Interview with Chicago’s biggest rager, Na Palm
If you haven’t heard of Chicago based artist Na Palm yet, it’s time for you to wake up and turn on your speakers. Go ahead, I’ll wait. But Na Palm won’t. At the rate he is blowing up right now, there are not many things that holding him back. This kid has got it all: talent, drive, a great team of people backing him, and yet he stays humble enough to reply to every fan on Facebook. Did I mention he also gives all his music away for free? Born Craig Steven Palm, Na Palm has been gaining popularity on the national tour circuit opening for acts such as Far East Movement, LMFAO, Wiz, Big Sean, and recently performing at Ultra Music Festival. Merging his influences from the Chicago House scene with this notable hip-hop roots, Na Palm is is making music you should have no problem raging to. I had the opportunity to sit down with Na Palm and his producer at their studio in Chicago and find out a little about what’s going on in the Na Palm’s world.
The studio is a deceivingly nice place. Walking down S. Michigan one sees a lot of dilapidated buildings and closed down shops. Na Palm’s producer, Na’el Shehade of ForceOneSeven Productions, and one of his friends greeted me at the door. I walked down the hallway, into the elevator and into a beautiful loft studio with two story ceilings and equally tall drapes cascading in front enormous windows and open brick walls. The studio itself sits opposite the pool table and office and puts out enough sound to easily fill the whole room. You can tell these boys like to keep I classy.
Here’s a couple tracks you can listen to while you read.
She Like That [ft. Machine Gun Kelly] by Nā Palm
I’m sitting here with Craig Steven Palm, aka Na Palm. How you doing today?
Good man, glad to be here with you.
Thanks for having me. So you went from insurance salesmen to late night rapper to Na Palm. Selling out shows. How has that experience been for you?
It’s been cool, were kind of at a tipping point right now. So I still kind of feel like the underdog and it really hasn’t popped yet, but we can feel it. So it’s kind of been cool taken about, (talking to his producer Na’el) when did I meet you know? Two years. Exactly two years ago. It’s kind of cool, a lot of people see the grind behind the scenes, it’s a lot more than just partying and shows, and we all work our asses off. So the ride has been cool, but it really hasn’t even happened yet. For what I’m envisioning because I’m excited for that. I think it’s going to be a big Fall for sure.
I first saw you perform in October opening for Far East Movement, Dirt Nasty, Hyper Crush, and LMFAO. That was such an awesome show. You killed it that night. Was that one of your favorite shows to perform?
Obviously because it was held in Chicago it was probably my biggest crowd. Definitely was, something like 3,000. Just the love, and it was cool because it was a big city and a lot of people still didn’t know who I was, and I’m still gaining new fans, and it was to be in the big city with all those guys. I was honored to be an opener.
And you have an amazing following online. And you respond to everyone on Facebook?
Every single person. My theory is, you know I’m not that busy, today I slept in until 2. So I’m a normal dude, we work a lot but I have time. I enjoy it, whether it’s seeing negative feedback or positive feedback, I just like to see what’s out there, because the fans kind of control your destiny. And I have time right now. My goal is to just build. Every fan wants to find someone before they blow up. So I figure, I’m a humble dude, if I can respond to them, anyone who says they’re inspired or asks questions, right now before I get super busy. Because there comes a point to where you can’t do that, but I figure everything right now is I’m building fans for life. It’s kind of grass roots.
I’ve actually seen your LP, Dirty Girls Like Dirty Beats, at random stores all over Chicago. An example is LA Tan in Wrigley. How big is your street team? Do you have a bunch of people who are willing to go out and do this for you?
You know what? It’s really not that big. We’re just starting this. That was just a mission of like five of us. The cool this about our company, Tricoastal, is it’s basically started with all my homies that just have a passion for music and who believed in me from the start. So that was like four of my friends that worked for Tricoastal full time and they just hit the block for like three days. And on another subject, I personally went to eight different states like Kentucky and Iowa, and just spray them all over campuses. We passed out 50,000 cds.
That’s awesome. I’m actually from Iowa, so that’s great to see you reaching out.
Dope. I actually get a lot of messages from those guys. So I definitely want to hit the Big 10.
You just recently performed at Ultra. Congrats. How was that experience for you?
