Who am I? by Nijel Thomas
My name is Nijel. When I was much younger my nickname was mostly Nijey, but as I got older, into high school and college, friends began to call me Niggy. It was definitely more of a “cuter” nickname to be called by girls, and it never bothered me because it is a nickname derived from my actual name, rather than a racial slur. When I tell people that Niggy is my artistic name they first seem very awestricken, especially before I tell them that my real name is Nijel. In a drum circle I once participated in, here in Pittsburgh, comprised mostly of middle-aged white members, after telling them my artistic name was Niggy one responded saying people in his time would most likely not agree with that being my name. There is much truth in this statement. I often get the same sensation when I tell people of all races and ages my artistic name. Depending on who I tell, however, they may respond more hysterically to Niggy being my choice of an artist name. From the start, the biggest critic of this name was my family. My brother often says I need to change my artistic name to Nijey, my original nickname. This choice of a name specifically came to haunt my parents. Before I was born, they decided to name me Nigel, but with the spelling Ni-J-el, because of the fear of white people using my name as an excuse to call me the n-word.
Speaking of family, I am the youngest of a very smart family. I have an older brother and sister, and both father and mother in my life. All of my family is from Baltimore City, whereas I was the only one born in Chicago. I spent the first 5 years of my life in Aurora, Illinois, before my family moved back to Maryland to a Baltimore suburb called North Laurel. The community I grew up in was very diverse in terms of race and class, but all-in-all was very friendly to one another. Upon moving to Maryland, I was able to skip kindergarten because of an accelerated program I had partaken in while living in Chicago.
My musicianship had begun in 3rd grade where I learned viola from my teacher, with the coincidental name, Mr. Bowman. In 4th grade I started to pick up percussion, in which I continued to play in school band until junior year of high school. In 7th grade I had encouraged my parents to get me an electric drum set for Christmas out of my desire to start making beats, although I did not actually start learning how to use studio software until my sophomore year of college! I have also always loved sports, putting down high school band to focus on football and track my junior and senior years. I came to the University of Pittsburgh as a walk-on to the track team, however, an injury led to this ending, as well as a new beginning, to my music-making passion.
by Nijel "Niggy" Thomas