They’ve already performed at Splendour Festival and BBC Introducing, they’ve already picked up thousands of followers on social media - but groundbreaking trap metal artists Nyrobi and Chaya Beckett-Messam, aka ALT BLK ERA, are just getting started. We hear all about their journey so far, and what they have planned for the future…
“We make nu metal and whatever else we want.” In this single sentence during my interview with Nyrobi and Chaya Beckett-Messam, the teenage sisters behind the genre-smashing ALT BLK ERA, the spirit of the West Bridgford duo is perfectly encapsulated.
Empowerment personified, the pair are knocking down barriers in an area of the music industry that, in their words, suffers from “a real lack of diversity”. As “two young black women who are bringing energy and power to the stage”, they are reinventing what it means to be metal. And their ever-evolving sound is defining them as an act that are impossible to define.
“We grew up listening to old school soul, R&B, reggae, but then one day we were in the studio, making Obsession, and we realised we needed something harder, that there was something missing,” says Nyrobi of the progression of their style. “So we threw in a guitar, a heavy bassline, we started rapping over it, and we realised that was our sound. Bringing different genres into the mix - combining rap, rock, punk - helps to show that there are no rules when it comes to music. We’re just about expressing ourselves.”
Expressing themselves has clearly worked, with the sisters gaining a loyal following in a short amount of time. By refusing to box themselves into a single category, and by taking swings that have never been taken before, they’ve found that a growing audience are connecting with their fearlessness and authenticity.
We were in the studio and we realised that there was something missing. So we threw in a guitar, a heavy bassline, we started rapping, and we realised that was our sound
“The response has been so positive. We’ve had a great reaction from people who are into so many different things; rock, grime, heavy metal heads with proper jackets and big beards. It feels like we bring together so many sections of people, no matter their background or what type of music they typically listen to. When we’re performing, everyone is in that moment together, there are no barriers to enjoying what we do.”
Anyone who’s seen ALT BLK ERA on stage will know they’re all about energy. Sporting punk attire, ramping the volume to max, getting the crowd moving - they’re an act that gives it their all every time. So confident and self-assured are they as performers that it’s easy to forget how new to the game they are; that they haven’t been doing this for decades. Yet, sitting on Zoom, there’s almost a shyness to their demeanour - so how do they transform their mindset to win over big crowds when they take to the stage? Well, quite easily, it turns out.
“We are always so ready to perform,” Nyrobi affirms with a smile. “Being given the opportunity to do so is such a blessing. Even backstage we’re so pumped to get out there and tear it up. Sometimes the crowd will know who we are and they’ll be screaming when we walk on stage. Others aren’t sure what to expect, but the second the first song kicks in, their faces change and they’re fully on board for the ride. There’s no better feeling than soaking in that atmosphere, so we’re always ready to go.”
And when I say they win over big crowds, I mean it. Since we first spoke to Nyrobi for the LeftLion website back in March, ALT BLK ERA have gone on to perform everywhere from Splendour Festival to Hockley Hustle, as the support act for False Heads to one of the headliners of BBC Introducing.
Sometimes the crowd will know who we are and they’ll be screaming when we walk on stage. Others aren’t sure what to expect, but the second the first song kicks in, their faces change and they’re fully on board
For all the incredible highlights of the past twelve months, though, two moments stand out in particular. “Rock City will always have a really special place in our hearts, because it was the first time we’ve performed in front of a big crowd of completely mixed backgrounds,” Nyrobi muses. “It was the moment we realised we could do this forever, it was such a warm and special environment.
“Riverside Festival was also really special. There weren’t many people who went there to see us specifically, but for our last song people were running down the steps to come and mosh in front of the stage. There was a massive swarm just belting it over to come and party. That was insane.”
So how do two self-described “misfits”, who are yet to hit the twenty mark, break through so impressively, picking up thousands of followers on social media and tens of thousands of streams on Spotify in the process? The support of the receptive, expressive minds in Nottingham’s music scene has played a big part, they say, with the pair being welcomed into a “really strong community” in the city. “Our success so far has been down to that,” Nyrobi adds. “Everyone has been behind us from the start, and we’re so thankful for that. So whenever we do a show in Notts we make sure we go hard, and that’s our way of expressing how grateful we are.”
It’s tough to imagine that the duo will go harder than at their headline gig at The Bodega, which is currently scheduled for Friday 31 March. A venue, like so many in the city, that is known for spotlighting the next wave of world-dominating musical talent - Arctic Monkeys, London Grammar and more have cut their teeth in that iconic upstairs room - seems the perfect place for this exciting act to take the next step towards stardom.
“We’re excited for what the future has in store,” Nyrobi admits. “We're going to be releasing new music soon, and we’ve been doing a few shows in London - hopefully we can start taking our music even further around the country.” With a fearless attitude, utterly unique sound and the support of the city behind them, we reckon that’s the least they can achieve.
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