Nazeer Art’aud is an indie hip hop artist, born and raised in Philadelphia, who has been rapping for over 20 years. His latest project, “Mister Larry’s Looney Funhouse,” was recently released on streaming platforms.
Art’aud’s biggest influences in music have been Notorious B.I.G. and Kanye West, and he has also been a stand-up comic for three and a half years. You’ll find elements of his music and comedy – and much more – in this latest project.
With “Mister Larry’s Looney Funhouse,” Art’aud wanted to combine every aspect of his life which is music, comedy and theater. The album focuses on the protagonist, Lawrence Funhauser, aka Mister Larry, a wacky cartoonish children’s TV show host. The character is reminiscent of Pee Wee Herman and Barney the Dinosaur.
The show starts off great, but it takes a dark turn, as Art’aud wanted the album to have an “Adult Swim” meets “Twilight Zone” feel to it. The album deals with life, death and everything in between, and was inspired by losses in Art’aud’s life, especially his cousin, who was murdered in West Philadelphia in August 2019. His cousin was only a few years older than Art’aud so it made him think of his own mortality and how life can end at any minute.
PW recently caught up with Art’aud to talk about his new project.
Talk a little about how you first became interested in music. How has Philadelphia and the local music scene influenced you?
I became interested in music at a very young age. Growing up, I was surrounded by the blues, Motown and gospel music mostly. Then one day my Uncle Junie introduced me to Biggie Smalls, and that changed everything. Mainly, because I always wanted to sing or play the guitar, but I never had the opportunity or resources to do these things; rap was different. This was a musical outlet that didn’t require resources, just putting the time and practice into honing your craft. And I started writing poetry first so it was a pretty smooth transition.
The Philadelphia music scene has influenced me greatly. This city is just filled with so much musical talent, some of which will, sadly, never get the recognition they deserve. So if I get the opportunity to make it to a bigger stage, I would love to work with local Philly artists to shine some light on them and the amazing work that they do. But at a young age, I remember walking to the store and just seeing rap cyphers and battles take place. Just a bunch of young hungry MCs going at it; this was a dope site to witness. The Philly musicians who influenced my sound the most are Boyz II Men, Hall & Oates, Santigold, State Property, The Roots, and more recently, Tierra Whack.
“Mister Larry’s Looney Funhouse” combines music, theater and comedy – something you’ve said hasn’t been done much in the hip-hop community. How did you come up with the concept? How do you think it turned out?
The idea actually came later within the process of creating the album. I started recording the songs first, and the idea was to create this sort of personal time capsule but with music; which is why the songs are all named after some of my favorite movies and television shows. But after recording the third song, I began to realize that I needed a way to connect these songs because otherwise the album wouldn’t make sense.
Then my theater side kicked in and was like “let’s make a show!” And I figured the best way to capture the nostalgic feeling I wanted to create with this time capsule was to make it a children’s show. Also, children’s shows are weird so I knew that format would give me the room to be as ridiculous and outlandish as I needed to be while creating this aspect of the album.
But the main problem was children’s shows are happy, and I hate happy endings, so I decided to add a horror/Twilight Zone-esque aspect to it to catch listeners off guard. The album is also just meant to be a journey through life and how it moves fast. The album starts off focused on children, then quickly transitioning into teenage years and the pressures of sex, then adulthood and paying bills, and then ultimately death. I wish I could’ve done more with the album, but that’s just the artist in me; you always want to do more. But ultimately, I’m very happy with the final product.
How can people get the album?
People can purchase the album from my bandcamp website: nazeerartaud.bandcamp.com.
And the album is also available on all music streaming apps (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc.).
What’s ahead for you now that the album has dropped? Are you back to appearing before live audiences? Any more projects in the works?
I want to continue with this format, so I’m currently brainstorming my next project idea. I have a few ideas in mind but nothing set in stone.
My next live show is Aug. 14 at Ortlieb’s. The title of the show is Nazeer Art’aud & Friends, which is a concert series I plan on doing monthly or maybe every other month. These will be shows I put together with some of my favorite musicians in the city. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist of the same name that includes music from my favorite local artist. People should check it out and support your local artists.
Also, I plan on doing a live theatrical version of “Mister Larry’s Looney Funhouse” so people should also be on the lookout for that.
What are the best ways for people to stay current with what you’re doing?
The best way for people to stay current with what I’m doing is to follow my Instagram and Twitter accounts, which are both @nazeerartaud.
Also, follow my Spotify artist page and that will notify you every time I release new music.
And this the website to all my stuff: linktr.ee/nazeerartaud.