What does a new artist do when a big-time star comes knocking on their door? Ask Queens, New York native NO1-NOAH, about when R&B heavyweight Summer Walker gave him the ultimate cosign on Instagram.
“People were tagging and DMing me, telling me what’s going on,” NO1 reflected in the late spring inside Billboard’s New York City offices. “I log in and check the post, and the first thing I think is, ‘Does she even know that’s my music?’ It was surprising, but I knew I had to keep working. People kept tagging her, and a week or so later, she sent me a message.”
At the time, Walker had just launched her new imprint Ghetto Earth Records when she found NO1’s music on her discovery page. His emo-leaning tracks and ethereal sound were enough for Summer to sign him as the first artist on the label in December 2020. This resulted in NOAH re-polishing his sound and asserting himself with his label debut EP, You Should Come Over, which dropped in April 2022.
The seven-track project features the singer embracing a style of music that finds him expressing his wants and needs with a significant other in a way he hasn’t done before. On tracks such as “Bounce,” “Smokin N’ Bumpin,” “Monday-Friday,” NO1 taps into a more sensual and sexual side to his art — one inspired by Walker speaking to him about authenticity, and putting out music that’s real to him.
“Summer told me to be myself and be free to create,” NO1 said. “I’m feeling that now more than ever. That was the change in my mind that was like, ‘Let me just give this a try,’ and I finally feel good for once in my life. People are looking at me more now, so why not give them who you really are? There’s pressure there where you’re like, ‘Damn, should I say this in the song?’ But at the end of the day, who really cares?”
The Over It singer took a step further and laced NO1 up with a feature on his EP opener “Bonjour,” which recently received a video treatment directed by Arman Mitchell and maliaSHUTup. The song is their third collaboration, following Walker’s “SWV” and “White Tee,” and it’s an example of NO1 stepping out of his comfort zone under the guidance of his label boss. He added, “Even though I’m very reserved and to myself, this moment in my life with the EP and Ghetto Earth has me more confident in myself and being comfortable showing people that.”
NO1 works off what he’s feeling in the moment, and his previous work centered around sadness, due to certain situations he was going through. However, he noticed listeners were placing him in a box, and he didn’t want to sound too negative. You Should Come Over represents that, and shows the evolution of an artist who understands the importance of being true to how you feel in the moment while creating.
“One thing that I think this label is going to do well and show over time is that it’s just very real,” NO1 said. “Especially musically and lyrically, it’s going to be very raw. When you come listen to music over here, you’re going to know you’re about to get this real shit. We will serve it that way and tell the truth with what we’re doing.”