It seems that a full album—as a whole piece and not a compilation of tracks—is more of a statement nowadays, relegated to artists who are nostalgic for their own music listening experience. Nicki Nicole is one of those nostalgic artists. “I really enjoy listening to full albums and seeing what the artists have to offer as a whole,” she tells Remezcla over a Zoom call.
Her sophomore album, Parte de Mí, shows her finding her comfort zone and playing around a little bit within those limits. And as she tells us, also closing a phase in her career. “It’s been just two years between both albums and I’m only 21. But so much has happened and I’ve learned so much. I learn every day. I had a bunch of songs, and for a while, I wanted to put together a well-polished album,” she says.
The starting point of the whirlwind that has been the last couple of years in Nicki’s life could be August 19, 2019, when her collaboration with Argentinian producer Bizarrap dropped. It was a live Music Session that highlighted Nicki’s—19 at the time—unique and captivating voice. It catapulted her to local stardom. Biza has made this format his staple for music releasing and has sessions with the likes of Nicky Jam, Anuel AA, and Nathy Peluso. To this day, Nicki boasts the fourth most viewed session out of 46 that Biza has done to date.
Though Nicki may be a part of the second wave of Argentinian trap, she is definitely at the head of the Argentinian takeover of the region’s reggaeton scene. Especially when it comes to reaching U.S audiences, something her local peers haven’t been able to do completely. By April 27 of this year—after lots of singles and some strategic collaborations—Nicki performed “Wapo Traketero” and “No Toque mi Naik” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, becoming the first Argentinian artist to appear on the show. She also starred on NPR’s Tiny Desk last month, playing with a full band and showcasing herself as one of the most interesting artists coming out of South America at the moment. Just two weeks later, she featured on Cristina Aguilera’s new single, “Pa’ Mis Muchachas,” alongside Nathy Peluso and Becky G.
A new album was the last piece to cement Nicki as a trending artist and to help her captivate the new fans that are discovering her. Parte de Mí offers a confident Nicki exploring her boundaries and trying to expand her musical spectrum. It’s a great effort at closing a phase that summarizes where she is right now and where she wants to go from there. For example, the song “Sabe” featuring Rauw Alejandro, who just had his biggest year yet, will surely put her in the spotlight with a club anthem. On the other hand, her versatility on the record shows her growth as an artist and the lanes she could go next. “Pensamos” with Chilean icon Mon Laferte is a pop ballad with fresh air that showcases a new side of Nicki. So does “Baby,” a cotton candy pop hit that stands out for the colorful production it has.
Remezcla spoke with Nicki about the new album, working with X-tina, and the artists that opened doors for her within the Argentinian trap scene.
What phase is closing with the release of the album, and where are you in your career right now?
In the last two years, I’ve found an identity that really represents who I am today. Everything I am is because of these last two years in which I grew, created my team, and because of that, I now know what I want to say. The sudden pause that came with the pandemic really helped me to reflect on what I wanted to do with my career. I was just doing lots of things at the same time, and everything was happening so fast. It was a very intense stage. There was a lot of loneliness and nostalgia because my family and loved ones were not around. These things inspired the songs in the album. It’s everything I wanted to say that at some point, I couldn’t.
In today’s dynamics for music releasing, singles are the trend, especially in your field. Do you feel a constant pressure to release music? And if so, how do you manage your own pressure to keep the quality high?
Yeah, I don’t really love it. I don’t usually put out music that often, or just for the sake of releasing. I’ve been releasing singles as promo for the album, but otherwise, I don’t know if I’d do it so often. Songs now also need to come with a video. Luckily, I love cinema, the visual part of music. I love that audio and visual go hand in hand, so I usually prepare a lot before releasing a song. I overthink these things a lot. I am also a very detailed-oriented person, and that can backfire sometimes. It is also good to give songs some time. It is common that people release lots of songs in a short span of time. It’s not something I like so much. Songs need time to be listened to and to grow on people.
Speaking of the album itself, I noticed EVLAY is credited as a producer in the album. He is a very prominent figure right now in the Argentinian scene. How was your whole process working together?
