting for that night to happen hopin I’ll be up for it… But it hasn’t happened yet haha. More importantly you have to believe in yourself when no one else does. Don’t expect people to believe in a dream you have if you aren’t believing in yourself.
HipHopRx: What has been the hardest point in your life?
Novi Novak: First time I got locked up besides juvi for going into this guy’s house and beating him and his friend’s a**. Breaking and entering dropped to Criminal Tresspass, Assault with a deadly weapon dropped to battery (non expungeable) and another battery stacked, second battery was dropped.
I sat and when I got out I was stuck right where I was like I was a 13 year old kid again. I lived in a Christian Homeless Shelter for like 2 weeks then couldn’t take them shoving daily mass down my throat which was a requirement plus they had a 7pm curfew and if you didn’t have an outside job you had to work inside for them organizing donations and ish, I couldn’t take it so I left and was in and out of flop houses for like the next year.
I had no car, no job and fees out the ass. I started working like 4 part time jobs at the same time to stack up enough to just breathe. Then I got a good job and started stacking fast then got greedy and wanted to stack faster. I was the manager and I started stealin from my job and got caught when someone robbed the store.
Corporate sent in people to check everything for the robbery the next day, I was in bed didn’t even know it happened I didn’t have time to cover my mistakes and I got caught for let’s just say….A LOT of money. Then I ended up back in Jail and just sat there like okay f*ck this I just lost everything AGAIN! Music is all I got, when I get out let’s do this.
HipHopRx: In what direction do you see that the music industry is headed with the current outbreak of so many independent artists?
Novi Novak: I see a lot of our future generations being A LOT more open minded to all kinds of music. Because they are going to hear so many different kinds of artist since the radio will eventually fade out. The industry can keep up with itself if it reformulates its strategy, It’s called evolving. Jay Z did it for the last 15 years. Just have to be smart about it.
HipHopRx: If there was anything that you could have done differently in your life, what would it be and why?
Novi Novak: I’ve really always been an independent person so I never really talk to my family much even though they are some of the most wonderful people on this planet in my opinion. If I could change anything I would have gotten to know my family members that died like my Father and Aunt more so that I had more memories of them.
You can’t create them when they’re gone and a picture only brings back so much of the person that’s left in you. Aside from that I would have done whatever I could to prevent my closest cousin from being in prison for 15 years. I always looked up to him when I was younger cuz he was a pretty bad m*ther f**ker but he didn’t deserve what he is in prison for.
HipHopRx: How important are your fans to you?
Novi Novak: My fans are legitimately my friends. If I’m having a bad day I get on facebook and I have 50,000 people to talk too and I talk to my fans every day. If you go to my facebook fan page you can scroll all the way back to when the page was created and there isn’t one fan I haven’t answered.
They are mostly “Thank you’s” but I don’t know what else to say sometimes. I spend hours a day giving advice and showing my appreciation to the people that allow me to live my dream. I couldn’t do it without them and I want them to know how much it means to me. So I put out great music I hope never lets them down and talk to them as much as I can.
HipHopRx: Who was your inspiration while you were growing up and who is your inspiration now?
Novi Novak: The respect other people showed was my main inspiration growing up. I loved the feeling more than anything else I had in that part of my life. So I kept going with it. My inspiration now is my fans and it is going to be them for a very… very long time.
HipHopRx: Are you happy with your career or is there another career you would like to pursue?
Novi: This is what I do best and this is what I love. I am good at other things but I don’t LOVE those things. Since I love what I do I’ll really never work a day in my life. I’m you’ve heard that before and rest assure that it is very true. I plan on running quite a few businesses in the future and other stuff I don’t need to mention now lol.
HipHopRx: Is there anything you’d like to say to those who doubted your success in the past?
Novi Novak: No, I just hope they are as happy as I am with how much work they put into their careers and life. Everyone is doubted at first, that’s what makes the top so much more enjoyable and the fact that I can remember being hungry for a long time allows me to continue working just off of memories of the hunger. Without people doubting me I don’t know if I would have had the drive to make it here or be this happy.
HipHopRx: Which is your most meaningful track that you have made to this day?
Novi Novak: I really think “They’ll All See” is one of my most meaningful tracks that is released because I made it dedicated to my fans saying we will make it and they will all see. But when everyone hears “I Can’t Fake It” and “Save Me” and then see the videos behind them every ones perception of rap will just distort then replace itself with, I need to hear more rap from this guy.
HipHopRx: How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?
Lyrical and Real. Even when I am entertaining on free verses I try to keep it as real as possible.
HipHopRx: What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
Novi Novak: Inspire millions and spread the story of a guy who literally came from shit and kept it real to become one of the greatest at what he does.
Proving you can be the best at anything if you put your mind and heart to it. The old story teachers used to tell you… ended up true, huh…. who would have thought. I do music that covers all of my emotions, that includes what I love, what I hate, my anger, what I’m thinking etc.
So there are songs critics will judge and say “That doesn’t inspire” but it really does because it reaches to those people that are feeling that hate and anger and allows them to give my other inspiring songs a listen. It’s all well thought out with me I don’t just jump into things. That’s how artist end up losing battles, making a bad name for themselves and lose respect over all. You see these mistakes from my enemies daily.
Novi Novak on Hip-Hop Beef
HipHopRx: How do you feel about hip hop artists constantly beefing? (By the way, it was very smart how you flipped the script using the Stan Parody on your last diss track.)
Novi Novak: Thanks man. I absolutely think it’s stupid as sh!t to beef! I never want to beef with any artist but when someone that is literally THAT wack disses you and mentions your dead father in a diss track because he wasn’t paying attention to the artist he was dissing….
You can guarantee I am going smash you and it’s not hard to outwit a guy who isn’t even smart enough to develop his own style, compliments in disses and steals yo momma jokes as punchlines.
I expect numerous public apologies or I’m not slowin up. Because When you get personal and mention dead family like that, it’s not even a rap beef anymore it’s a “I see your ass I’m using my last strike on you and you can keep as many frail m*ther f**kers around you as you want, but you’d be surprised at how much damage I can do to a group of people just by myself.
Now imagine I never roll alone and I run my sh!t like Fight Club. My team is comprised of people that train to fight 3 times a week. Speed bags and 2 Pro level Punching bags in our house alone. I’m in the gym 5 days a week on top of that, Good luck when I see you.”
HipHopRx: What new projects are you currently working on?
Novi Novak: I am currently working on my second mixtape, some of the coolest music videos in hip hop history and my first national tour.
HipHopRx: What can we expect from Novi and Swag City?
Novi Novak: Expect not to be let down. Because I won’t ever release something that isn’t 100% my best effort
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Learn More about Novi:
Get at Novi Novak on his social pages:
- Novi Novak YouTube Channel
- Novi Novak Official Facebook Page
- Follow Novi Novak on Twitter
- Novi’s Official Website
Check Out Some of Novi’s Videos:
Check out some of Novi Novak’s videos and take the time to allow each bar to sink in!