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Vinny Nolan

Neighborhood Diamonds

Bryce Savoy

My whole life I’ve felt like a diamond in the rough. Maybe some of that has to do with myself, because I know for a good period of my life in certain areas, I would say depending on who you ask, and what I was doing, I could be somebody that was reserved, shy or humble.


It’s crazy because as I’ve gotten older, something I think about a lot is what does “humble” mean? We always hear of humility or are told, “Be humble.” But then you also hear people say, “When I'm humble, nobody listens, nobody cares.” 


So I still kinda struggle with what is the full and true definition of humility? I was talking to my therapist a couple months back and he said, “Humility is realizing that nothing you do is on your own. You give God the full credit for everything.” So that's the mentality and my view of humility at this point. 


I think a lot of times before that, I looked at humility as being silent or you fit in or don’t stand out or you’re not too loud, all those different things. I don’t think that’s the right way to approach it. So I say all of that to say, being humble and humility is always a part of me, but I think the difference is now I have the confidence and the track record, plus years and years of work to hang my hat on.

Playing basketball growing up was a pivotal time where I had to find my way and fight past my false humility. You grow up as a young kid and you’re the best on the team, then you get to middle school and high school and you realize everybody is at a certain level. What separates people is the work and confidence.


I played on a high school team where our coach, looking back, I think he was well-intentioned, but he really broke some of our spirits and made us not really love the game anymore. So I was always second guessing, always wondering if I could make a play or knowing if I made one wrong play, I’m getting subbed out. That’s not a way to play. Because of that, my high school trajectory in basketball didn't go the way I wanted it to.


It wasn't until I started doing workouts outside of high school, playing AAU and being in a position where coaches, staff, teammates really gave me the ability to play basketball, that I started to be myself and have fun. I think that was a turning point in my life and that has kind of been the story of my life: I recognize that I have these God-given talents, because of fear I don't fully utilize them, but then I realize that I can utilize them, realize that I’m supposed to utilize them and then you see me shine for the world to see.

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Vinny Nolan

So that’s what Neighborhood Diamonds is all about. It’s rooted in the idea of letting your light shine for the world to see. But more importantly, representing those who consider themselves diamonds in the rough and feel like they may be overlooked. But notwithstanding, they're doing everything they're supposed to be doing to further whatever dreams, goals and visions that they have, regardless of the recognition. Everybody wants recognition, but then at the same time, not everybody does it for recognition. So those are the people that I look to highlight, especially good people with good intentions, who have good hearts.


Similar to my basketball journey, I had to learn to have confidence in my music. My talent and passion for rap was always there. I've been doing music for two decades now. My uncle Greg “G-Nut” Savoy Brown II put me in the studio for my 11th Birthday in 2003, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Not everybody can say that they can rap like I can, I could do that at a young age, but I always had other priorities: life, school, playing basketball. I was just focused on other things.

My freshman year at Howard in 2010 was the first time I really got out of Oakland and saw the world and that was also the year that I did my first mixtape. It was called “Now or Never.” That was the mentality I had at that point. How will I ever know if I can really do this, if I can really pursue this if I never try? That was the time where I was going into a new environment, going to college thousands of miles away from home, away from family where nobody knew me. I had to stake my claim and make a name for myself. 


As soon as I stepped on campus, I realized instantly there were people from all walks of life already doing music at a high level. Coming from where I come from, I knew how to create music, but I didn’t know the business side, the professionalism like they did. It took me a while in that environment, to be comfortable and confident in my ability. It goes back to what I was saying with basketball, where I know I have these gifts, then I start actually putting the work in, then I actually start putting the work into play, into action, then people start gravitating towards it, which gives me the confidence to do it over and over and over again.

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Vinny Nolan

But to get to where I’m at now as an established artist and the leader of the Neighborhood Diamonds movement, I had to really commit to my community and my craft. I never really had writer's block. That’s never really been an issue for me, but there was a time when I graduated from Howard. After graduating, I spent seven weeks at a Spanish Immersion program at the University of Middlebury in Vermont, before returning home to Oakland. That’s when a severe case of writer’s block started.


I came back home and there was a period of just not knowing what’s next. After I graduated, I did that, now what? I didn't know. I don't even know how long the writer’s block lasted, it felt like a long time. I would hear a beat and try to rap and I didn’t even know what to say. I thought I had forgotten how to rap. It was horrible. 


In the midst of all this, a friend of mine was killed by the police. I'm coming back to that trauma. After college and experiencing these high highs, then to come back home and see the same shit’s happening, it was mentally frustrating for me.

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Vinny Nolan

At that moment, the most logical thing was like, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know where I’m going, let me go to God. I read the Bible for the first time ever. Reading all these stories I've never read before, never knew about, never even heard about, it was eye-opening because they ran parallel to my life. I went to Bible study, started going to church. That curiosity and finding God helped me find myself and find my purpose and find the direction of my life. So I would say 2015, that was a pivotal, pivotal turning point in my life. Everything you see today spawned from that time.


The diamond idea started around that same time. It’s crazy, there’s certain things in life that I can’t always fully remember, life happens so fast, I forget how things start. I just remember using that as an emoji, looking at emojis and wanting something that shined and when I think of somebody shining, I think of a diamond. So before I even had this whole idea/concept for Neighborhood Diamonds, it was literally just an emoji that I used. I continued to incorporate it in everything I posted online. 


At some point, even if you weren’t really tuned into what I was doing, subconsciously you saw that, and it seeped into your psyche. But now fast forward, it just makes so much sense because you think about how diamonds are created with pressure and heat. That whole process is parallel to life. I feel like in life we all have pressure, whether that was put on you or something you picked up, you have it. So my whole thing is like okay, no matter what goes on in life, no matter what obstacles, no matter what challenges are thrown my way, I'm going to shine and rise above that and let the pressure really make me into a diamond, as opposed to let it break me, or cause me to stop. That's what the devil wants. That's not happening.

Also when I was fighting writer’s block and finding my confidence, just being around people who knew me, who already knew who I was, gave me the energy and inspiration to create again. That put me on a path to do everything else that I envisioned with Neighborhood Diamonds and show me the value of community. 


A lot of the people that I look up to, not even just in music, but sports, business, whatever industry, they found a way to build a community of people who believe in what they believe in. When people sell merch and it sells out, it’s because people believe in a person’s brand because of the person and idea that the merch represents. That’s how I think about stuff on a scientific level and the psychology behind these patterns.

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Vinny Nolan

I ask myself, ok, what am I going to do that’s going to make people buy in and support? It doesn’t always have to be financially, but just overall believing in my visions. If someone can believe in something that I’m doing, they can take that same belief and believe in themselves. That’s the thing, right? We all have dreams, everybody on this earth. At some point, I assure you no matter how your life goes, I think that’s one thing that God gives us all is a dream. But the only thing that separates us as time and life hits you is if you believe that you can really achieve that dream. 


So my whole thing is continuing to make sure that I’m empowering and I’m inspiring and I’m uplifting people to believe they can actually make their dreams come true. I represent the normal, every day person. I’m not doing anything extraordinary or unattainable. It’s about that belief, that’s it. So that’s what I’m attempting to do, that’s what I am doing in building community with Neighborhood Diamonds, that’s why I think community is so important for people. People want to feel included, but they also want to feel like they matter. We grew up in a society where that’s not always the case for a lot of people and I’m here to change that.

Listen to Bryce Savoy's full interview with Kick The Concrete below.

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