NLITEN: A true Renaissance MAn
Jordan "NliteN" Tolbert (October 31, 1994) was born in Boston, Massachusetts to mother, Karla Maria Bell, and Jesse Jeter Tolbert (father). His first name "Jordan" was given to him by Grammy-winning singer Lalah Hathaway at a concert in D.C. where his mother (then pregnant) and father snuck backstage to meet the singer. His father left the family when he was only 3 years old for reasons unknown, leaving his mother and aunt, Karen Bell, to care for him and his older brother and sister. An overactive child, his mother made sure to keep him out of trouble by signing him up for sports. He quickly picked up soccer, baseball, and karate before eventually finding a love for tennis. In 2012, Jordan was ranked 19 in his region. There still stands a mural in his childhood park in the Fenway depicting a young NliteN holding a ball, as it seemed he always was.
In school, NliteN was a born academic. He attended high school at Boston Latin School (oldest high school in the U.S.) before getting his Bachelors Degree in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts: Amherst.
Despite a late start, NliteN picked up the basics of rap seamlessly. After a few freestyle sessions with close friend Dan O'Malley, NliteN soon realized that he had more complex ideas that he needed to illustrate. Records from the likes of Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole, inspired his early growth as an artist.
His first live show was at Opus Underground in Salem, MA for a small crowd of hip-hop purists known as the Wreck Shop Movement. After a few successful open mic performances, NliteN was ready to create a movement of his own. Partnering with producer, Al Danger, and a pair of DJs, Cassafetti & Valerian Roots, they hosted a series of house parties called "Lite Shows" (4). From their inception, the Lite Shows were a hit turning out hundreds of college students at each show. However, word spread too quickly and eventually the cops were showing up before fans could hit the front door. Local nightclub Lit Amherst caught wind and quickly scooped up the Lite Show to host a series of nights where the police wouldn't be able to interfere.
Word continued to spread of the artist's exciting live performances. On March 4th, 2017, NliteN was invited to open for Mike Posner, Jeremih, and Flo Rida at Mullins Live! in front of a crowd of thousands. This opportunity proved to be a test of his resolve. As the fans rolled in to see a performance, one thing after another went wrong. NliteN was told that Jeremih's soundcheck was running into his set time and that, soon, he would only have a few minutes of his promised half-hour set. Taking quick action, NliteN jumped on stage and had his DJ queue their hit track "Lite It Up". Just when things seemed to be taking a turn for the better, the mics malfunctioned. And there he stood, performing his heart out a cappella, in a stadium meant to fill 10,000 people. The track ended and, almost miraculously, the mics began working. He would get to perform one song. NliteN performed "Lite It Up" again at full volume for a captive crowd, but the damage was already done. NliteN left the stage furious and in need of redemption.
Weeks later, on April 22nd, he was granted that opportunity: opening for Wale at the Pioneer Music Festival. Nothing would get in the way of a phenomenal performance on this occasion.
By this time, NliteN had fallen behind in his studies and as his peers fitted for graduation caps, he remained to finish up his remaining credits. After graduating college in December of 2017, NliteN sold his belongings (including essential recording equipment) for $2,000 and moved to Los Angeles, a place he had dreamed of living from the time he was 3.
He worked one odd job after the next while also making money selling graphic design, music production, and merchandise.
On July 12th, 2018, NliteN releases his debut mixtape "Nostalgia” reaching more than 300K ears its opening month.
A true renaissance man.
(to be continued...)
Photograph by David Hinton.