NanosauR hadn’t updated his DJ library in over a year when he recently accepted a gig as resident DJ at Grams Clothing.
“I had folders of shit that would go off like a year ago,” he said. “It was really old, like swag rap, shit like that. And people outside were going nuts, and I was like, ‘Oh fuck, this is so fun!”
The producer born Michael Solorzano can always bust out his beats for Bay Area rappers like Lil B, Antwon, and Chippy NonStop if he wants to get the party going. If you went to high school in the Bay Area between 2009 and 2012 and had your finger even remotely on the pulse of local rap, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten down to one of his productions.
But NanosauR describes the music he really wants to perform live as “between this kind of indie post-punk sound or this really heavy industrial sound.” This describes most of his newest album, Fell Off Before I Ever Got On, which he self-released last week on Bandcamp and which will receive a wide release from Text Me Records on May 5.
NanosauR’s beats are usually loaded with as many bright synths and video-game bleeps as you’d expect from a guy who took his name from a third-person shooter game about dinosaurs. But Fell Off Before I Ever Got On is introspective, gothic, and often emotionally arid, making heavier use of guitar and bass than most of his work.
It’s the kind of album that makes you wonder if the person who made it is all right. Luckily, Nano’s a little more at peace than when he wrote those songs three years ago after a breakup.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot from what was going on at that time,” he says. “So then the album started to feel like a movie, like I was watching it in third-person.”
Before he was NanosauR, he was Nano, and most people still call him that instead of Michael or Mike. He was born and raised in the Antioch area, and after he got kicked out of his high school, he went to a continuation school whose computer lab had a copy of the digital audio workstation FL Studio.
“I’d go on the computer for work,” he says. “But I would really just be making beats because I’d have headphones on. And like the teacher didn’t know what the hell I was doing. And then one day some kid was like, ‘yo, are you making beats?’”
Nano started selling beats for five bucks a pop for kids at his school to rap over. He networked with other rappers and producers through MySpace, which is how he first got in touch with the massively prolific, influential, and Internet-savvy rapper Lil B. Nano’s beat became “I Got Bitches” from Lil B’s debut album 6 Kiss, a touchstone in the development of the Bay-centric, indica-stoned subgenre called cloud rap.
“I feel like once I did the Lil B song, that’s when people started to take me seriously,” says Nano. “People were just like, ‘oh, he works with Lil B.’ I thought I was getting paid, but it’d be like $50. I was working at Target at the time, I was just happy to have $50 bucks off a beat.”
Another fortuitous networking ground was South By Southwest, where he was approached by the rapper Kitty to be her DJ on her tour with Detroit rapper Danny Brown. The 2013 “Old & Reckless” tour is best-remembered for a Minneapolis stop where Brown received oral sex from an audience member.
Nano was sidestage at that show and can confirm that not only did it happen but that Brown (and just about everyone else involved) was under the influence of what Brown called “Stolly.”
“Brown and his DJ Skyler [a.k.a. SKYWLKR] replaced everything with an S and a T, I don’t know why,” Nano remembers. “They would call me Stanosaur.” (Nano and Skyler subsequently started a project called Stolly City.)
Nano has also toured frequently as DJ for Dev, best-known as the steely voice intoning “popping bottles in the ice” on Far East Movement’s “Like a G6.” The two released an EP together in 2014, and he’s sent her some beats for the album she’s working on, though he’s not sure if they’ll be released.
He makes most of his income now through engineering other people’s projects, and he recently relocated from Oakland to an apartment in San Francisco’s Richmond District, not far from Golden Gate Park. But thanks to his DJ gig in Oakland, he’s primed to re-enter the world of live music.
“People were like, ‘oh, here’s a shot, here’s a beer!’,” he recalls. “I completely forgot that this was a whole part of DJing. I didn’t want to stop.”