Singer Songwriter NNAMDÏ Pushes Genre Boundaries in New Album Please Have A Seat
There’s something captivating about a thing that refuses to be defined. In many ways, the sixth official album from Chicago multi-instrumentalist, producer, and singer-songwriter Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, better known by his stage name NNAMDÏ, does just this. Manipulating an esoteric array of sounds into form, Please Have A Seat is a genre-bending entry into the discography of an artist on the rise.
Please Have A Seat is written, produced, and performed almost exclusively by the artist himself. It is his first for the label Secretly Canadian, although it is often hard to put a label on his music. Sliding from experimental rap/alt-rock/avant-pop fusion in 2013’s Bootie Noir to clashing maximalism on 2020’s Brat, and even a foray into punk with 2020’s Black Plight EP, he is not afraid to embrace fluidity and to playfully explore sound in his work.
For Please Have A Seat, NNAMDÏ cites guitarist Blake Mills, bass player Pino Palladino, and Caroline Polachek as sonic influences. When it comes to songwriting, NNAMDÏ notes how he wanted to make this album more inviting.
I just wanted to make something more inviting. Like, even if you don’t fully understand the world I’m coming from, I wanted to make something that was just like, “Oh, I can latch on to this melody.” Like, “I don’t particularly know what he’s talking about, but I know that this melody is catchy and I feel something with it.” For the majority of the songs, if it was still stuck in my head like days later, then I’d be like, “Okay, this is something.” Whether it’s good, that’s up to other people to decide — but I think it is.
The album opens with “Ready to Run.” It features a clean guitar that distorts in and out of pitch, dripping vocals that leak into harmony, and a floaty string arrangement. In it, NNAMDÏ sings about fighting for “a seat by the throne” that has “already gone.” This spills into the buzzy track “Armoire”, which sees NNAMDÏ nimbly spilling into a trap-inspired sing-rapping with glistening synths and 808s. When he raps “I done came for the crown and I need all my flowers”, there’s no doubt that NNAMDÏ is claiming his seat and wants recognition for his accomplishments.
“I fought my way in for a seat by the throne
Looked for a space, but it was already gone”
NNAMDÏ, “Ready to Run”
“Anxious Eater” is a perfect example of NNAMDÏs flexibility as an artist. He flexes the multitudes of influences that he is pulling from in the fast-paced, genre-bending track. The song begins with lush auto-tuned harmonies and vocal distortion. A fast-paced drum break crashes onto the scene, accompanied by crunchy guitars that would be at home in a DragonForce record. But the song’s movement isn’t done. After a fill that may best be described as mirroring a computer malfunction, the song shifts into a hip-hop-inspired beat. After another tonal shift, a foray into stadium rock power chords, and the song’s climax, NNAMDÏ finally takes the foot off the gas, settling into a somber piano outro.
“Touchdown” is another foray into a more hip-hop-influenced sound. It features a jittering synth line and sugary instrumentation you might find from space rap artists like Lil Yachty or Lil Uzi Vert. The song makes you want to bop your head, but the lyrics tell the tale of someone struggling with anxiety around rising fame.
NNAMDÏ recently released the music video for “Touchdown,” which features SNL star Sarah Squirm. Check it out below.
The video’s surrealist and absurd style blends playfulness with shades of something more sinister. An injured, bandaged, and disoriented NNAMDÏ is in line to get on a bus. In front of him, a pair of children are playing with a doll with his likeness, while their Stepford wives-esque mother (Sarah Squirm) complains away on the phone. When NNAMDÏ pulls out a tooth and gives it to the children, rather than shock and horror, Squirm’s character treats it with only moderate discontent and continues her phone call.
The video goes on to feature NNAMDÏ taking a mixture of drugs and alcohol and having an increasingly surreal experience on the bus until at some point it flies off into the air. From his perspective, the bus is a joyful party. In reality, he is being yelled at by the driver and causing a commotion. Ultimately the music video touches upon the dangers of fame and swallowing the pill of hubris. According to NNAMDÏ, it’s a bus that artists might want to steer clear of. Fans of the video will also want to check out the previously released videos for “Anti,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Famous,” and “Dedication,” as they all combine to tell a larger narrative related to the album.
On paper, the musical elements present in this album may appear disjunctive: NNAMDÏ utilizes complex, discordant harmonies and chord progressions (“Careful”), math rock-adjacent guitars (“Grounded”, “Smart Ass”), distorted vocals, and elements from hip hop (“Touchdown”, “Armoire”, “I Don’t Wanna be Famous”) extensively. And yet it works, and there are real moments of beauty here.
Throughout the album, NNAMDÏ finds himself caught between the desire to prove himself– to have a seat at the table and gain praise/success as an artist– and what that might cost him as an individual. His rising fame also means missing out on time with friends, spending too much time alone, and rising anxiety. Throughout the album, he considers ways in which to run away: whether that means isolating himself from friends, or coping using drugs and alcohol. In the end, NNAMDÏ chooses to take a seat. The album also touches on ideas of depression and the battle it takes to wake up every day and fight to keep going forward with the hope that maybe the next day will be different from the last.
In the album closer “Some Days”, NNAMDÏ confronts this compulsion to run away from it all and ultimately chooses to take a seat. It ends with the idea that although some days may be tough, creating music is worthwhile. He credits friends and family with being motivators for him when he himself doesn’t feel strong enough to do it alone. The metaphorical seat referenced in the title and in various songs shifts in meaning throughout the album. Yes, it represents his growing comfort with fame, but it also represents his dedication to the craft, to music, to his friends, and ultimately to himself. Instead of running away from it, he decides to rise to the challenge of it all. He encourages himself and others to please, have a seat.
Make sure to follow NNAMDÏ on Linktree, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to stay up to date on his latest releases and updates. Listen to the album Please Have A Seat and NNAMDÏ’s other work on Spotify.
Want to catch NNAMDÏ in concert? Be sure to check out tour dates below.
Tue-Oct-18 Davenport, IA The Raccoon Motel
Wed-Oct-19 Minneapolis, MN 7th St. Entry
Thu-Oct-20 Milwaukee, WI Cactus Club
Sat-Oct-22 Chicago, IL Metro
Mon-Oct-24 Cleveland, OH Mahall’s
Tue-Oct-25 Toronto, ON The Garrison
Wed-Oct-26 Montreal, QC Diving Bell Social Club
Thu-Oct-27 Johnson, VT Northern Vermont University
Fri-Oct-28 Boston, MA Crystal Ballroom
Sat-Oct-29 Brooklyn, NY Baby’s All Right
Tue-Nov-01 Philadelphia, PA PhilaMOCA
Wed-Nov-02 Washington, DC Comet Ping Pong
Thu-Nov-03 Durham, NC Pinhook
Fri-Nov-04 Atlanta, GA 529
Sat-Nov-05 Nashville, TN DRKMTTR
Fri-Nov-11 London, UK Pitchfork London
Mon-Nov-14 Berlin, Germany Sooper Secretly Slang @ Marie-Antoinette
Wed-Nov-16 Paris, France Pitchfork Paris