Architect and rapper

@Roberto Arribas

IE University student Nicolás Salas is preparing his first album, “Abstract Psychopathy,” which will be released at the end of the summer.

Nicolás Salas Léon always carries a small, well-worn notebook and a generic pen in his backpack. For him, these two simple objects are treasures. In the small notebook he writes down his thoughts—anything that strikes him as interesting, original, or different—and hunts down emotions. On the cover of the notebook, written by hand, is the phrase: “A curious traveler.” On its pages, scribbled to the margins, are thoughts braided with personal reflections. It is a highly valuable notebook because, as an amateur rapper, it is where he develops his songs and unloads his creativity every day.

At twenty four years old, Nicolás Salas is preparing what will be his first album, titled “Abstract Psychopathy.” He expects to begin recording in September, in Segovia: the city where he studies architecture at IE University. This Sevillano has finally begun the adventure of recording his first rap LP, and will do it on his own time. To do this, he’s relying on the special collaboration of a Turkish student from the university, Karim Motaouakkil. In addition to advising him, Motaouakkil will act as sound technician and edit videos.

I ask what rap means to him, and Nicolas fills with energy. With a sweet and understated Andalusian accent, he tells me that, “rap is one of the major cultural movements in the history of music; a source of creativity that shows, unlike any other genre, the feelings you have inside.”

Photo by: Roberto Arribas

By “genetics,” Nicholas should have been a child of rock or heavy metal, not rap or hip hop. Joking, Nicolas discloses that on the day he was born, his father was attending a Metallica concert while his mother was in the hospital. “My father was a true rocker. He arrived late to my birth because he didn’t want to miss even one of their songs,” he says, laughing.

When I was a child I liked heavy metal until I was twelve or thirteen years old. Then, my tastes changed and I began to like other types of music, too,” he says. What made you change? I ask with curiosity. Nicolas, beginning to smile, clarifies: “The film ‘8 Mile’ (2002), which stars, among others, the rapper Eminem. I discovered what inspired ‘old-school’ rap: people who go through hard times and want to express it, looking for a way out through music and words.

Immediately after, he tells me about times during recess at school when he hung out with friends to “make tunes, try things out, and listen to rhymes.” “The discovery of rap was something extraordinary,” he says sincerely. Which bands or rappers inspire you? The Sevillano does not hesitate: “SFDK, Foyone, Ayax+Prok…”

#UncutRap

His album “Abstract Psychopathy” will be released at the end of the summer, with eight or nine songs. “It’s made from the humility it began with. It just makes what I’m already creating more official. I will be a rapper when people call me that,” he says with amazing sincerity.

The #UncutRap album will have a variety of songs, mixing rap with reggae and flamenco. It will also contain “raw songs” in an old-school style, and compositions “where the lyrics flow to the rhythm of the drums and capture a very powerful rhyme without any frills.”

With “Abstract Psychopathy,” he is trying to offer something new. “Karim and I think that it will help us realize who we are and where we can go. According to our philosophy, music has no barriers, and therefore we like to make music born out of fusion and diversity,” he says.

The album will be financed exclusively by the two IE University students, although they haven’t ruled out a future micro-patronage or crowdfunding campaign to support the release.

The London experience

Nicolás Salas is an architect who graduated from the University of Westminster’s European center, with four campuses in the heart of London. Referring his time in the United Kingdom’s largest city, the Sevillano says they were “unforgettable years,” while clarifying that, “London has given me a lot, but has also taken things away. Not everything was good, though the city has influenced who I am and how I am, and has given me a global and cosmopolitan worldview.”

While studying abroad, he remembers working several jobs. He was a server, and interned for a year in an architecture studio in England, “where I learned a lot.”

Return to Spain

London’s climate is highly unpredictable (one day there might be torrential rain, and then a change from cold to hot in a matter of minutes), and nothing like Seville’s. “I needed a change,” he said. He decided to get an architecture degree in Spain, and found the perfect place to move forward professionally on IE University’s campus in Segovia. “It’s a university with international character and is one of the best in the world for innovation. My degree is taught in English and IE University really encourages their entrepreneurial-minded students,” says Nicolás, who emphasized that, “the degree in architecture here is a very comprehensive degree because it covers aspects of the discipline that other, more specialization-focused institutions don’t cover sufficiently.”

And yes, the climate of Segovia surprised him. If London is difficult, Segovia is worse. “I have never seen so much snow in a city in my life. Winter here is difficult for someone from Seville.” However, he is happy. “Life in Segovia is relaxed and beautiful. I think that it’s a city you can really take advantage of, as it offers many opportunities for young people with innovative projects,” he says.

Athletic side

Nicolas continues to surprise me throughout our conversation. Talking about his past, he reveals that he has been the five-time Spanish and two-time European wrestling champion in different weight categories. “I gave it up to study,” he says with nostalgia. Then, he talks about another project that excites him: preparing a trip with some friends in which he will travel 350 kilometers from Málaga to Sanlúcar de Barrameda via a route that is almost anarchic, as it does not follow the shortest possible path. He and his friends hope to find “inspiration and peace.” Certainly the young Sevillano will bring his worn notebook with him, using it capture his emotions and muses every day.