The Art of Spiderwebbing p.2: Champagne Sunday by Niko Is
Whenever I think about who the best pure lyricists in hip hop are, I have a hard time not including Niko Is. After stumbling upon his newest mixtape on DJ Booth (https://freemusicempire.com/2012/12/22/363/) I bookmarked his home site(www.nikoismusic.com) working my way through his catalog whenever my flow of new mixtapes got stale. What I never heard was a wack beat or a verse not worthy of his talent. The reason he couldn’t be considered is all influence, he hasn’t successfully branded his way into the mainstream, on the surface he’s an incredibly talented hippy rapper. I think the best proof otherwise is his Champagne Sunday project from June of last year.
If you consider a song like Toast which is only two minutes and thirty one seconds long its packed with punchlines, I’ll just give you two: “Meditating doing yoga on the mat, I’m flexible I can watch my own back,” “I found it ironic so I giggled a little bit than giggled after everybody to get that last laugh.” As a listener his music appears so loose that on 2x High he seems 3 or 4 times regular person high (over an UNBELIEVABLE Reading Rainbow sample) but he’s always in absolute control.
Every song on Champagne Sunday is like a word minefield. Every bar can turn into an image, joke, important diagnosis of the world, or combination of both…and ignite. Once you’ve stepped into the blistering thought smashing bass boom and chipmunk voice sample of Walk Through Fire, Niko declares that he’s going to the top like a bad game of Tetris while having beer bottles pile up in his bathtub. Listening to his breakneck thought-spit might convince you that this is a hard to keep up pace and like Big Pun he must be pushing himself to continue. That’s not what Champagne Sunday is about.
It’s an inebriated stroll through an over-crowded mind jammed with pop references and paranoia. On the title track he says “I’m Mark Twain in an arcade full of Sega games.” It fits him the best of any absurd image in his catalog.The hippyness is only a partial explanation for his constantly transfroming childish meditative state. This isn’t me diagnosing Niko, Champagne Sunday yells all of this at you.
Nu South Music handles all the production and his team takes care of him all the way throughout. As hot as Walk Through Fire burns Walk on Water is a consummate counter-point. It has a gentility in piano keys and sample selection that allows for Niko at a different pace and he fills the beat differently, like water adjusting to its container. If you took away how important youtube numbers are, features, twitter followers (basically anything MTV uses to assess the hottest MC) away and just asked who the best pure lyricists in the game were you’d be using two criteria.
Criteria 1-Who brings the most arresting performance to whatever they touch? Who moves the crowd basically.
Criteria 2-How undeniably great is your art, this is beyond alliterative or punch line prowess. It includes subject matter but goes beyond it. Who makes you feel like their braggadocio stands next to Shakespeare?
I’m not saying the only answer is Niko Is. I’m just saying whenever I start listing off names I think of Champagne Sunday and I hear his voice. I picture Mark Twain in an arcade figuring out Sonic the Hedgehog one quarter at a time and loving every second. That hilarious yet somehow poignant false dimension is the case for Niko. Not that he’s the best Hippy rapper but one of the very best active Surrealist ones.
Download or stream Champagne Sunday below