“There’s a really interesting little hip-hop community here at CC that no one really pays any attention to or knows about that is vibrant and thriving,” says junior Clay Edwards, an especially successful rapper known as Cisco the Nomad. “My style is completely influenced by the people that I’ve met here.”
Edwards based his artist name (Cisco the Nomad) on the name of the travelling singer in the novel “100 Years of Solitude,” who tells the news of the day and is remembered after death for making awesome music and telling great stories. “It’s what I want to do,” Edwards shares. “I just want to make stuff and give it to people and just have it out there. Whatever capacity I can do that in I’ll do it.”
Edwards was born and raised in the city of Denver, with music a consistent component of his life. “My dad played percussion in folk bands all around Denver so there were always instruments in the house and he was always playing music.” This exposure from an early age led him to start making his own music in middle school. Despite many attempts, he was never able to convince other students to form a band with him. It wasn’t until high school, when he started freestyle rapping with his friends, that he saw his musical career take form. He has performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and at other small venues throughout the city.
Edwards is a natural performer. His original intentions in coming to CC were mostly to be involved in the theater program and to act as much as he could, but along the way, he has built his own stage presence as a rapper and has gathered a strong following. Just two months ago, ‘Cisco the Nomad’ was given a feature in Denver’s very popular Westword magazine—Edwards says, “It’s a dream come true. Westword’s huge in Denver—it’s a big deal. They called me and I pretty much shit my pants.”
The source of this recognition is also meaningful since it ties in with the purpose behind Edward’s music. “I want Denver to get the respect it deserves, first and foremost. There are stories in the city that people don’t really understand because of the really touristy gloss on the place. There’s a lot of high level business but at the same time there are a lot of people who are really struggling and so they deserve to be heard.”
Edwards uses SoundCloud, an online audio sharing platform, to release his music, with each song being created through a uniquely collaborative process. In particular, sophomore Sam Wise has been a producer-type figure for the rapper. “Sam’s beats emotionally dictate the way that I write the music because there’s a through line [a consistent theme] and so it’s like he is directing the whole thing,” says Edwards.
On stage, the rapper will sometimes be accompanied by other students. “I perform with Jeremy Zucker all the time,” Edwards says. “We collaborate quite a bit. And since Sam Wise produces everything he’s usually up there getting all excited like nodding back and forth.”
When performing, Cisco describes it as “exhilarating and crazy. It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s awesome, cause you look out and your friends are out there, people you run into on campus are out there, and everyone is looking up at you, and you’re really sharing a piece of yourself with everybody so that’s awesome.”
However, for Edwards, this experience is unique to CC. “There’s a totally different vibe when performing on-campus vs. off-campus. When playing at a party I know I’ll get a packed room that will pay attention because they’re already there having a good time, I just have to amplify that. When playing at a show, no one knows who I am—I gotta get the crowd on my side first, and I might only have 20 minutes. People are there to see other people—no one gives a shit about what I’m doing so I gotta really own it.”
Looking towards the future, Edwards wants to continue making music, especially with and for the CC community. Edwards says he receives “encouragement from all sides,” with people consistently giving vocal support and help. The type of collaborative support and effort that backs the student rapper is incredible and definitely unique to CC. Edwards, when asked what he wanted his fellow students to hear from him, said, “Thank you. Just thank you. It’s amazing how dedicated and supportive people can be.”