by Minister of Information JR Valrey, SF Bay View Oakland Bureau
NorCal Next Up is a distribution and promotion service that is housed on Instagram (IG) and founded and run by NorCal Next Up Dom. In the information age, local artists need as many cyber platforms as possible to promote their work, and Nor Cal Next Up is unique in the way that they only promote Hip Hop from all over Northern Cali.
I got turned on to Nor Cal Next Up’s IG page hanging in the streets of East Oakland with my younger cousin, the rapper Smocka, who has appeared as an artist on the popular page. NorCal Next Up Dom is a very intelligent business man that the region needs to take notice of.
He studied the game, then created a site that rivals Thizzler. Check out this future Hip Hop business mogul as he puts together the stones for his castle.
JR Valrey: When and how did NorCal Next Up start? What was the motivation behind it?
NorCal Next Up Dom: The idea of NorCal Next Up started back in November 2018. I was a student at Diablo Valley Community College. I met a ton of artists through exploring their music program, which motivated me to start a blogger site where I would promote the local rappers that I met.
This was at the height of the SoundCloud era, so meeting local rappers was fairly easy. It wasn’t until February 2020, when I had already transferred to the University of Riverside. After getting no response from various internship applications, I decided I would have to build my own leverage to give them a reason to mess with me, which led to me taking NorCal Next Up from Blogger to Instagram.
Coincidentally, Covid hit in March 2020, exactly one month after I started my Instagram page, which really helped drive traffic.
JR Valrey: Why are you so passionate about getting up and coming artists’ exposure?
NorCal Next Up Dom: I would say it’s because I’ve noticed that in the saturated game of up and coming rappers, there are several who are truly original and driven, and it makes my day when I see people getting put on to an artist because of my page. I’ve also gained a fascination for the smaller lesser-known cities because of the hidden gems I’ve found.
The void I’m filling is the gap between the unknown and the people.
JR Valrey: How were you able to build such an IG presence? What void are you filling in the local Hip Hop culture?
NorCal Next Up Dom: To build my Instagram presence first and foremost, I did my research on how to run an Instagram page. After watching countless YouTube videos and studying the algorithm, I figured I was ready to start pushing. From there I kept trying new formats until I came up with the idea to highlight different cities in one post; that’s when things really started to take off.
Also, something important that I did was take a look at the other pages in my lane and thought to myself, “What can I do differently from these other pages that will make me stand out?” That’s how I decided to focus only on underground artists, mainly with under 10k followers. The void I’m filling is the gap between the unknown and the people. Now that a lot of bigger names follow my page, a lot of more people are getting put on to the underground artists that I post.
JR Valrey: What is the process behind how you curate your page from week to week? How do you know which cities’ rappers you are going to cover, since you do it largely by cities?
NorCal Next Up Dom: I did have a calendar where every day was a different city, but to be honest I got so backed up with life stuff that I don’t use it anymore, although I am planning on using it again. For now, it’s really random. Whatever city I’m feeling that day is the one I’ll cover.
JR Valrey: What have you learned about the local scene since you have been running NorCal Next Up?
NorCal Next Up Dom: I’ve learned that there are a whole lot of people out here trying to make it in rap, more than anyone may know. My brain has become an encyclopedia of all the rappers in Northern California, which is cool to think about. I have also been able to tell the different levels of seriousness each artist has, and why some blow up quicker than others.
JR Valrey: What other projects is NorCal Next Up working on?
NorCal Next Up Dom: Right now it’s really just interviews and shows, but there’s a few projects that I’ve been trying to find the right resources for, such as cyphers.
JR Valrey: In 5 years what do you see Norcal Next Up being?
NorCal Next Up Dom: I won’t go too much into detail but let’s just say I’m in the planning stages of taking the NorCal Next Up’s format to the entire America.
JR Valrey: What are two tips that you would give new artists who are seeking more exposure?
NorCal Next Up Dom: Be original with your music – don’t sound like other people – and study the people around you but add your own twist.
JR Valrey: What kind of music do you look to promote?
NorCal Next Up Dom: The main thing that grabs my attention is originality! Do you have your own sound? Another main thing to note is that I don’t want my page to be filled with rappers talking about violence, shooting people, waving hella guns etc. because I don’t wish to feed into that narrative. So with that being said, it’s more likely that I’ll mess with it if you can show me a song that doesn’t mainly talk about violence.
JR Valrey: How could people send you music? How could people view your content?
NorCal Next Up Dom: Good question – send an email to NorCalNextUp@gmail.com. To view my content, simply look up @norcalnextup on Instagram, click the link in the bio and from there you can view our YouTube page – or just search for us on YouTube.