You could make the case that Nach is like the Spanish KRS-One: The rapper's rhymes focus on both consciousness-raising as well radical politics. Even heads who don't speak Spanish only have to look at two of his recent collab partners -- Talib Kweli, whose first name means "seeker" and who just may be hip-hop's premier "conscious rapper," as well as the revolutionary Immortal Technique -- to get a feel for his topics of choice.
Formerly known as Nach Scratch, Ignacio Fornes Olmo has been at it since 1994 and first hit the charts in a big way in 2000 with his song "Basado en Hechos Reales." Three years later, his second release, "Poesía Difusa," was the No. 1 hip-hop album sold in Spain. Since then he's won multiple awards, had two gold records and has been nominated by MTV as Best Spanish Artist.
We caught up with Nach for a phone interview and discovered an MC who's soft-spoken, thoughtful and eager to communicate -- a well-balanced counterpoint to the MC who can spit with poignancy and urgency. We talked to this 38-year-old hip-hop diplomat about the early days of rap in Spain, penning the official theme of the Liga ACB (Spain's professional basketball league) and the importance of childhood dreams.
Nach will play X Games Barcelona on May 18 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET, with a real-time webcast of the concert available on XGames.com.
XGames.com: Your seventh album is slated to drop this fall. What can listeners expect?
Nach: We're working on it, but I can't say too much about it because I'm just starting to investigate what I can do and where I can go. But I'm not sure it will be out this fall.
Any chance you'll play some new tracks during your X Games set?
We always have new things and surprises. We're going to have songs from my latest album and hits from my classic albums. The last time I played Barcelona was maybe a year or a year and a half ago. I know the people of Barcelona are waiting to see me again on stage. And the show will be different than the last time I was there.
Do you skateboard?
I hung with a lot of skaters when I was 16, 18, 20, 23. I used to skate when I was a little kid. After that, all the skaters were so good and I wasn't. I was starting to fall a lot and get injured. I said, "No, no, no!" and [stopped].
I've been surrounded by skaters in my city and other cities. But basketball was my thing. I was very focused on basketball, but I was still hanging out with those crazy skaters and having a lot of fun with them.
You were commissioned to write a song for the professional basketball league in Spain; how did that come about?
That was 2004, about eight years ago. I was younger at that time. I was a basketball fan and I was writing a basketball song because it was in me. While ... I was writing it, I told my manager [about the song] and told him maybe we should show it to the Hispanic basketball league. He did, the ACB league, and they liked it. They said, "Man, you got to talk about our teams and our players a little more."
So I said, "Okay, let's do that." Everything was really natural. It was fun.
[Editor's note: The finished song name-checks 26 players and two historical players: Fernando Martin and Pau Gasol].
When I was a little kid, I remember watching Charles Barkley and NBA clips set to some rap in the background. I was a big fan of that type of energy, so a few years later [after] I started to rap, I said to myself, "I gotta do a basketball song."
You fulfilled a childhood dream by writing that song?
Exactly. And those dreams you have as a kid are important. When I started to MC, I still had my childhood dreams with me -- these little-kid things. For me, that's been important because my personality is the way it is because of my dreams. I always remember those feelings.
And I said, "I have to do this [song]" because of those feelings. Because this is important, you know? So I started to do it and have fun at the same time. That's what this is all about.
Your first demo dropped in 1994. What was that era like in Spain's hip-hop scene?
Definitely an interesting question. At that time, it was the demo-tape era. We didn't have anything. We didn't have any way to do music. We didn't have any information. We didn't have Internet. We didn't have anything.
We had, like, little drops of information about what was going on in the United States. And we started to create our own personality. We were little kids at that time. We were, like, 16 and 18. We were not mature enough, so we were trying to copy what was happening in the United States. But we were trying to give it our own personality.
The sound was awful. We were just trying to do something. But we didn't have any idea what was going on. We could see some people b-boying, some people doing something they saw over there. We were just trying to learn. I remember the energy I had; when you are that age, you want to eat the whole world.
I remember that energy a lot. At the same time, we had no plans. We had no guides. We had no directions because no one else in Spain was doing this thing because we were the first generation in Spain doing hip-hop.
We'd share demo tapes. We learned from each other. It was a special moment in Spanish hip-hop.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
[Laughs.] I don't think about that. Well, maybe the raps were more exaggerated than they should be. We were crazy little youngsters. But that's normal; it's nothing you can regret. It's something that happens.
I was happy doing what I was doing, traveling and meeting other people, sleeping in parks; it was like a hippie/poor type of thing at that time. And we were having a lot of fun. No industry. Nothing. Just people rapping and doing little concerts. That's something you can not regret.
I'm proud of everything. I'm happy to have lived in that era. We all made mistakes at that time because we were young, but that's it.
You wrote a concept album in 2005 where each song was written from the perspective of a different person, including a blind person, a gay couple, an ex-con, an immigrant and a cabbie. How did you do that? Research? Just sit down and write?
It was just lives I had around. Some were lives that were close to me and others were not as close. But everyone was around, from those prostitutes and this blind man I met in the street. That was important to me because I wanted to write a commentary.
In the last song, every single character ends up in the same cab. But I think I could've waited to do the record so I could've created a record with better sound.
How is the Spanish hip-hop scene different than the rest of the European hip-hop scene?
I should know more about European hip-hop. I know some. That's not an easy question because Europe is a huge place. Spain started a little later and our sound came a little later. It's difficult to compare Spanish hip-hop to other places because in Spain you have so many people doing so many different types of rap. It's even difficult to speak about Spanish hip-hop as a whole.
You've collaborated with Immortal Technique, who is known for his radical politics. What was that like?
I am a big fan of Immortal Technique. A lot of what he says is straight through.
I consider my rap to be conscious and political too. I wish a lot of people would listen to him, what he has to say, and try to make a change. I admire him so much, because he's saying what has to be said. For me, it was an honor to work with him.