The Rochester hip-hop entertainer straddles two worlds E! News UK
ROCHESTER – Nathan Smooth wants to do it big. While it’s not exactly unheard of for a recording artist, the hip-hop musician isn’t turning his back on his hometown.
Smooth is the name of artist Nate Burkhalter, originally from Rochester, released his first single and video, “10,000 Lakes”, which was released in late September. As the title suggests, this is Minnesota. And he’s not just invoking the North Star State, his new single embraces it. How many hip-hop videos feature the artist fishing in a Minnesota lake?
“Caught me something thick,” Smooth sings.
Aside from love letter shots of First Avenue, the Minneapolis skyline, fishing on the lake and the (royal) atrium of the Rochester Art Center, the song is about remembering where you come without losing sight of where you are going. On its own, the song’s message is simple, timeless advice. However, for Burkhalter, remembering where he came from while keeping his eyes on where he is going currently places him straddling two worlds.
“I want to see the Roch hip hop scene grow and I think I can play a big part in that,” he said. “At the same time, to do that might require me to go to different places where hip hop is bigger in comparison.”
The studio and the engineer he works with are in Minneapolis. However, he still feels driven to do what he can to uplift Rochester’s hip-hop scene.
“I want both,” he says.
Burkhalter has worked with engineer Joe Mabbott, owner of Hideaway studio in Minneapolis, for his recent and upcoming songs. Doomtree’s Lazerbeak helps market the work.
Both worked with big names in hip-hop Mabbott along with Snoop Dogg, Atmosphere, and Brother Ali and Lazerbeak was a big promoter for Lizzo as she rose to stardom.
With no venues dedicated to hip-hop, Burkhalter’s stage debut will more than likely take place in Minneapolis.
“Chances are that when I first play live it won’t be in Rochester,” he said.
He said he plans to release more songs, including one this month, before scheduling live shows.
“I just want a decent volume of songs before I start performing,” he said.
Burkhalter turned to recording and writing hip-hop songs after the Fourth Street Gym closed in 2014. The nonprofit youth gym was where he practiced his other passion, boxing. The gymnasium was the last of the private boxing clubs in southeastern Minnesota at the time.
Burkhalter maintains his fitness routine to clear his head. Boxing taught him to focus, he says.
Now that the gym is closed, he puts that unique spirit towards the music.
His inspiration came from his participation in the Soundset Music Festival, an annual hip-hop festival in the Twin Cities that grew to attract top talented hip-hop artists from around the world.
“That’s where I think I really considered music, created music, and started to feel the energy of music,” he said. “Seeing this for the first time gave me a whole new perspective on music and what I wanted to do.”