You know what, I was just on a smaller side stage, but it was still cool to be there. Obviously you got to start somewhere, but hopefully I can get a day spot or early spot on the main stage. It was cool for me because it was my first electronic festival, and the Chicago house music scene was what inspired me to first get into music, so getting to see Aoki, Crystal Castles, and all these others, they’re fucking rock stars. And how big the electronic movement has been is inspiring to me. But my show was cool to. I killed it and I actually had some fans out there. They came to support me wearing the t-shirts.
That’s great to hear. And so you went on tour and now you’re back finishing up Electronic Chronic, how’s that going?
It’s so confusing. (Na Palm’s producer begins to laugh) It’s a good thing. Not to be cocky, but we have so many big songs. We had a problem picking our single, which is going to be “Two Days Straight,” which was orchestrated by me and Na’el. But it’s not going to be called Electronic Chronic. We’re thinking it’s going to be called Late At Night. Just because the aura of it, it’s kind of like an after hours party music. Our next album, tentatively, Welcome to Mollywood is what I wanted my first album to be. Because it’s a big brand, you know, it’s kind of like free love is coming back. It’s bigger than just the drugs and shit. Long story short is we’re fighting over titles and we have 15 songs sitting there that we just want to fucking release. So it’s coming out in like two weeks, but we don’t know the title and people have been waiting on it since March. And it’s one of those things where I love the title but the reason we didn’t name it Electronic Chronic is because it’s not very electronic. We didn’t want to steer people the wrong way. Because it was supposed to be like Chronic, which is obviously Dre’s big classic album, and we were showing love to hip-hip and putting my electronic spin on it. But the next album is going to be a bit more dancing and electronic. The music will speak for itself, I really don’t give a fuck what it’s called, I just want the fans to hear it. And it’s going to be free.
Yeah, I’m really digging some of the new beats from the album, especially “Going Going Gone,” and I just watched the making of She Like That ft. Machine Gun Kelly. Looks like you guys have a pretty good time in the studio, yeah?
Yeah, MGK is a homie, too. Props to him. He’s a superstar. We actually flew him out and we hung out and the first retreat we were trying to sign him because he’s so dope. Yeah, he’s cool. So he came over here and basically did us a favor. He had a hook idea, then me and him split up, and it was cool man, we wrote our verses in like 30 minutes.
Na’el: We recorded two songs in six hours.
Craig: Recording them took longer than writing them. We were like. “You ready, homie?”
Na’el: They got here around 4 and they left by like 11. For two songs, that great.
Craig: And we were playing ping-pong and had a couple hookers up here (Craig jokes).
How long does it usually take for you guys to record a song?
You know, recording is not as sexy as people think it is. It’s tough, man. I don’t think there is many people at all that do that one take shit. Maybe Jay-Z, I could believe that. In order to get things sounding perfect, it takes a lot of takes, a lot of ad lib, double downs, shit like that. They have a harder job than me (he points at his Na’el). First song I was in and out in like two hours and then they mixed that shit. Like 10-15 hours a song. When I’m in the studio Ill book a six-hour session with him and we’ll get like two songs done. So it’s not too crazy.
And from what I’ve heard from your LP and what I hear now you can definitely tell you’ve grown a lot as an artist.
And you know what it is? It’s a good team and the beats are getting bigger, the hooks are getting bigger, and I need to step it up and I do that.
You can no doubt hear the electronic influences in your music. Gotta love that Chicago House scene. Can you elaborate on your influences?
Oh man, my new people. I love Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, obviously old school like Carl Cox, Steve Aoki, all those guys. Then on the local scene, I want to give some shout outs to Steve Smooth, Calendar, JJ Flores, are some of the local guys that dominate the scene here. When I first moved here, I was like 23 and I was just in awe of the scene.
You’ve worked with some pretty big names now (Kobe, Nitti Beats, Cool & Dre) who do you see yourself bringing in next?
That’s a good question. We’re already on the phone with Theophilus London. I’m a big fan of his. He’s super dope, so my manager got his number. We’re kind of waiting for my product to drop so people can get a picture and say, “Ok, I’d fuck with this dude.” Instead of just asking for a collab out of nowhere. So, I’d love to work with him. Tinie Tempah is another dude that’s coming up. I think we’re getting a collab with Flo-Rida. And then Kobe is good friends with Fabulous. Fabulous has got the ladies lane on lock, so I think he would kill an electronic song. Those are all accessible, they’re not on the plate, but that’s what we envision. Oh, and Big Sean, too. We’re cool with his camp too. So I’d love to do a track with him. And, as far as producers, Avicii, I want Skrillex to do a “Two Days Straight” remix. I think that would be so nasty.
