It’s hard to place Nikki Jean in time or space.
A born drifter, through decades of musical influences, the half dozen states she’s called home, and the disparate events that have created an enigma of an artist. While those in her cohort dug through crates of music from bygone eras for their sample value, she was reading their sheet music like novels, while writing a novel of her own and it reads like a love song to hip hop.
The early signs were all there. The girl from St. Paul who cried when Irving Berlin died as a child and snuck into De La Soul concerts in junior high would become the artist who worked out of the Roots studio and went on to write songs with Bob Dylan and Burt Bacharach. How fitting that the song she is most known for “Hip Hop Saved My Life”, which she penned with longtime collaborator Lupe Fiasco, off the Grammy nominated classic, “The Cool”, was the song that allowed her to do so?
And who does that? Who comes off Kanye’s historic “Glow In The Dark” Tour only to turn away from the flashing lights opting for a path less traveled. She embarked on a pilgrimage to study with the songwriting masters of Tin Pan Alley, Bleecker St., The Brill Building, Motown, The Philadelphia Sound, Music Row and Laurel Canyon that led to the release of “Pennies In a Jar,” her collaborative first album.
Returning home in more ways than one, Nikki began the work of melding what she’d learned, with who she is. In 2014, her self-released EP, “Champagne Water,” found her collaborating with Ab Soul, Like, and The Social Experiment giving us our first glimpse at the direction her wanderlust would take us. She’s also returned to Rhymesayers, this time not as a kid in search of a mixtape, but as an artist in her own right.
In this most recent release, she’s brought the fruits of her labor, the sweetness that is synonymous with her voice, and a poignancy that can only be gained through experience to infuse with the spirit of hip hop in the jéroboam bottle of her music. Cheers.