Dorm room hip-hop: Nate Paulson style

By Stephanie Allen | 11/28/12 6:48pm


Courtesy / Nate Paulson
Nate Paulson

Nate Paulson knows that not every hip-hop lyric has to have a deep meaning, but it does have to be good. And that’s exactly what the Grand Valley State University senior is trying to prove: he has what it takes to be a good hip-hop artist.

Paulson has always loved music. He played saxophone in middle school, but hip-hop was more of his style.

“I was just like, a really big fan for such a long time that I started to learn what was considered good and bad and then I realized that maybe I could start creating similar good,” he said.

As a high school sophomore in Walled Lake, Mich., Paulson started messing around with rhymes with his basketball teammates, just for fun.

“In the locker room and stuff like that, we would just kinda make up little ones about each other and just kinda joke around and stuff, and I was always one of the more creative ones, so I just kept pushing that and pushing that,” Paulson said.

But he didn’t get serious, or produce music until his freshman year at GVSU when he started recording in his dorm room.

“I basically was looking out my window, hearing all these other kids going out to open mics and stuff and I saw a couple of them and they were getting a lot of praise, and I wasn’t trying to hate on any of them or anything, but I was like, ‘Man, I could do this,’” Paulson said. “So one day I went home, back to my dorm got on that slow Blue Socket Internet and I just said ‘Screw it.’ And I did some research and I bought a studio microphone and I brought it in the room, and then ever since then its just been an up and up.”

His dorm room recordings, very little sleep and a lot of dedication are starting to pay off for the 21-year-old. In August, Paulson competed, and won Sparkfest 2012 landing an EP record deal with Sparkhop, a local Southeast Michigan hip-hop label.

“I’m really pleased that it happened like that and, I mean, winning a contest or not – if it’s gonna happen, the things are happening that need to make it happen,” he said.

He released a self-produced album this summer, “Protect Your Dreams” out of his bedroom and has performed at fraternity and sorority events, at the Intersection and the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, the Crowfoot Ballroom in Pontiac, and at the Kalamazoo State Theatre with J. Cole.

For more than three years he’s been doing shows and has slowly gained fans across Michigan for what he calls, “The Grapevine,” his loyal group of followers.

“I think the reason that this has happened so fast for me, so far, is because I have a lot of people that would call me friends, or we would be good acquaintances, or something like that, where they would feel like it’d be worth their time to do that and I respect and thank those people, too,” he said.

It’s his loyal fans and support from family that keep him going, even through sleepless nights.

“I have 8 a.m.’s and I’ll stay up all night, through my 8 a.m.’s, go to class, so I can mix or I can write or I can do something…,” he said.

With his growing success, Paulson hasn’t stopped focusing on school, though. As a double major in business and finance, he thinks it’s important to get an education and have a back-up plan, just in case music falls through. And if it does, he said he’d be fine with being a financial planner or something related.

“I was content with that before this whole thing took off anywhere,” he said.

He’s always had respect for creativity, which lead him to the business world, where he said it’s the creative people who actually “make it.”

“The creative people are the ones that get paid,” he said. “You can have a leg up on somebody by just being a little bit wittier.”

Being at the school has helped him grow as a student and as an artist because it has the perfect mixture of college and city, he said.

“You spend some time out here in Allendale and you have the college-thing, classroom oriented, but then you also get a taste of Grand Rapids and then you still get that same college feel,” he said. “Its almost like you’re exposed to so many different things. I feel very versatile since moving out to Grand Rapids, and I think that is a really big part of my success.”

He said he will always represent GVSU, and he’s excited to see where music takes him.

“It’s nice to not just think that, you know, you’re career is going to be this or something like that,” Paulson said. “I like this wildcard thing I’ve got, like maybe.”

For more information about Paulson or his shows, follow him on Twitter at NatePfromGV, on Facebook at or at

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