Spencer Nelson, the 21-year-old UVU communication student and proud native of Mapleton is getting excited to inspire fellow dreamers with the release of his debut hip hop mixtape titled “DREAMS,” coming May 14.
Beginning at age 16, Nelson entered and won UVU Club DAF House rap battles and earned co-signs with local artists such as Frank Zoo and JTM. He later set two years aside to serve a religious mission in Brazil, but now he’s back and getting excited to launch a career in rap even though he knows it will be difficult.
Nelson discovered some obstacles during summer of 2020 when the Salt Lake City-based radio station U92 hosted a rap battle competition. The competition was advertised as a contest for aspiring rappers to create a video and post it online for public votes. The winner would have the opportunity to open for an artist such as Post Malone or Ice Cube. Nelson submitted a video in which his friends sent him random words into a group chat as he freestyled using each of the words. The video received almost 20,000 views and over 700 votes.
With that many votes, Nelson won the contest. But when it ended, U92 took their competition website down and never reached out to him. He was hurt when he realized that he blew up the competition but nothing ever came from it.
Despite the setback, Nelson decided to keep moving forward. He has since released a single, “801” that features Beeson, a rising Utah singer-songwriter and HG Free, a local DJ and producer for JTM.
Nelson wrote “801” as a love song to Utah.
“I feel like a lot of people, at least locally, hate Utah for no reason,” he said. “Utah gets such a bad rap. I love where I’m from and I wanted to talk about it without being super corny and lame. I want to be like, ‘Utah’s sick.’ We made a video all around Utah and made a song about where I’m from, why I am who I am.”
Nelson’s passion for rap and hip hop was kindled at a young age. He credits his older brothers for introducing him to what would become his favorite type of music as they played hip hop regularly.
“My brothers are super cool in my eyes since they were my big brothers and I was the little brother,” he says. “When I was old enough to start liking my own music, I dove into it from there and got really deep into music after that.”
Nelson’s brothers led him to find his music inspirations. He said some of his favorite artists are those whose work became well-known in the 1990s.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t love the rap music that was big,” said Nelson. “All the rap music I listened to was all the older 90s stuff like Tupac, Biggie, Nas, WuTang, and Eminem, because a lot of it was wordplay and storytelling, which I thought was super cool.”
According to Nelson, a good portion of current popular rap music is more focused on production rather than lyricism. Rappers twenty to thirty years ago didn’t have the luxury of certain modern-day technology — nowadays if someone has a good computer and a good engineer, they can make anything sound good even without putting much effort into crafting meaningful lyrics.
Despite the trend to rely solely on technology, there are several current rap artists that Nelson admires for their lyricism. People like Mac Miller, who created his own record label and Logic, J Cole and Kendrick Lamar who came from nothing are also inspiring to Nelson. When thinking about their journeys to their own rap careers, he says, “I can do that too!”
Nelson aims to emulate these artists and create quality music with well-crafted lyrics.
“I love writing in general,” Nelson says. “English class was always one of my favorite classes. Writing is a therapeutic thing to me.”
To Nelson, words are the coolest form of expression. When he can capture his emotions into words he can then bring them to life for other people. Therefore, his go-to method for expressing strong positive or negative emotions is to write what he is feeling — to put his situation onto paper or into an idea.
“If I’m having a crappy day or a crappy relationship, or I’m mad at somebody or I’m feeling good about something, I want to capture that energy in words.”
Nelson would love to gain recognition throughout the state and start doing shows, so for now he’ll be investing his time into making music and seeking opportunities to perform. Right now, he is most looking forward to the release of his 9-track mixtape and for others to recognize his dedication to his craft. He explained that when he was younger, people made fun of him for rapping.
“The last song on the mixtape is called ‘Dreams,’” Nelson explained. “I don’t think it’s the best one, the best wordplay or the best production. But it talks about pursuing your passion. A lot of people in my life, family members, teachers, friends told me I’m wasting time. But the whole message of the song is, ‘If you have a dream and a passion, go after it. If it doesn’t go great, you gave it your all.’”
Nelson’s mixtape will drop on May 14. Follow Spencer Nelson on social media to stay updated with music releases and news at https://linktr.ee/Spenelson.