It is possible that after about a decade of doing FME that Niko Is remains the most interesting find I’ve ever stumbled upon. The very texture of his music is boldly unique, as indebted to Kane and AZ as it is to Ray Barretto and Tim Maia. He rapped about how good pancakes tasted just as much as threatened or smoked up. When he broke confused bloggers called him a lot of things (hippie or psychedelic rap) but I could always taste the Hunter Thompson in his bars. He was angry under it all and felt a little chaos, a loving chaos, would brighten the dark times we live in. Hunter’s spirit is something you can’t miss in someone. So it doesn’t surprise me that as he released his new album Sofrito 2020 he did so from Dave Chappelle’s summer camp alongside: Talib Kweli, Michelle Wolf, Donnell Rawlings, and many more. It makes perfect sense for an artist who always believed in his relationship with his art more than he did the agreed upon rules of this shoddy reality.
Q-Every Niko Is project has a distinct personality: Brutus v. Uniko, Good Blood v. Good Air, each is painted with different colors and different methods. Brutus is a hip hop heads hip hop album while Sofrito2020 feels like a social experience, a party the listener is invited to. How do you contextualize the personality of a project? How do you know eight tracks is enough? Do you lead the music into a theme or does the music lead you to where it ends up?
NIKO- Well, every project is like a child to me. Some are more mild mannered, some have ADD, some are class clowns, some are vibe sommeliers… u know… different Lives, personalities and outlooks on life provide new context into the self created colourful world… also 8 is my magic number. Infinity. 88 is double infinity. 2088. I was Born in 88. And cheers I hope you leave 100 years gets us to 2088.
Q-The transition from All White Suit with The Pollo (track 1) to Cacafuego (track 2) is quite beautiful. These songs flow together very naturally. Is that the presence of El Bles or the musical growth you’ve gained over the years or both? If producers have super powers what would El Bles have?
NIKO- thank you. For SOFRITO / I had to let go of my chef hat and let EL BLES jump In the kitchen and direct the movie I was starring in… he is extremely detailed and hyper focused on properly presenting the picture we painted while recording… his superpower would be COFFEE SHAPESHIFTING..he can turn anything into coffee!
Q-Everyone I try to turn on to your music is struck by how weird it is (I am in Maine to give some context) but as the years go by I have begun to think weirdness is hip hop’s power. It is a genre where the eccentrics always win: E-40, Nore, Kool Keith, Curren$y, and on and on. You have been hanging out with iconic talents like Dave Chapelle, Talib Kweli…are all the great artists weird? Is that definition of weird just a sassy way of explaining personal creative freedom?
NIKO- sassy is a good word to describe describing unique music as weird… what is weird? If your not weird to me that’s weird… lol I believe we are in a industry where they celebrate the “ordinary”… it’s more common… individual voices get drowned out by what’s more accessible to the average ear… but yes- every artist is weird as hell, some of them just mute it to fit in with the rest….
Q-My favorite Niko Is line of all time is “WEARING GASOLINE BOXERS EATING BLOW FISH SUSHI WITH JAPANESE GOLFERS” You hit that level again for me on Lunch With Hakeem Olajuwon. First of all, I would have been terrified to go after Your Cousin, Alex who really does leave the first verse smoking. Where did you get in contact with Your Cousin, Alex? “Something like a phenomenon, I just had lunch with Hakeem Olajuwon,” is so great. The notion of you talking land development with The Dream is so visual and unique. Your braggadocio side steps jewelry, cars and material objects. As you say on the album “Life is a gift when you shift with the paradigm.” Do you see your music as an affirmation of personal growth through friendship, study and work?
NIKO- I attract the dopest of the dope… . I’m inspired by inspiring and brilliant individuals.. I tend to attach them… Alex has been creatively setting his own path for a while.. I’m fortunate we became friends and baked some memorable rappetizers! Keep an eye and ear out for his project! Primo’— ALSO- I don’t put on a rapper costume and parade in the world peddling fraudulent info. I am NIKO IS 25/8.. there is no differentiating me and my music. That’s ALL ME. All the time. I grow through my art.
Q-Listening to Niko Is has filled my life with a world of artists I didn’t know. Digging into Ray Barretto, Willie Colon /Ruben Blades, Larry Harlow, Hector Lavoe (who gets some serious love on Sofrito 2020),Tim Maia, Cheo Feliciano, Joe Bataan, Jorge Ben, Chuito and The Latin Uniques, and on and on has been incredibly rewarding. I thank you. Can you talk about the mixture of Boom Bap sensibilities with Latin Soul and the fit? In 2020, it’s more than a movement it’s everywhere and slowly American audiences are paying attention. Can you think of a 5 album Latin Soul starter kit for someone uninitiated?
NIKO- tbh I haven’t seen the proper representation for me and my cultura… not in the mainstream. Only the ostentatious ones… only the accidents on the side of the road get attention.. boom bap and Latin soul is rare. But not for long.. I don’t make boom bap (idk think so) it’s more boom trap shroom clap black moon snap hahaha
here is your tropicool starter kit
Antônio Carlos Jobim- WAVE
Caetano Veloso – Transa
Hector Lavoe- Lá Voz
TROPICALIA – – Ou Panis Et Circensis
NIKO IS – UNIKO
Thank u and CHEERS I HOPE YOU LIVE 100 years
In conclusion-buy Sofrito 2020 at https://www.sofrito2020.com/shop but if you need to you can stream it anywhere you stream music.