For 23-year-old Grammy Award-winning producer/trumpeter Nico Segal, progression has often come from home. Whether physically or musically, the Chance The Rapper collaborator has made a name for himself by working alongside longtime colleagues and experimenting with music first introduced to him before high school in his native Chicago. His latest endeavor, a new-age jazz fusion group named The JuJu Exchange, acts as a perfect continuance of a career made by listening to his heart and playing music with his friends. This time around, he’s looking to make a new kind of statement musically by returning to his roots. Continue reading How Social Experiment Producer & Trumpeter Nico Segal Formed Jazz Fusion Group The JuJu Exchange
For the past two years, writer Jake Krez lived in the house that would become the starting point for Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surf, sharing the house with Social Experiment members Donnie Trumpet and Peter Cottontale. Many long days and nights were spent by the group crafting the project, which was released last week on iTunes. As the album neared completion, Krez sat down with Trumpet to talk about the group’s path to the final product. Here’s his up-close-and-personal look at how ‘Surf’ came to be.
A House In Chicago, Winter 2013
It was the beginning of winter in 2013. The stark cold of Chicago in November sent Peter Cottontale and Nico Segal — known more famously as Donnie Trumpet, the creative lead on Surf — down from the attic of the house Peter and I rented just north of the Logan Square neighborhood of the city. Setting up shop just outside my bedroom door in the basement, the two began tinkering, laying out
the arrangements and initial imprint of what Surf, Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment’s just-released project, would become.
It was a different time for the Chicago music scene. Vic Mensa had yet to crawl onstage with Kanye West, and Acid Rap — the mixtape that put Social Experiment affiliate Chance The Rapper firmly in the national spotlight, thus setting the stage for Surf‘s hype — was only eight months old. At the time, the biggest thing happening was the breakup of Kids These Days, the seven-piece band that started it all. The group, which featured Segal on horns alongside Mensa and Social Experiment drummer Greg Landfair, cut ties shortly after Acid Rap released in the spring. It was a distinct moment in time for the Chicago scene at large; Kids These Days had blazed a trail right to the stages of Lollapalooza and The Conan O’Brien Show that Chance and Mensa would later build upon, respectively, as solo artists.
Segal was perhaps most affected by the breakup. It was while performing alongside Kids These Days at South by Southwest in 2011 that Chance was “discovered,” and Nico had been a big part of his growth, along with the growth of many other local young stars. I remember being invited to join some of the Kids These Days members the weekend after the breakup announcement on a trip north to a family farm in Wisconsin. Sitting around a fire that night, I remember watching Segal, ahead of going on tour with Frank Ocean, shed real tears about the group’s end. His music is his life — his trumpet rarely leaves his side. In that moment, it seemed his passion for assembling and marshaling a talented group of artists had gone forever.
“The end of the band was definitely hard. That group was all I had known since I was 14 years old,” Segal told me, sitting in the attic where Surf began. “What I realized is that I just love making music with my friends, and I’m fortunate enough that my friends are really, really good at what they do. So as much as the breakup hurt, I was lucky enough to be able to find something that I could really understand and enjoy musically.”
Last Thursday night, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s album Surf appeared as a free download on iTunes (reportedly the first Apple had allowed), its arrival sudden yet highly anticipated. Promises that the album was coming soon—before the end of the year, then “soon,” then “very soon”—had been floating around since Chance the Rapper announced it in an interview with Billboard last fall, and hip-hop fans were eager to find out what the project that most saw as the follow-up to Chance’s acclaimed 2013 mixtape Acid Rap would sound like.
Surf sounds like a party. It’s a different sonic world from any other hip-hop album released this year, and its cast of contributors is impressive, featuring local Chicago friends like NoNameGypsy, Saba, and Joey Purp as well as big names like Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Big Sean, and J. Cole. It’s also—although he’s the most well known name attached to it, and The Social Experiment is his touring band—not a Chance the Rapper album. It’s a collaborative effort with other band members Peter Cottontale and Nate Fox, overseen by Donnie Trumpet, a.k.a. Nico Segal.
“What I wanted to accomplish on this project most was to convey to people that I’m a producer and not just a trumpet player in Chance’s band,” Segal told me last Friday morning, groggy from an all-nighter scanning Twitter and reading initial reviews. “This is supposed to be the beginning of something, the first of its kind for something new.”
If you don’t know Donnie Trumpet by now, you will very soon. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re unknowingly already a fan of his work. The artist sometimes known as Nico Segal has been working incessantly since the break up of Kids These Days, the band that spawned Vic Mensa and Marrow, and today delivers an artistic visual in the form of “Pasadena,” which you can watch below. Continue reading |VIDEO|Donnie Trumpet: ‘Pasadena’ & Vic Mensa: ‘Down On My Luck’
Photo by RaRa Mosa
Sometimes it’s good to just get away and listen to some good music. Last Thursday, some of Chicago’s most talented young musicians got together for a jam session on the north side of the city to do just that. Former Kids These Days members Nico Segal (aka Donnie Trumpet), Lane Beckstrom and Greg Landfair (Stix) took part while Peter CottonTale handled work on the keys and Chris Mathien kept pace on lead guitar. Check out the video below, shot by Nico Hagopian and be sure to keep an eye out for future work coming out of the Attic!