Atlanta has seemingly taken not only hip-hop, but the music world by storm with its infectious trap sounds and vivid stories of life in the streets. But a new artist is emerging with something different. His name is Niko Blue and his latest project, Me, You and Summer, dropped in late May as the perfect soundtrack for your Summer ’18.
Blue, whose stage name is his middle and last name, grew up going to choir practice with his mom and analyzing the drummer at church on Sundays. His father was a big house fan, which shaped much of the 27-year-old’s sound.
“When I was younger, I never understood it,” he says of his father’s fascination with house music. “I couldn’t understand why that’s what he was listening to. But as I got older, I kinda grew an appreciation for it and I really got into it.”
Blue, who cites Kaytranada as his favorite house musician right now, is a well-rounded artist who raps, produces and sings. He got his start early as a drummer. When he was 17, a friend bought him FL Studio (formerly FruityLoops) and his artistry really took off. Being self-sufficient is important to Blue for many reasons.
“I don’t need a middle man,”
He explains. “I don’t wanna sound cocky, but if I can do all of it myself, then I can create the whole process myself and dive into it. I don’t have to wait on this person to get it back to me or this person to help me with that. I think that can really come in handy for someone the further they get into their career. The less help they need creating the music, I think the more they can create. It eliminates the process of having to email people for beats and search out for things.”
But Niko Blue doesn’t work in a strictly isolated environment. On the end of one of Me, You and Summer’s singles, “Back Then,” there’s a moment of pure excitement where Blue and his right hand man KeyDeaux get hyped over the track. Blue gives KeyDeaux free reign to help perfect the artistry whether it’s adding background vocals or just letting him know a song is whack.
“I’m pretty private with what I do in the studio, but he does attend every session and he will let me know if something is just off or this isn’t right,” Niko says. “It’s good to have a second ear in there instead of just a bunch of people telling you this is good.”
Another major influence in Blue’s career was Drake. After listening to Shawty Lo and Gucci Mane like the average Atlanta teenager, Blue’s high school buddy passed him Room for Improvement, the 2006 project that wasn’t so Champagne Papi.
It was the early stages of Drizzy that Blue gravitated towards the most. And essentially, he applied Drake’s relatability to his own records.
“I was like, ‘What is this?’” Blue remembers. “He’s talking about normal stuff, not some hood rap trap stuff that I can’t relate to. When I make music, I kinda like to keep it toward my reality, retrospect, just keep it real instead of like a facade or whatever.”
Me, You and Summer is a next step in Blue’s own evolution as an artist connecting with people. It features eight tracks with striking stories of love lost (“Four Missed Calls”) balanced with booming boasts about the come-up (“There He Go”). Even the cover art is a step forward as it’s a photograph of Niko in front of a house during a trip to Los Angeles. Most of his image up until this point has been cartoon artwork.
“I love the cartoon; animation thing. That’s my brand or what I think people recognize if anything by my name,” he says. “I’m not gonna stray away from it, but for this I did want people to actually see me instead of the cartoon.”
Blue went through his usual process for creating EPs by picking a name first and then selecting songs that fit the theme for Me, You and Summer. His personal favorite is the title track, which should be played with the windows down cruising on an open road one breezy day.
“I remember when I made that beat, as soon as I exported it, I immediately started writing to it and coming up with the melody,” he shares. “I played it on Snapchat or Instagram when I was in the car and I got a whole bunch of responses in my inbox and immediately I knew that that was going to be a good song. It just had a good summer vibe to it and I feel like that is what the whole tape is about, just a summer vibe.”
For his personal summer playlist, Blue shares that he always is inspired by ‘90s women trios, including Jade, SWV and 702.
“They were really killing it,” he muses. “… I know half of those songs are for women, but you can’t turn that on in your car and just not bob your head and not feel it. The songs feel good.”
Utilizing all of the tools he has, Blue is on a mission to give listeners the same thing in his own way. He is very aware of his place in the Atlanta music scene and hopes he can put on for the city, being the first person from the ATL to blend rap and house.
“As far as my music, what I want people to get from it is just a good feeling,” he says. “I want you to feel it. I don’t want you to be able to not nod your head. Or I don’t want you to be able to skip that line. I want you to catch onto certain things that I’m saying. ‘Yeah I can relate to that.’ Or, ‘Yeah, that’s happened to me too.’ Just the simplicity of it.”
Photos by @karelesskorey