The Necessity of Self-Invention
Rob Mansel, a.k.a. Black Noi$e, grew up an only child. As an only child, so much of his time was spent in self-creation and reinvention out of necessity. The creation of his musical persona, Black Noi$e, is just such an example: his first project was about to drop and he needed to quickly come up with a name, and it stuck. He shrugs, “no real reason behind it, it sounded good.”
Black Noi$e’s family history and his early years were peripatetic. His father was born in California; his mom grew up in Nova Scotia. His father met his mother while he was stationed in Nova Scotia and they married. In fact, Black Noi$e was born in Nova Scotia. However, the Motor City called and the Mansel family relocated. It was family that pulled them back to the states. Black Noi$e says, “my whole dad’s side was living in Detroit so we moved back.”
Although the family had relocated to Detroit, his mother’s family remained in Nova Scotia, so he would go back every year to visit. Black Noi$e had roots in two countries, but the family kept moving. Eventually, all his family relocated to Texas. Again with his characteristic shrug, he says “don’t know why they moved, Texas is too hot for me.”
Black Noi$e grew up in a small suburb situated 16 miles west of downtown Detroit, appropriately named Westland. He describes growing up there as “kind of bleak.” For fun, he could go to the K-Mart or hang out at a few of the pizza spots around town. In the midst of this suburban wasteland, Black Noi$e found skateboarding, a new identity, and a new community.
When he was 11 or 12, Black Noi$e was introduced to skateboarding. He describes this epochal life moment in his typical low-key manner: “someone down the street skated and I thought it looked cool.” As his social circle widened, so did his geographical orbit. Once he became a skater, he started hanging out at Wayne Memorial Park and Goudy Park just outside Westland in Wayne, Michigan.
Through skateboarding, Black Noi$e became a member of a whole new extended family. He smiles while talking about growing up skating, saying “it was a family vibe.” The family vibe continues to this day. He’s remained close with many of the people he grew up skating with as they’ve all parlayed skating into careers. “Some of the homies model for Supreme,” he mentions,” and skate for them.”
For the last two and a half years he’s lived with Derrick Dykas, the man behind skateboarding non-profit Community Push and the Detroit DIY skatepark, The WIG. From Westland to Detroit, by way of skating.
Dress to Skate, Don’t Skate to Dress
As Black Noi$e continued to develop as a skater and cultivate his new community, he learned to dress the part. But like all things in Black’s life, his style choices were always utilitarian and primarily limited to what was at hand. Describing his clothing choices, Black Noi$e says he mainly wore skateboard brands that were easy to get, such as “eS, Vans, and Emerica, stuff you could buy at the skate shop.” He also cultivated a skill at thrifting to round out his closet. “I feel like I grew up in a thrift store,” he continues, “it takes time [learning to thrift well] but you got to stick with it.”
His choice of footwear also reflected his utilitarian ethos and love of simple, clean designs. The brand of shoe didn’t matter; whether or not the shoe was even new also didn’t matter. “Back in the day, we’d wear any shoe, hand-me-downs, whatever,” Black Noi$e says. But new shoes weren’t off the table either. Any new shoe was welcome as long as it was a “basic shoe, very clean: Chucks and clean Nikes, nothing too crazy.”
Black Noi$e’s sartorial motto is: “just the basics.” He pares it down to “pants, tees, and shoes.” “I’m not trying to do too much,” he continues “the go-t0 is some Chucks, some real basic, like clean Air Max or Air Force 1s.” For Black Noi$e, the whole point of keeping it basic is to make sure he lets his “work speak for me. I like to let everything else speak for me.”
From the Park to the Booth
Black Noi$e’s path from skate park to a full-fledged musician is rooted in his need and desire to self-create. When he was just a little kid, his alarm radio opened his ears to the world of hip-hop. He listened to everything on the radio: Bone Thugs, Cash Money, and No Limit were his favorites. From his radio listening habits, Black Noi$e fell “in love with music; it was a big thing [for him] from an early age.”
Skate videos provided another avenue for discovering and falling in love with music. Instead of hip-hop, skate videos introduced him to hardcore. His favorites were the 101 Skateboard’s “Trilogy,” The Firm’s “Can’t Stop,” and any of the 411 Video Magazine’s videos. In an interview on The Hundreds blog from 2017, Black explicitly connected his love of hardcore to his experience growing up as an only child: “[hardcore] is just a certain energy. I feel like I’m just chasing that energy. Only child energy.” The best skate videos, according to Black, would match the music with the video’s skating vibe. So everything is connected and feels right.
And it’s the feeling of connection–to the music, to the vibe, to something–that Black Noi$e chases when he’s creating. Making music is how Black Noi$e connects to the world around him. As he puts it: “making music is a part of life, a release. It’s a way to say things that I can’t in my real life, like things that I can’t say out of my own mouth but I can translate it musically.” Whether he’s releasing physical projects through Vanity Press out of Ann Arbor, Garage Sounds out of Hamtramck, or putting his art out digitally through Soundcloud, he’s always trying to connect with other people through his music.
Making it in the Motor City
Here are a few of Black Noi$e’s professional highlights over the past couple of years: touring with Earl Sweatshirt, DJing for MIA on her Matangi tour, and touring with Trash Talk and Antwon. Even as he travels the world performing, it’s still all about friends and family. Black Noi$e considers himself a success when he’s making music with “the homies,” Remy Banks, ZelooperZ, Skywalkr, Johan Baseball, John F.M., dream beach, and Raphy.
Perhaps most importantly, Black Noi$e views success as being able to eat at El Taco Veloz in Midtown several times a week. “El Taco is always on point,” he says, “chorizo is my go-to taco and El Taco puts it in there’s and it’s always consistent.”
Keeping himself in friends, music, and food; not too bad for an unassuming skater from Detroit.