These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who hasn’t heard of 88rising. With a diverse repertoire of Asian hip-hop and R&B artistes such as Higher Brothers, Rich Brian and Keith Ape, there’s really no denying the entertainment trailblazer’s influence on the pop culture landscape. At the forefront of the R&B movement is Indonesian singer-songwriter NIKI, who’s been affectionately dubbed as “the Internet’s favourite R&B princess” thanks to her musical versatility and genre-bending artistry.
Since bursting onto the music scene with her breakout EP Zephyr, the multi-talented songstress has racked up over 113 million streams to date with chart-topping hits like ‘lowkey’, ‘I Like U’ as well as her latest empowerment anthem ‘Indigo’ off 88rising’s Head In The Clouds II – all while cementing herself as a touring force to be reckoned with. Not only has she opened for major pop acts such as Taylor Swift and Halsey, the 2o-year-old was also the only female headliner at the 88rising Head in the Clouds Festival this past fall.
Ahead, we caught up with NIKI over a short phone interview to talk about her rapidly-rising success and the importance of embracing her identity.
Hi NIKI! You’ve come a long way since releasing covers on YouTube back in the days. How has your sound evolved since then?
“I’m somebody who gets inspired by what I’m listening to musically. Back in the day, I was into the whole folk, acoustic singer-songwriter type of music. Then I learned how to produce, and I find that with this pop R&B soundscape that I’m currently in, it gives me a lot of creative liberty to experiment in that genre production-wise. Honestly, I like all kinds of music. I can still very much write a song with just my guitar like I did back then.”
People call you the ‘R&B princess’. What do you think about that?
“(Laughs) I mean, I’m honoured that people will even call me that. I hesitated confining myself to one genre because I think I’m drawn to a lot of different types of music, but being called the ‘R&B princess’ is kinda cool. I’m super honoured.”
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Coming from Indonesia, did you ever expect yourself to join such a big American music company?
“Absolutely not! Everything happened so unexpectedly and I’m just very grateful for the position that I’m in right now.”
Besides yourself, 88rising is also home to fellow Indonesian artist Rich Brian. Did that help the both of you feel more at home in a foreign label?
“Yeah, of course. Brian and I are friends before I even came onboard with the 88rising movement. This friendship has just been like a little piece of home; we can just hang out and eat indomie with our other Indonesian friends every now and then (laughs).”
What was your first impression of Rich Brian?
“Well, I first met Brian in Jakarta and initially, I expected him to be a lot more like his persona back in the day, but he ended up being super chill and down-to-earth. In fact, everyone else on the label is just as humble, creative and onboard with the whole idea of using music and the arts to spearhead this cultural movement. I think it’s really cool to be around likeminded people.”
Since joining 88rising, how has the process of producing music changed for you?
“When I was releasing my independent stuff, I barely knew how to produce. I just used Garageband. Now that I’m linked to other producers and creators, it has definitely expanded my general music library.”
What are the next things on your musical bucket list?
“I would definitely love to go on a headline tour, and Asia will be my first stop for sure. And then I hope to release my debut album soon. For now, I’m really just taking my time on it and letting the inspiration carry me. I don’t have a set date for it yet, but definitely sometime next year!”
What’s an advice you have for young aspiring female artistes?
“Just be you. I know that sounds really cliche and I say that all the time, but truly – don’t try to satisfy trends or go with the bandwagon, just be yourself. When you’re authentic, you attract fans who actually like you for who you are. So just keep on going and don’t give up!”
Any last words for your fans in Singapore?
“I love Singapore! It feels like a second home to me ’cause I used to come here all the time and I can’t wait to be back to eat some chicken rice (laughs). I just wanna say, thank you so much for your support. Keep streaming my new song ‘Indigo’!”
Watch the music video for NIKI’s ‘Indigo’: