Who the hell is Nikki Lynette?
I'm glad you asked. Nikki Lynette is a rapper, singer, producer, songwriter, and on-air personality from Chicago. I'm also a multi-media visual artist. I'm a cross between a homebody and a socialite. I tend to say the things that everybody thinks, but nobody says. I've been referred to as mouthy. I just figure if people weren't ready to deal with what I had to say then they should've let me stay at home.
Where are you from?
I am from all over Chicago, mostly the South Side. When I was young, my mom had to move us around a lot for reasons that I will not go into. But whenever people ask where I am from, I tell them 67th and Lowe. That's why Lupe kept saying "Queen of Englewood!" all over the mixtape he hosted for me. My childhood ended when I left there. I still love Englewood.
You seem to be all over the place. Describe your music?
I'm all over the place? Who isn't? When I was younger, people fell under categories, like "jocks" or "gang bangers" or "nerds," so I opted to be "hip hop" because it was the only category that accepted people however they were. My music does not fit into only one genre because I don't sit down with my pen and think "Okay, now its time to write a R&B hit" or "Now it's time to write a Hip Hop club banger." My foundation is Hip Hop, R&B, and Alternative Rock, and I think that carries over in my music most of all. But really, I'm a very emotional person, so I make music based on my emotions with the assumption that somebody will feel me.
Who are some of your influences?
If you mean who influenced my sound, there's no simple answer. Outkast, The Goodie Mob (particularly Ceelo), Lauryn Hill, Tupac, Missy, Mary J. Blidge, Nas, and The Roots for their soulful hip hop vibe. Grace Jones, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Prince, and Cyndi Lauper for their ability to be sexy, fun, and intimidating all at the same time. Portishead, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Queen, Lenny Kravitz, Cree Summer, Ben Harper, Aerosmith (particularly Mick Jagger) and Jamiroqui for forcing me to stop seeing music as "black" or "white." Anita Baker, Tina Marie, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Sade, Leena Horn, Dinah Washington, and Ella Fitzgerald for their ability to make timeless music that can't be duplicated. Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and Bill Withers for writing dynamic, moving songs that tell a story. The Mama's and The Papa's, Minnie Ripperton and Rotary Connection, Fela Kuti, The Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd for their vocal harmonies and soundscapes. I could really go on and on.
Why should people care about you?
People should care about me and give me candy because I am superior to everybody else! That's what I was supposed to say, right? Seriously, I'm not saying anything brand new in my music, I'm just offering a fresh perspective. My friends love to come to me for advice because they are convinced that I see life from a different angle. I don't know what the hell they're talking about, but I guess my bizzarro thinking is what makes my music so different. On the low, I'm a bit of a softy, and I went through much of my life feeling horribly misunderstood. It makes me feel good to think that maybe some people will hear my music and realize that somebody feels the same things that they do. On second thought, maybe I'm the one that just wants to feel understood. I gotta think about that one and get back to you.
Who are you listening to right now?
Lately, my inspiration has been drawn from the Chicago artists who have emerged onto the music scene. It's a beautiful thing to be able to say that some of my all time favorite artists like Common and Kanye and Lupe Fiasco are homegrown. It motivates me to keep moving forward, because they walked the same path that I am now, literally, and somehow made it to the other side. But really, I listen to multitudes of music, too much to name. Since I started producing, I can't get enough. My friend Brian "All Day" Miller is a producer who's ear for music is crazy. Usually, we sit on the phone for three hours at least twice a week and analyze music together. The stuff we listen to spans from Easy E to Average White Band. It contributes to both of us being crazy, no doubt. But when I'm in the car with my girls on the way to the Bebe Outlet or whatever and some hit song comes on the radio, I can appreciate it more because I can name where the producer got his sample from.
Talk about men.
