In the modern music scene, it has become custom for people to be discovered via YouTube with The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen being perfect examples, going from unknowns to major celebrities. So it is no surprise that people have picked up their guitars and microphones and switched on their cameras in an attempt to be ‘found’ and achieve success. In order to go against the grain and stay relevant, singers are looking to do something different to ensure they get the views.
One such person is American singer/songwriter Niykee Heaton who found fame via YouTube through a string of online videos of Niykee covering current rap and R&B tracks from the likes of Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Brandy, Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy. Her covers saw her play the guitar whilst showing her versatility on the mic, hitting high notes and dropping raps such as “this long haired singer aint up for no discussion” [her take on Drake‘s verse from ‘F**ckin Problem‘]. One thing that was clear was that Niykee wasn’t interested in just covering the track but adding her twist and remaining authentic. Once the videos had gone viral, Niykee simply recreated the formula over and over again, all while clocking up thousands of YouTube views. Her biggest cover to date is a medley of Ty Dolla $ign‘s ‘Or Nah (Remix)’ and K Camp‘s ‘Cut Her Off‘ which has been viewed over 2,000,000 times in just over a year. The video not only reflects her ability to sing but allows Niykee to inject her character into every track she features;
Clocking up thousands, yet alone million of views does not go unnoticed. In 2012, one of Niykee’s covers, ‘Love Sosa‘ [originally by Chief Keef] was featured on the World Star Hip Hop site which attracted attention from record labels and media alike. In order to concentrate on music, she graduated from college 6 months early and self-funded the production of her own original music before she was eventually signed in 2014 to All Def Digital. While this was a massive move from recording covers in her bedroom, Niykee rose to the challenge and released her debut EP Bad Intention in September of 2014. The six track project took her already proven vocals and laced them over six tracks from the pop tinged lead track ‘Sober‘ [a track about her dad’s struggle with alcoholism], to the guitar and lyric driven ‘Rolling Stone‘, and the title track itself. The EP was covered by the likes of 2DopeBoyz, Complex, Billboard and Vibe Magazine, who all praised her for her success and talents, even at the age of 19 and the EP debuted at #6 in the iTunes chart. Through all the coverage, Niykee gained a massive following but vowed to remain as real as possible;
“If I was pretending to be Ariana Grande or Iggy Azalea, people would call me out. People believe in who I am, that’s why they f*ck with me because I’m not trying to be somebody I’m not,”
Bad Intentions was simply the start of something for Niykee and she used the platform she had been given to main as much attention and publicity as possible. Today, a simple Google search of Niykee would show you her YouTube videos but underneath hundreds of images that Niykee has taken on Instagram. She has been accused of being a ‘thrist trap’, where she intentionally uses her body and image to entice an audience. In response, Niykee is very honest and while she dismisses the ‘thirst trap’ label, she says;
“I post pictures about what I’m doing and what my life is about. So, if I’m wearing a bikini, it’s because I’ve been wearing the same suit for a whole week. It’s an exact representation of my life. I’m not going to put on a turtleneck just to make people less thirsty,”
What is still clear is Niykee’s determination to shine within music and how she wants to make ‘good’ music for people to listen to. In April of this year, Heaton recently expressed frustrations with her label All Def Digital, citing “constant and continual bullying, lies, unfair compromises, underhanded politics, name-calling, blame games and much more.” But in response to this, she premiered her own website Naturyl Born Killers (NBK) and a track of the same name – seemingly prepared to take matters of art into her own hands – with the dedication to prove it. Through NBK, Niykee has released a string of hit tracks including ‘Say Yeah’, ‘Aint No Us‘ and ‘21 Grams‘, all powerful tracks with a number of influences from trap to pop, hip hop to R&B. It seems that when given creative control, Niykee Heaton is able to flourish within her world and is consistent with the music she brings out, even being co-signed by rapper Kanye West.
This week saw the release of her latest track, a remix of Baby E‘s ‘Finessin‘ [which was featured in Cloud 9: 001] and it seems that Niykee is reminiscing with the line “Started from the bedroom singin’ on your track”. The track was elements of a classic rap/trill hybrid and sees Niykee talking of her journey and her aim to succeed. With a US tour planned and new music on the horizon, its clear that Niykee has come a long way since covering Adele in her bedroom.