- Music Emilia: 'Coming from where I come from, becoming a singer was a huge accomplishment'
There are gestures, like saying thank you or asking how someone is doing, that may seem trivial but speak volumes about us. Nicki Nicole (Rosario, Argentina, 2000) has them all in her favor. Friendly and smiling, she arrives at our interview in Madrid from the Latin Grammy Awards in Seville a bit under the weather but doesn't complain when we ask her to squeeze in among some plants for a few photos. "Sorry about my voice, it's not usually like this," she jokes, lowering her tone even more.
Perhaps she can't claim to be the most famous person from her city. With a neighbor like Leo Messi, vying for that title seems challenging. But she can boast about being the first Argentine to perform live on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, one of the most talked-about programs on American television. What's more, she did so when she was just 21.
Since turning 18, her rise has been unstoppable. Her career kicked off almost by accident with Wapo Traketero, a scrappily-made song recorded at her childhood home. Nicole released it, young people liked it, they shared it, and it reached Duki's — considered the leading voice of Latin trap in Argentina — ears. At the time, the rapper was one of the few urban references in a country that now dominates the genre. He saw something in her and encouraged her to keep going. And he wasn't wrong. Since then, Nicole's bagged a contract with Sony, recorded a viral session with Bizarrap, released several albums, sold out massive concerts, and has even been nominated for awards.
"I always dreamed of this," she confesses to EL MUNDO. "When I was little, I would use a broom as a microphone and put on shows in the kitchen. The best part was that I wasn't pretending to be someone else. I didn't want to be Britney [Spears] or Christina [Aguilera]. I just wanted to be me, you know? It also helped my family to see that it wasn't just a phase," she explains.
It came as a surprise at home when the youngest of four siblings wanted to drop out of school to pursue singing. But her mother knew that Nicole — her real name — had to give it a try.
"It's nice to have your family right behind you. And I think it's also important that my team believes in me," she admits. "I never stop myself from dreaming. The excitement starts bubble inside you, and the thing you want starts to come together. It's very hard for something to come out of nowhere if you don't go looking for it. That's why it's so important for your support system not to hold you back," she argues.
Anyone would think that this is a thought typical of an artist who only knows success. However, she admits it took her time and tears to reach that level of self-confidence in herself and her work.
"When I was first starting out, I really went through it. I took criticism very hard and I felt so insecure that I believed everything people said about me. Maybe it was a 13-year-old sitting at home who expects you not to even see it. But you read it, and it hurts. And you see one and you want to see another. And another. And another. Launching your career is hard because you don't understand sh*t, and obviously, people have opinions," she says.
"Now it's very difficult for someone to tell me 'your music sucks' and for me to believe it," she continues, clarifying: "This isn't my ego talking, it's just confidence. You can tell me that you don't like what I do, and I'll understand. But that doesn't qualify my work as good or bad."
Her music, which falls under the vast umbrella of "urban music," blends genres like R&B, rap and reggaeton. She claims to draw from many influences, but two stand out from the rest: Amy Winehouse and Kendrick Lamar.
At the Latin Grammys, the Argentine was nominated for 'Best Rap Song' with Dispara, a track with the young Milo J, and for 'Best Urban Music Album' with Alma, her latest album. The latter was eventually awarded to Karol G for Mañana Será Bonito, but both albums share an important coincidence — they were inspired by a break-up. The Colombian's with Puerto Rican Anuel AA, and Nicki Nicole's with her ex-boyfriend, Argentine singer, Trueno.
"The album came together really organically. It was a moment when I felt like doing it, and Santi [Tatool], the producer and one of my best friends, also had a lot to say. So we pooled our emotions," she explains. "I think it's good to have catharsis through music," she adds.
In this regard, she points out that one of the most important parts of her work comes when she takes the stage. "I want them to be super intimate," she says. "I have a lot of very personal songs that resonate with the audience in their own struggles, and it feels good to sing them and help them release everything they are feeling."
But what about her own feelings?
"I like being myself. There are some songs that I sing with a lot of happiness because I know that I'm no longer in that moment, and then there are others that obviously bring back memories and emotions. But I feel like it all depends on the day you're having, on how you're feeling. I mean, I've never faked an emotion or, if my heart is being broken, act like it's not. I like to let myself go because I feel there's nothing better than being confident in front of your audience. But one thing is releasing emotions, and another is making them responsible for them. I let them out, but there's like a fine line. I don't start talking about what's happening to me because I feel that's something I have to deal with myself," she admits.
It took her a while to confirm her romance with the hottest new Mexican artist: Peso Pluma. It was him who publicly announced their relationship when they took to the stage together to sing Por las noches, the single on which they collaborate. To her surprise and to the surprise of thousands of people in attendance, he kissed her tenderly on the lips.
In her native Argentina, Nicki Nicole has had seven consecutive sold-out shows at the Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires, drawing crowds of more than 80,000 people. As if that wasn't enough, she has just announced an eighth date. A record at the venue only surpassed by Luis Miguel. She will be returning to Spain in March with concerts at the WiZink Center in Madrid and the Sant Jordi Club in Barcelona.
"I'm very excited to be singing here," she says. And she fondly remembers the first time that she performed in Spain at the Madrid Salvaje festival back in 2019, invited by Malaga rapper Delaossa. "There's a video of me from that day just before going on stage where I was super nervous. I had never sung on a stage before. Literally. I only had one song, but he liked it and invited me. Before that, the most I'd done was sing at a karaoke at a birthday party," she smiles, reminiscing about the moment.
Since then, she's done her fair share of collaborations with Spanish artists. She's already teamed up with Rels B and Aitana, and the latest artist to team up with her is Catalan rapper Bad Gyal.
"It's cool to make a lot of music with women because, in the past, I feel like there wasn't as much collaboration for fear of comparison. People were so quick to judge if two women joined forces. They would be comparing who had the best part," she notes. And she adds: "For me, that constant criticism towards women doesn't exist anymore, and I like that".
She is grateful to other artists like Ivy Queen or Cazzu, for "running so that others of us can walk". But she also believes that change starts from within: "It always starts with you, when you stop caring so much about what others will say."
Read the original interview in Spanish here.