Hailing from Northern Virginia, NovaCain is embracing his blindness and utilizing music as a means to share his message of perseverance.
Mario Nelson experienced an improbably horrific stretch of time that few people are likely to duplicate. Nelson, who raps by the stage name NovaCain, lost his sight, stepfather and mother all by the time he was a young adult. But rather than dwell in the depths of despair or become bogged down by the weighty realism of such loss, NovaCain instead has turned to music as an outlet for this pain, turning personal tragedy into something positive.
As a rap artist, NovaCain—who avoids the explicit lyrics commonplace in the genre as a sign of empathy and acute self-awareness—has not only used his words to uplift, but has also taken action with The Blind Culture Movement, something that encapsulates NovaCain’s sentiment that “blindness is a culture, not a disability.” StripJoints spoke NovaCain about how he is using his voice as a beacon for others, sight unseen.
His latest track, “Striptease,” is being promoted directly to strip club DJs through Concrete Marketing’s StripJointsMusic.com.
THE ED PUB: What was the inspiration for the name NovaCain? And does it relate in some way to your blindness?
NOVACAIN: As for the inspiration for NovaCain, there’s a two-sided answer to that. The first answer is that I’m from Northern Virginia, so “Nova” is for Northern Virginia. And “Cain” — I’m blind, I walk with a cane. So that’s where the name NovaCain came from. But also, I feel while going through all of the stuff that I’ve been through in life, it’s kind of made me numb to a lot of stuff. Some people feel like I may not have a lot of empathy towards stuff, or due to me being blind, (thinking) I’ll only able to achieve so much. I’m kind of numb to people who feel that sense, that feeling of failure. I don’t understand how people can’t overcome something. There’s other people with disabilities out there that have overcome. So I can be kind of numb to that situation as well. And that is the two-part answer to my name.
“I can lose my mom, I lost my sight, I lost my relationships with my brothers, I lost my dad. I’ve been through so much loss, but at the end of the day, I still gained. So that’s the biggest message with me. When it comes down to my blindness, it’s just showing people that there’s always something to gain, no matter what you lose.” – NovaCain
THE ED PUB: How difficult is it to maintain a positive attitude about your blindness? You lost your parents at the same time that you lost your vision. When you lose your parents, many people in your position would have just given up. What kept you going and moving forward?
NOVACAIN: I mean, trying to be positive about my blindness. That’s not hard for me at all. I don’t look at blindness as being a hindrance or a curse so it doesn’t bother me in that aspect. I’ve been through so much and I feel like life has thrown me so much stuff. Somebody out there, or something is wanting me to fail and I’m just not willing to lay down that easily. So that’s why I’m able to keep going. And also I feel like I was put in this position to represent the blind culture and people who don’t have a voice; show people that different kids or blind people, or even just kids period, or different people period, that no matter how much you feel you lose, there’s always something to gain. I can lose my mom, I lost my sight, I lost my relationships with my brothers, I lost my dad. I’ve been through so much loss, but at the end of the day, I still gained. So that’s the biggest message with me. When it comes down to my blindness, it’s just showing people that there’s always something to gain, no matter what you lose.
THE ED PUB: You’ve also formed something called The Blind Culture Movement. What is that?
NOVACAIN: It’s a culture thing with me. It’s a motto. Blindness is a culture, not a disability. I live by that, I walk that every day and that’s The Blind Culture Movement. It’s about just showing other blind people that, “Yo, this is what it is. We’re dope. We’re still cool. We’re still fly. We out here. We’re doing everything these other people are doing. We’re living in a world that’s made for sight.” So in some way, shape, or form, I feel like we’re superheroes or we have some type of superhuman ability. And that’s what The Blind Culture Movement is about.
“This is why you should be playing ‘Striptease’: because this song is going to make all the broke people in the strip clubs sit down and all the ones that got the money, stand up. When you throwing ones, we’re throwing hundred dollar bills over here. These ladies will love you DJs when you play this song because they’re gonna wanna come get these hundreds, you know?” – NovaCain
THE ED PUB: It’s been noted that your music consists of clean lyrics over hard hitting 808 trap beats, and you call it “clean trap music.” Why is it important for you to have clean lyrics when there’s so many rappers out there trying so hard to go as explicit as possible?
NOVACAIN: With me, it’s more about keeping the roots of the original hip-hop alive. And also just understanding that some people may not want their kids (listening) or they might not want that kind of language around them so I just try and be respectful a little bit. My music still has got some adult content lyric-wise, but I feel like the cussing is just not needed. It’s diluent to culture and I just wanna keep that culture alive and be a little bit more respectful to the parents out here who have kids that somehow will get their hands on my music. I’m just trying to be a role model in that sense.
THE ED PUB: StripJointsMusic is currently promoting your song “Striptease” to over 1,000 strip club DJs across the country, and it’s obviously a perfect track for this industry. I want you in your words to talk to all the strip club DJs right now and just tell them why they should be playing “Striptease” today.
NOVACAIN: This is why you should be playing “Striptease”: because this song is going to make all the broke people in the strip clubs sit down and all the ones that got the money, stand up. So these girls are gonna love you guys when you play this song because this song strictly talks about throwing hundred dollar bills. When you throwing ones, we’re throwing hundred dollar bills over here. These ladies will love you DJs when you play this song because they’re gonna wanna come get these hundreds, you know?