Four Baskets of Truth

This guy! You know there are some people we have the pleasure of meeting in our lifetime that seem like they are full of knowledge and priceless wisdom, with stories that come from magical moments? Well, NIKO IS has that aura about him. His presence is as big as his hair and his energy on stage is as colourful as his place of birth.

NIKO IS was born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in Orlando Floroida. First and foremost he is an artist, a hip hop artist, that has a deal with Talib Kweli’s, Javotti Media – a relationship that bares the marks of birthing greatness. NIKO IS performed before Talib Kweli at The Garage in London this month and the outcome was a memorable one. He possessed a contagious vibe that spread, one by one, to each individual in the crowd. Stage presence, paired with good music, NIKO IS left us excited for what’s next to come.

Sat in a small room after the show with Talib Kweli, The African DJ, Kweli’s official DJ, and Smith House, the man responsible for the video behind ‘‘Cherry Beamer Dreaming’’, we spoke about popular UK restaurant Nando’s, writing and the discoveries he’s made so far.

How’s the tour going?

NIKO IS: It’s been a great time, amazing. No sleep, you know, a lot of like last minute moving around, but it’s all worth it. The shows have been incredible. People have been supper receptive.

You said that you have never been to London before, have you been out and explored; did you go to Nando’s yet?

Talib Kweli: Not yet, but we will be at Nando’s [laughs] let me explain something, we’re gonna go to a Caribbean restaurant, or a Jamaican restaurant, we’re gonna go to Camden. Nando’s is cool, but at the same time it’s still fast food.

If I would have known, I would have brought some Jamaican food with me.

NIKO IS: That’s what I want! Oh my God!

Talib Kweli: When we go Africa, I’ll take him to Nando’s.

I read that the meaning behind your name was an invitation to discover who you are. What discoveries have you made yourself?

That it’s not that hard to be yourself, you know what I’m saying, people will over complicate, like, making music and stuff because everything is – they think of it as a product. We’re selling music, true, but we’re just keeping it real and you know that’s why it lasts. That’s why you see somebody like Kweli that has been around for so long, because it’s genuine you know it’s not like – you never feel like you’re being sold something.

What’s your writing process? Do you shut yourself off from everyone else?

Usually, when I write, I have 13 candles – African Nobunto candles – and then I have four baskets of *fruit

*At this point I misheard NIKO IS and thought he said he sits with four baskets of ‘‘truth.’’ My immediate thought was that it must be a Brazilian thing, because they don’t sell that here in the UK. My second thought was one of safety, in that I hoped the baskets were not wicker with all of the candles close by.  Nonetheless, NIKO IS agreed that four baskets of truth would be a good song topic.

That would be massive!

I’ve had ‘‘Cherry Beamer Dreaming’’ on repeat. In it you say, ‘‘I am a poet that has gone mad’’ and I love that concept as a visual. Is this how you would best describe yourself?

Well I think we’re all mad in a way, and we’re all just like a star in our own movie and trying to keep it together. That’s how I write, you know, I want people to read the lyrics and just imagine us pulling our hair out, you know, like papers stamped to the wall – beautiful mind shit.

So tell me about the video?

So I’ve been working with the same people forever, we don’t out source anything.

Your producer, Thanks Joey?

Yeah, Thanks Joey, my producer. Colours of the Culture, that’s our thing. This is Smith House [points to the cameraman] and Smith has been doing all our visuals. Working with him and how our visuals are, I like them to be real spontaneous.

I think that a lot of people waste too much time trying to sell you something like glamour and the glitz, you know. I’d rather just find a nice intricate way to portray the vision of the music. And I work with people who do that. It’s all like a marriage between our arts and [Smith] works last minute, so we tell him the day before that we’re shooting the video tomorrow and that’s what it is. So we didn’t know we were gonna do that, we booked our studio time, you know, like white photo studio, back drop, white and green screens and I had two people with me.

I had this girl, who’s Ms Brazil, USA another Brazilian; she’s a really nice girl. And then we had one of my friends who was just hanging around with me and then [Smith] is like ‘‘let’s use him!’’ So we just came up with that on the spot and we shot it. Four months later, he sends me the edit with all these crazy aesthetics. It was beautiful.

What’s next for you?
Music, just keep making music. Keep learning, keep touring, hopefully be doing the same thing 20 years from now, 30 years from now.

Well hopefully we’ll see you back in London?
I’d be honored to. Yeah I love it

@NatashaArtwell