It’s been over three (!!) years since we featured seriously talented artist Nicolas Askren aka Sirius Blvck in our Music Issue in the fall of 2014. In the story, penned by David Lindquist, Blvck was thinking about heading to the West Coast to see what life and work would be like in a whole different part of the country. That moment has arrived. To catch this guy live before he leaves, check out tonight’s farewell performance at the The Hi Fi starting at 9pm.
To celebrate Blvck’s contribution to the local music community, we wanted to share his story from the Music issue below. Also check out a 2016 story written for NUVO by Kyle Long.
The irony of landing in this fashion-focused magazine isn’t lost on Sirius Blvck.
Wardrobe decisions are more or less an afterthought for the Indianapolis rapper, who says he hits thrift stores when he needs clothes. “Canadian Tuxedo” is Blvck’s signature song, and its all-denim shout-out isn’t all that sarcastic.
For a chat at Fountain Square’s Brass Ring Lounge, Blvck arrives in a T-shirt casually accented by a collared denim shirt.
“I feel as long as somebody’s not saying, ‘Look, clean up a little bit,’ I’m doing pretty good,” he says with a laugh.
But don’t misjudge Blvck as a slacker. He spends most of his time building a hip-hop body of work.
Since May 2012, he’s issued four albums and an EP. His pinpoint rhymes paired with relaxed and hazy beats pushed 2013 album “Rite of Passage” to the Village Voice year-end critics poll, followed by 2014’s “Year of the Snvke.”
“I’ve always just wanted to create and make music,” he says. “I don’t know what a persona or an image consists of.”
That claim of naiveté may apply to himself, but Blvck holds a strong grasp of pop-culture icons. He’s recorded songs titled “Bill Murray,” “Ghost of Johnny Cash,” and “Lisa Bonet.”
Asked to name a musician with a style worth following, Blvck mentions Danny Brown — the out-there, idiosyncratic rapper from Detroit who favors a bold tapestry of colors and Moschino patterns.
Blvck’s crew of Indianapolis hip-hop artists, Ghost Town Collective, performed as a supporting act for Brown at Old National Centre in May 2013.
“Dope style, with a doesn’t-give-a-fuck mentality — but it’s an expensive one,” Blvck says of Brown. “That’s what I’ll lean toward when the time comes. I’ll still look the same, but all my clothes won’t come from the thrift store.”
Blvck, a 24-year-old with the given name of Nicolas Askren, hasn’t lived a life of luxury. Born in Gary, he was 14 when he moved to Indianapolis with his mother and five younger siblings.
Home was the hardscrabble Mars Hill neighborhood, and Mom worked nights as a bartender. “I was making dinner with the little one on my side,” Blvck says, gesturing that he cradled his baby sister in one arm while working food prep with the other.
It’s an anecdote that helps explain a stage name borrowed from the Harry Potter stories. “He was like the guiding voice to Harry,” the rapper says about Sirius Black, the book’s character. “He was always looking out for him.” (On substituting a “v” for the “a” in Black’s name, Blvck says it helps him stand out during Google searches).
After excelling in English courses at charter high school Decatur Discovery Academy, Blvck enrolled at the University of Indianapolis. He couldn’t afford more than one year of studies there, and a subsequent stop at Ivy Tech lasted one month.
Blvck shifted his focus to music and spoken-word poetry. He rapped in hybrid indie-rock band Indian City Weather (performing as Niqolas Askren) and became a fixture of poetry slams (performing as NiQ).
With strong ties to the do-it-yourself punk scene, Blvck’s eventual hip-hop moves attracted a black and white fan base.
“I don’t want to relate to anything or anyone specific; I just want the people who feel what I’m saying to latch on,” he says. “My focus isn’t relating to a certain group because I come from similar background. I want to make music for the people who feel it. That’s it.”
In the “Canadian Tuxedo” video, posted to YouTube last October, Blvck hosts a backyard party reminiscent of the legendary Long Beach barbecue seen in Snoop and Dre’s 1992 video for “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.”
Amid scenes of tattooed friends enjoying Hamm’s beer in cans and 40s wrapped in paper sacks, Blvck raps, “I never made music for anybody but me. Never gave two shits about if you was diggin’ it. Never felt the need to change or stop chasing my dreams. Coincidentally, slowly but surely they’re listening.”
Following the January release of “Year of the Snvke,” Blvck performed throughout the Southeast and Midwest as part of the “Ghost Gun Summer Tour” — an amalgam of acts from the Ghost Town, Heavy Gun and Rad Summer camps. Blvck and peers John Stamps, Oreo Jones, Grey Granite and Freddie Bunz plan a sequel outing (“Ghost Gun Summer Vacation Tour”) in August.
Blvck’s next album, “Light in the Attic,” will be recorded in California with producer Bones of Ghosts, otherwise known as Brighton, England, native Paul Schneider, and Indianapolis-based studio engineer Matt Riefler.
In a YouTube tease of “Light in the Attic” content, Blvck tackles an urban-rural dichotomy that’s second nature to Hoosiers. During a single verse, he raps about drinking whiskey on train tracks before taking dirt roads back to the concrete, where “cigarettes burn slow.”
It’s imagery of taking it easy that gives way to an insistent rhetorical question: “If you ain’t chasin’ dreams, what the fuck y’all doing?”
Similar to many musicians who live in Fountain Square and other artistic havens of the city, Blvck survives by picking up day jobs as required.
He’s eyeing a sabbatical, though. Blvck hopes to leave Indianapolis for a year to work on nothing but music in Seattle or another West Coast city.
“I think the advantage would be new air,” he says. “I want to go out and see what it’s like.”