If you could make a song with any artist in history, who would it be?
There’s two. Not to be cliché, I’m a huge Mick Jagger fan. And I would love for him to rip a hook with me or something like a bluesy-rock electronic song would be super dope. I think that would be some funky shit. The Rolling Stones are like my all-time favorite band. And I’m a huge Thom Yorke fan, I would love to work with Radio Head. Kind of out of left field, you probably weren’t expecting that, but I would love to work with those two.
What kind of music are you listening to these days? If I stole your iPod, what would I find?
I actually lost my iPod.
I didn’t steal it.
I listen to, actually I was shrooming (he smiles), and I listened to Adele’s cd straight through. I’m a huge Adele fan. She is amazing. Kanye’s new album is on rotation. I love Eric Prydz. Tinie Tempah, I’ve been listening to him. I keep up with the K.I.D.S., Mac Miller and all those guys. I have a plethora. Radio Head, I still got Kid-A. I’m all over the place. I’m a big mood person, so it depends what mood I’m in. It’s summertime, so Chili Peppers.
So what’s the big picture future for Na Palm? Where do you see yourself in a couple years?
Damn, a couple years. I’m just taking it year by year, just because it takes a long time to break nationally. You know, a lot of these kids, like I just mentioned Mac Miller, these people have been grinding since ’07 and they’re on their 10th mixtape and shit. So things are moving pretty quick for me. I’m a little bit older now, so I’m blessed that it’s moving so fast. But obviously the goal is to sign a big joint-venture deal. We’re starting to get some looks from some major labels now. I’m kind of in a show and prove stage where they know we got the music but they just kind of want to see how things go. Because we’re doing this all independently, which is cool. So we’re raising some eyebrows because we’re funding all our own shit. And Roo, CEO of the company [Tricoastal], and my brother, work 15 hour days for me. So I’m hoping to have a big major label deal within the next year. And, not to name drop, but Mood Swing 360, who represents LMFAO and Far East Movement, we’re looking to sign them as our booking agent. So maybe we could hop on some tours with them. I kind of want to do my own headlining shows at 500-700 person venues, but I will never turn down opening up for big people at 3,000 person venues. I just want to get on the road. I’m too hyper to be sitting around the studio. And I’m just excited for people to hear the music. I really have not been on the road in a while. So, I’m kind of like in a chill mode until everything gets dropped. The “2Days Straight” music video is gonna be off the charts.
And when can we expect that?
Our first edit was done by Taj Sansberry, give him a shout out, just shot Swizz Beatz, Ne-Yo, he shot J-Lo’s last video that got something like a quarter billion views. He came in, and that’s when Flo-Rida came in and shot a scene with me. So we should have our first edit this Friday, I think. And then we’ll probably do a big release party in about two weeks. And then we’re gonna really push that, get some clicks on that. And then right behind it we’re going to drop my project (the album), so two things are moving.
Na’el: “Two Days Straight” was recorded in a very small studio, in a small booth. I mean, you can do anything, anywhere.
Craig: And that was kind of funny because, like I said, you got to let the fans talk and “Two Days Straight” is my favorite song to perform, and it has a dope beat, and everyone did their part on it. But it was kind of a sleeper because we thought it was too vulgar because of the cuss words. So we did a radio edit and kids, like a cult following screaming, “Party two days straight!” So we were telling ourselves, “Why would we not push this as a single? Kids are getting pregnant to this song! (We all share a laugh)” But I’m very excited. There are some big things coming and I appreciate all your support, especially the local Chicago support.
Coming to the end of this thing, are there any shout outs you would like to make?
I want to give shout outs to my team, Tricoastal, Soundpushers, all my fans, and the blogs. Not to sound corny, but I wouldn’t be here without you guys. The first song I ever sent out to a blog was Good Music All Day. I sent “Two Days Straight” like a year and a half ago. And ever since that, everyone has been picking up the post. So, shout out to the blog stars.
Great. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.