Nocando raps at Low End Theory. (Photos by Faith Jessie and Aaron Liu)
On Wednesdays, James McCall sits down for dinner with his wife Anastasia and their three daughters, Phoenix, Sunny and Violet. Then he takes a shower and heads to work.
McCall is on the night beat. He drives to the Airliner in Lincoln Heights to emcee "Low End Theory," the weekly hip-hop show that has become the epicenter for the hip-hop and electronic production in Los Angeles. On stage, he has a different moniker: Nocando.
The 2007 Scribble Jam champion with a penchant for pun and freestyle has played the role of Low End Theory’s messenger for more than six years. The club started out in 2006 as a gathering of 30 kids who were really into hip-hop beats. Nocando provided the voice to accompany the productions, which grew increasingly ambitious over the years.
It's a voice that comes naturally to him.
“A lot of people romanticize about a sound when it’s really just people coming together just trying to connect to something,” said McCall, “something that you already feel inside you.”
His new mixtape came out on Tuesday and incorporates long periods of improvised lyricism, a skill he has polished through his gig as the club’s emcee.
“Low End Theory gave me the chance to practice free-styling with really ambitious beats to the point I forgot I was practicing.”
Below are photos from one of countless evenings he has dedicated to the weekly show:
1. ON THE SPOT -- "Freestyling is more of a unconscious thing than just sitting down with a pencil and deliberately writing down...the unconscious stuff that you say are the things people will remember." (Aaron Liu)
8PM, WEDNESDAY -- Rapper Nocando has dinner with his family before heading over to Low End Theory. (Faith Jessie)
3. SUNNY -- Nocando sits at the dinner table with his 7-year-old daughter Sunny. (Aaron Liu)
THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE -- Wife Anastasia Williams stays home to watch the girls while Nocando drives to the show. The couple met in high school and have 3 girls: Sunny, Phoenix and Violet. (Faith Jessie).
ON COOL -- "A lot of people romanticize about a sound or a period of era when it is really just people coming together, just trying to connect to something. That is exactly what people should be going for: the whole idea...creating something cool is a byproduct of trying to connect with something, trying to project something that you already feel inside of you." (Aaron Liu)
THROUGHOUT THE YEARS -- Nocando got his start riding around L.A. with his friends, freestyling at different spots from house parties in Torrance to Project Blowed in Leimart Park. In 2006, he joined Low End Theory as their resident emcee and has been there ever since. (Aaron Liu)
WHAT IS LOW END THEORY? -- “A place of bunch of inspired kids.” Here, Nocando and electronic producer D33J share a moment onstage. (Faith Jessie)
OLD FRIENDS -- Nocando checks in with Flako and fellow resident DJ Nobody. He said him and his friends had no aspirations of succeeding in the music industry when they first started. (Faith Jessie)
For him, “what is important in music is honest expression." In order to make his flow sound more like the way he talks in real life, he said that he improvised the lyrics to some of the verses in his new mixtape, Tits N' Explosions, which came out on Tuesday. His methodology: 1. Record, 2. Keep what sounds good. 3. Replace the other lines with another improvised take. (Faith Jessie)
Reach Faith Jessie here and Aaron Liu here.