How did you two get started in the music industry?
Craig “Na Palm” Palm: I started out free-styling a capella over beats way back when I was a frat boy. I never took it seriously but I’d have a mob of people around me and we’d all be drunk and I’d be flirting with girls or making fun of what my boy was wearing.
Na’el Shehade: In high school at 16 years old I started making beats. When I was 17 I rented a garage because my dad wanted me out of the house. I had people in and out recording. My dad was like, “This is way too much,” so I paid $600 a month for the garage and at the time that was a lot. I was barely making rent but it was cool. I got a licensing deal with NBC and they released one of my songs so I made a couple thousand bucks. At 17 you’re thinking, “Oh my God, this is so crazy.”
Can you explain the feeling you get when you’re here in the studio creating music?
Na’el: It’s like a drug, it’s a high. When I made “Go Go Girl” I just knew it was a hit song. With music it has to feel like a hit, it has to feel amazing. One of my favorite songs on the radio right now is “Beautiful People” and when it first comes on you think, “How did they come up with that?” It grabs you, you know? And honestly there’s no formula to make a hit, you just kind of make it.
What would you say is the most popular lyric you’ve written thus far?
Craig: “Dirty girls like dirty beats!” That saying by far has taken me further than anything with merchandise, girls and guys tweeting me and sending pictures.
Most recent tattoo?
Craig: One my lady actually just drew, it’s a gypsy with a gun. One of our favorite songs is a Van Morrison song and it says, “I want to rock your gypsy soul.” I thought that was a really powerful saying. She has “gypsy soul” written on her neck so they’re not like corny matching tattoos but they both mean the same thing.
Biggest deal breakers with a girl?
Na’el: Being a groupie! And not liking you for you, liking you for what you do.
Craig: Exactly. When my girlfriend met me she loved me before she knew I was a rapper. I met her in Vegas and she thought I was fun to hang out with and I saw she wasn’t like a party slut and all of that. We hit it off and she brought good energy to me and she’s a good family girl.
How do you deal with groupies when you’re in a relationship?
Craig: Honestly it starts with trust and respect. I made my girlfriend aware of my past and she did too. Like, I’m not here to waste your time, you could go get any guy you want and technically I could grab any girl off stage, not to be cocky, but I’m not here for that. I’m 29, I’ve been around the block and I just found it was the right timing. When I’m in the green room, it’s cool for fans but I don’t want girls all around me. I’ve got my boys, we get high as f-ck, we party, I’ll sign autographs and all that but it’s a respect thing.
Biggest highlight from your career thus far?
Craig: It wasn’t that big of a deal but we had a placement on MTV’s “The Hills”. “Go Go Girls” played for like 15 seconds in the background when Brody was hitting on Kristin. Little things like that, just to hear his violins and my lyrics flowin’ was so cool.
Na’el: It was awesome. I mean it was made in a small studio right over here, just a small 500 square foot studio. To make a good song doesn’t mean you have to have a big studio. This all doesn’t really mean anything to be honest with you, it’s just all looks. That song was made with only six instruments in the whole song. There’s not much going on but it’s the feeling and the lyrics. I mean, he wrote it at his apartment on a crate because he had no furniture in the house.
When you’re on stage is it as much fun as one can imagine?
Craig: Oh, absolutely. A drug is a cliché way to put it but it absolutely is one. You almost black out because it goes so fast but it’s so amazing. My favorite was opening for Pitbull in front of 9,000 people, that was insane. It was so cool to see people waving their glow sticks and just feeling our song.
What is the key to creating a following?
Na’el: It’s marketing. It’s the songs that you put out. I mean, he was doing 80 shows in one year at one point so that right there plus this guy’s on Facebook every single day responding to everyone.
Craig: Everyday we’re pounding it. We have probably 50 street teams all over so if I do a show we’re calling up New York kids and we’ll throw them free T-shirts and they’ll go sell 200 tickets to a show. They tell ten friends then those people will tell ten of their friends. When we started we were throwing CDs everywhere we’d go. We bought 70,000 CDs and sent 10 kids around the country to pass them out. We bought our own CDs just to give to people.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Craig: You know, I actually don’t. I’m pretty chill. I have this party mantra about me and I love to party afterwards but I don’t get super high or anything like that. I like to be alone with my friends and my producers. I gotta put on a good show. The last thing I want is for someone to think, “Oh, he’s so cool in his music videos but he’s sloppy on stage.” I have to sweat my ass off, remember all of my lyrics and rehearse for hours. It’s like working out for an hour.
Have you had any embarrassing moments on stage?
Craig: Oh, yes. When I opened up for The Cool Kids it was terrible. The Cool Kids are legends around here, they’re awesome and they’re super hip-hop but also chill. There were 1,500 kids at the show because they sell out across the country. I came out and was all super energetic but no one was moving. I was so flustered that I forgot the lyrics to “What’s Yo Name” on the second verse. This was a year and a half old song! I looked at my DJ and I said, “Run it back,” and I played it off like it was a remix and he just played the next track. That had to be the most embarrassed I’ve ever been on stage. It was cool to be in front of them but I was just not opening for the right person, which you eventually learn.
Where will we find you guys ten years from now? Accepting a VMA?
Craig: That’s absolutely a goal, it is. I think with the team we have and the route we’re going with electronic music it’s a good fit for us. Like I said I’m a little older but I feel like I’m in my prime, I’m mature and I’m ready for this. A lot of times if you’re 19 and writing songs you run out of sh-t to say. You can only have so many backpacks and blunts. Not hatin’ on people but I’ve been through a lot, relationship wise and from losing people. My family went bankrupt when I was young, I didn’t come from much so I have a lot to talk about more than just partying.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
Craig: That’s easy. Mick Jagger, no doubt. I don’t want to creep him out but I’ve got him tattooed on me!
Na’el: For someone on the music side it would have to be Michael Jackson. Just to ask, “What is going on in your head to produce all of these amazing songs?”
Craig: And ask him if he can show you how to do that kick thing.
Na’el: Oh yeah! And the moonwalk.
Photography by Neal Agustin
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