Ooooh... that's a tough one for me. Wouldn't you rather me talk about my friends? No? Okay. Well, I am deeply in love with my career and most men have been extremely jealous about that. I can't give up my dream just to make a guy happy or secure... so I don't. Do you know how good it feels be able to say I'm 100% free of relationship drama? How many women can say that? Don't get me wrong, I meet a lot of men in my line of work. Beautiful athletes, artists, actors, and business owners with big muscles and lots of money. But I'm not easily impressed. When I was a child, my mom put me in kiddie beauty pageants and fashion shows, but when things got bad in my family, all of that stopped. I always thought I was a nice looking girl until one day on the school bus a boy candidly pointed out that I was fat and had a gut. I looked down at my 11 year old belly poking out underneath my fitted shirt and realized that I couldn't disagree with him. So I responded "So what, I don't have to be pretty. I'm in honors classes, so I'm smarter than you. And I'd rather be ugly and smart than stupid and pretty." It seems small and childish, but that scarred me for years. I didn't grow up being the "pretty" girl, I was the girl who was voted "Most Artistic" in my graduating class. I always got attention from guys, but I never attributed it to my looks. It wasn't until I was an adult and started looking just like my mom that I realized I am, in fact, beautiful. That inspired me to lose weight. So now that I'm older and have come into my own, I'm not moved AT ALL by men who are attracted to me for my looks, and that is pretty much all I meet, I rarely meet the good men. There is a guy who is very special to me, though. He makes me happy all the time. He has my back and cares about me genuinely. That's good enough for me.
What is it about Chicago artists that make you all so different from the other major music cities?
Chicago is a city that is very much divided. The South Side, West Side, North Side, and Chicago Suburbs all have their own individual struggles, identities, and asthetics. No matter what side they're from, the one common theme in Chicago is the fact that if you want to be respected as a rapper, you have to have lyrics. I think our sound here was influenced mostly by hip hop from the east coast and down south. New York had that substance to the music, but the music down south featured rappers with a drawl that sounded more like our Midwestern speak. We've had some success with R&B singers from Chicago over the years, but for a very long time we had no credible voice in the rap game. And you have to remember, Chicago has a place in American musical history. Back in the day, black blues artists performed on the South side at places called Theresa's and The Checkerboard Lounge and The 708 Club. Eventually, blues got a white following and soon there were white and black blues players. Chicago is STILL extremely segregated to this day, so you can imagine how revolutionary that was back in the 60's and 70's. And everybody knows that blues became the roots of Jazz, R&B/Soul, Bluegrass and Rock. Then in the early 80's Chicago gave the world House music. So yeah... we have a history of innovative music here.
You host Raw TV. How did that happen? Do you think it affects how you are seen in the music industry?
I do co-host a show on Fox called RAW TV. It just went into its second season. And I recently found out that I'm one of the fan's favorite personalities on the show! How did it happen... well, initially, I was contacted by one of the executive producers of the show to fill the secretarial job! LOL! The guy, Ira Antelis, used to produce music on me before we teamed up with Vince Lawrence. Ira knew that I was recording my album so he didn't think to offer me a position on the show. He called one day and explained that he'd partnered with a well known music industry guy from Chicago to produce a hip hop entertainment show. They needed somebody to work in the office, book celebrity interviews, answer calls, and keep things organized. I promptly told him off for asking me to be his secretary and told him never to ask me to do anything non-music related again. But the next day he called and asked me to come and audition to be an on-air personality for RAW TV. I did the interview, and they hired me. I found out later that my interview didn't even count as a "real" interview, because the other girls in our 5 member "RAW TV Diva Squad" had a much more extensive audition than me. So Ira hooked me up after all.
Sometimes I do wonder how the show affects the way people see me in the music industry. I'm not a reporter, but I do conduct interviews and cover events. And, on the show I host a weekly segment called "Get Your Shine On" where we feature a video from a local artist. How dope is that? Really, I'm just a musician who is also an on-air personality. When I am interviewing celebrities, I'm an entertainer holding a conversation with another entertainer. I think that's why people like to watch my interviews. The same personality that I display in my music is what you see on screen.
What can we expect from your first release?
I don't know yet. I'm all over the place, remember? Really, I am excited about the way this album is shaping up. I am producing a lot of my music, and I'm singing and rapping an equal amount throughout the record. Like I mentioned before, my roots are in Hip Hop, R&B, and Rock, and you'll hear that in every song. I always get annoyed when people tell me that my stuff sounds like "Pop," because, in my humble opinion, my music doesn't sound like anybody else's. If I found people who's music sounded like mine, I'd gladly join forces so I wouldn't have to be such a loner in the music game! But I don't want to talk about the album too much, because if I decide to trash the whole project and just release an entire album of me covering songs by Vanity 6, I wouldn't want anybody to be surprised.