I had an original idea of how I wanted it to sound, but we didn’t know where to go from there, so having [EVLAY] was super helpful to bring it to life. He is a super-focused person who knows a lot about music, about what he wants, and how to get it. Having him on the team helped me a lot to find the correct path to each song. I had many ideas and zero knowledge on how to execute them. I would sometimes even have lyrics but no idea on what genre would fit them better, and he would help me choose. I didn’t know 100% in which direction I wanted the album to go, and he was key in finding it.
I would also imagine it’s very helpful for you to have someone who’s not only from your home country but as close to you and the whole scene as he is. How key is having someone like that when you have pressure from labels to work with new producers and such?
It’s fundamental because that tends to happen to me a lot. Sometimes you get to another place with new people who are used to doing different things and they try to change your essence. It’s not something intentional or “evil,” but they want to take you out of your comfort zone, and that’s great. But having EVLAY in the studio gives me a starting point to hop on something that I’m not very familiar with. I travel with him to the U.S. to record and he keeps my feet on the ground in that sense. Not only him but Bizarrap and Mauro de Tomasso as well. They are all a crucial part of this.
It seems like a matter of time before all of you (the Argentinian trap scene) finally conquer the world. Since you’re already making waves yourself, why do you think you are starting to get so much attention in the mainstream? What changed, and what are you guys bringing to the table that is such a novelty right now?
I think genuineness is very important in what we are doing, and people can recognize that. To us, it’s very important for everyone to defend what each one does music-wise, and not to give up on our own ideas, and to keep chasing the sound we want to make. When I was starting out, people did not understand what Duki was doing—his way of singing, his way of producing, his approach to making music. Many people criticized him for that. Today, we all consume him and we all adore him. He opened a door for us and we are all inspired by him. He is the living proof that it’s important to defend what you are doing. If Duki had given up and didn’t make the music he wanted to make, this whole movement wouldn’t be where it is. He stood up for everyone. Same with Cazuu, who stood up for all of the girls who came after her. She helped us all, including me.
As for what is changing, I think labels are starting to adapt more to the artists than the other way around. With knowledge and the world as it is, you have a better chance at negotiating these things, and can no longer be forced to make the kind of music you don’t really feel like doing. We have more room to be authentic.
“If Duki had given up and didn’t make the music he wanted to make, [Argentinian trap] wouldn’t be where it is. He stood up for everyone. Same with Cazuu, who stood up for all of the girls who came after her. She helped us all, including me.”
Duki has stated many times that he visualized all of this before it happened. What do you think of this massive success of yours? Were you as confident and sure as some of your peers back in the day?
[Laughs] No, I was quite the opposite. That’s what impresses me the most about Duki, Biza, and all of those guys. They knew they were gonna make it. And they were like 14-15 at the time and still created a scene from scratch and opened so many doors. Me, I was a whole different thing. I always felt that I was born for something else, I was born to make music. I knew I wanted to get involved in art but I didn’t know how I was going to get there. It was hard for me to have that confidence that they had, and part of what motivated me was my family and friends. They were the ones who would say, “Nicki, you are going to make it.”
Music depends mostly on people liking what you do, and it was extremely surprising, and it still is today, that people like what I release and that artists want to work with me. When [my big break] happened, I was kinda confused. Everything was happening so fast. Luckily, I had very good advice from those you mentioned before. Cazzu, Duki, Biza, everyone in the scene motivated me and let me know that my talent was worth it and that what was happening was not a coincidence.
Speaking of getting noticed by other artists, you featured in Cristina Aguilera’s latest single “Pa’ Mis Muchachas.” What was that experience like and how did it happen?
The Cristina thing came as a surprise to me as well. Her team approached us and they made the proposal. And, of course, I couldn’t say no. Her music is not directly from my generation, you know? But I lived and enjoyed her through my sister who loved her madly. I even know some of her choreographies! She is a very complete artist. The actual recording with her was a challenge for me, it made me quite nervous because, you know, it’s Cristina Aguilera.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to enjoy this moment in my career. I’ve reached a place where I’m very comfortable, I have the people I want around, and that’s good for me. As for the album and such, I’m going on tour in Argentina at the end of the year. And next year, the idea is to go to Europe and places like that. I’m really looking forward to it. The pandemic has limited me a lot with the shows and I can’t wait to just get out there and give it all.
Listen to Parte de Mí below.