Hemet Rapper Spank Nitti James Takes Over LA Music Scene
The IE native is co-signed by tastemakers like R Baron and Hit-Boy
A couple weeks ago on a cold winter night, I drove to the R Baron MoneyCorps Music Group’s studios in Hollywood for an interview with Spank Nitti James. Spank has been heating up the Inland Empire and Los Angeles streets since he dropped his debut single “Caucasian” in 2018. The song gained him millions of views and supporters, and he followed up by dropping a mixtape. One of his latest singles, “Dirt On My Jersey” featuring JayLuckk, dropped a month ago.
Although he has made his name all over, some would be surprised to find that he actually is from Hemet, California. Hemet is a small city in Riverside County, with a population of about 90,000 people. It’s part of the Inland Empire, which is made up of the Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
Spank describes growing up in Hemet as being regular and free. “In LA there may be a certain hood store, a certain hood school, it was more like freelance, you could run into anyone anywhere,” he says. “We from a small city. ” He remembers growing up in the city and being exposed to a lot at a young age. “It wasn’t too much that adults was doing, that was hidden from me, I was seeing a lot, but as a kid you don’t realize you’re seeing a lot until you get your own kid.”
He grew up with both parents in the household until they separated. His father later went to prison, but Spank always kept in contact with him. Although his father wasn’t present, his Uncle Stevie stepped up as the father figure he needed. “He was a real stand up guy, showed me a lot, told me everything I didn’t know about the streets, gave me my street smarts, he laced me, he didn’t hold back.”
Spank describes his younger self as being more advanced than most. “Now looking back I probably was pretty bad, but I didn’t know I was being bad, but I played football growing up for a little,” he notes. As he got older, he was known for being more on the quiet side and being very observant. “I was in the cut, I would demand attention when I needed it. I was a n***a, I just wasn’t pressed for it. I wouldn’t be all extra, I was just myself and people gravitated to me,” he adds.
Hemet, just like LA County, has its fair share of gang culture. But Spank never allowed himself to get involved. “It’s gangs out there. I don’t gang bang, but I’m cool with everyone. I don’t pick a side in that shit, if I know you I know you,” he says.
“In Hemet there’s a couple little hoods out there. It’s not much, we a small city. We like a gumbo pot, cuz it’s people coming from LA, Watts, all over Compton, so it be whole hoods in our city,” he continues. Growing up, he paid attention to his LA family that were involved in street culture and knew he wanted to steer clear of that lifestyle. “My uncle’s sons died. And they dying from banging, no cancer or nothing. My mom taking me to the funerals as a little kid, showing me the bodies, showing me that this isn’t always the outcome but it can be. So I learned from a young age.”
In junior high school, Spank moved to Texas. “I got that lean culture, that Texas culture. I got a piece of it, especially in my music,” he explains. “The music hard out there. Texas like my second home.”
He moved back to California as an adult, but this time to LA. “I was able to experience LA. It was cool, I was really out here on the buses doing all the shit the LA n***a was doing.” After living in LA for a year, he moved back to Hemet. “I caught a case back in Hemet, doing my shit and I went to jail for two years. In jail I decided I was about to rap, then I got out and I’ve been sticking to my rap plan ever since.” He actually wrote his viral track “Caucasian” while incarcerated, and recorded and dropped it once he was released.
Even though people may mistake the Hemet native for an Angeleno, he’s made it his goal to stay true to the IE sound and where he came from. “Being from Hemet, nobody knew. Everyone thought I was from LA cuz the producers had been messing with me. I had the good LA producers, so everyone figured I was from LA. I don’t know if it was a curse or a blessing, but I’m here,” he remarks. He travels from Hemet to LA often and has forced the LA music scene to make room for a new wave, with his unique voice and catchy lyrics. He’s been working closely with Mitchy Slick, Rbaron MoneyCorps Music Group, and producer extraordinaire Hit-Boy.
Spank says he appreciates all the opportunities LA has to offer musically, and hopes that he can continue to soak the streets up with his Hemet persona. Although he’s content now, he aims for Grammy status and tries to out-rap himself every time he makes a song.
“I’m just an artist pushing, tryna put me and my sound on, me and the people around me have an IE sound and not like a LA sound. It’s a Southern California sound, but it’s like a whole new futuristic sound that no one has heard before. So, I think I’m here to kick the door down and present it to the people.”