HipHopDX Premiere – As an artist on Mello Music Group’s roster, Nolan The Ninja is in good company. Oddisee, Mr. Lif, Kook Keith and Open Mike Eagle are just a fraction of the talent that makes up the MMG family. It wasn’t something Nolan could ever predict — it just kind of happened.

“It was a cool feeling to know they were interested,” Nolan tells HipHopDX. “I’ve admired their work over the years. So for them to consider me to be a part of the roster felt dope. I’ve just been working, you know? You never really know what’s gonna happen. You just keep going.”

Nolan announced the signing in January and has been prepping his MMG debut Sportee ever since. Ahead of its release, Nolan has dropped off a video for “Oranges,” the follow-up to “2 Cents” featuring The Cool Kids’ Chuck Inglish.

“I met Chuck about two years ago at a show he did in Detroit,” he says of the collaboration. “I’ve been a Cool Kids fan since high school. His solo work is fire, too. He’s been inspiring me for years. His style is unmatched on beats and rhymes. He’s a legend, if you ask me.”

The Motor City MC describes his upcoming project as “a great medium of solid rhymes, beats and grooves,” but insists it’s still “raw Hip Hop.”

“My older work is real gritty and dark,” he says. “Literally hard-to-the-core [laughs]. But Sportee includes dusty samples, lo-fi EQ — the works. My mans 5ynoT produced the entire project off his SP-303.”

In terms of the current musical landscape, he’s seemingly pleased rappers are actually … rapping.

“There’s tons of rappers out here keeping bars alive,” he explains. “But at the same time, sound is evolving and new factors come into play. At this point, all you can do is find your preference and stick with it. The whole ‘old rap versus. new rap’ argument is kind of old now. Everyone is free to express themselves however they want. Again, there’s a market for everything.”

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Sportee isn’t without some painfully personal revelations. One of the most emotionally vulnerable songs on the project — “Ace” — dissects his uncle’s battle with heroin.

“I wrote it shortly after my first LP He(art) was released,” Nolan says. “I was experiencing new things and feeling inspired to go harder. But at the same time, family stuff was going on, including my uncle being addicted to heroin. He’s much better now but at the time, it wasn’t looking too good.

“The project is meant to be ran like a freestyle mixtape, but I still wanted to include those reality marks, you know? It’s necessary.”

Sportee is expected to arrive on Friday (April 19) at midnight EST.

Until then, bump “Oranges” up top and pre-order the album here.