Multifaceted artist Niko Brim talks music identity, travel, and authenticity

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  • Published on January 5, 2024
  • Last Updated January 10, 2024

The Mount Vernon native shares the inspiration behind his new project “HUES VOL. 1,” which features collaborations with legendary producer 9th Wonder and rapper Rapsody.

If music is a universal language, who are the artists that speak most powerfully to our heart and soul? Whose music offers the perfect soundtrack to adventures we’ve experienced and those that await us? In DETOUR’s TuneDn, we connect with artists – from seasoned vets to up-and-coming talents – about where their work has taken them and where they’re headed, both literally and musically. 

This time around, we’re chatting with Niko Brim, a multicultural artist from Mount Vernon, NY. The multifaceted artist discusses his musical journey, travel tales, and his unapologetic authenticity. He also gives an exclusive glimpse into his creative process and shares his experience working with legendary producer 9th Wonder and acclaimed rapper Rapsody. Having drawn inspiration from these collaborations, Niko describes how these influential figures played a pivotal role in shaping the sound and authenticity of his latest work, “HUES VOL. 1.”

What is your ethnicity, where do you currently live and how does your background inspire your music?

I am of African American, Jamaican, and Japanese descent, residing in Mount Vernon, NY. My background strongly resonates in my music, evident in both my lyrical expression and the carefully selected production that shapes my sound. Culture serves as a profound influence on my artistic creations.

Can you explain why music is important to travel?

I thoroughly enjoy immersing myself in music while traveling, as it invariably establishes the mood. Whether embarking on a vacation or any journey, I prefer tunes that align with my laid-back and smooth demeanor. The music has a unique ability to either elevate my spirits or maintain my relaxed vibe throughout the trip.

Do you feel music is a key factor in a person’s destination choice when planning a vacation?

I feel music could be a key factor in travel, however, the motivation for travel varies. For some, it might be attending a festival or seeing a favorite artist. Personally, I find inspiration in exploring new destinations solely to witness the diversity of our world and its myriad cultures. It’s the exploration of different cultures that truly fuels my passion for travel.

Niko Brim (Credit: Marvin Lloyd Jr.)

What places have you traveled so far, and where was your favorite destination?

I’ve had the privilege of visiting numerous places, making it challenging to list them all off the top of my head. However, if I were to pick a few of favorites, London, Montreal, and the Dominican Republic would definitely top the list.

Where are some must-go-to places in your hometown?

I recommend three must-visit spots. Firstly, head straight to Bobo Garden on The Ave for their amazing sugar wings. Next, make a stop at Ultimate Juices on Gramatan, and finally, don’t miss Dyre Fish Market on Dyre & 233rd. These three places are guaranteed to be life-changing experiences.

What are your must-have items when traveling?

I can’t leave anywhere without my duffle bag, that’s the top essential. After that, I gotta make sure I have my electric toothbrush, personal toiletries, and my cologne. Good hygiene always takes your trip to the next level.

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

The music I make is honest and soulful.

Niko Brim (Credit: Marvin Lloyd Jr.)

What is your creative process?

The way I approach my creative process varies and is shaped by my mood that day. Some days, I’m ready to hit the recording studio without jotting down a single word. On other occasions, I invest hours or even days crafting a record. There’s no fixed pattern, but one constant is the intentional and limited presence of a select few individuals in my sessions. I firmly believe that an excessive number of people can dilute the energy in the room, so I keep my sessions closed with only those present for a purpose.

DETOUR attended the listening event in New York City for your new  project “HUES VOL. 1,” which featured some meaningful lyrics that really resonated with the crowd. What motivated you to stray away from the current popular New York music sound and stay true to your sound? What were your overall inspirations for the project? 

I’m grateful for your support. Taking a closer look at my music catalog, you’ll find that I’ve never conformed to what’s popular merely to fit in. That’s just not my style. My music is an authentic reflection of what feels right to me, resonating with my true self. I can’t be anything other than myself. The motivation behind “HUES” was to spark a dialogue about originality and the freedom to embrace one’s true identity and pursue individual callings. In a world that often pressures conformity, I believe it’s essential to stand out and resist the urge to conform.

Your mother, celebrity stylist and fashion designer Misa Hylton, is considered by many as hip-hop and fashion royalty. She has pioneered and revolutionized fashion for hip-hop and R&B legends such as Lil Kim and Mary J. Blige. How has growing up with her as a parent contributed to your growth as an artist and individual?

My mom is the GOAT. She’s the hardest working person I know, so to see her everyday grind and put the work in inspired me to do the same. Her pursuing her dreams let me know from an early age I can do it too. That’s my heart right there.

You are also working with industry veterans and music phenomenons, rapper Rapsody and producer 9th Wonder. How does it feel to be working with such a dynamic powerhouse? 

Rapsody holds a special place as my big sister, affectionately known as Rap. It’s quite surreal because she’s been a favorite rapper of mine since high school, and our connection transcends mere fandom. Amidst the laughter that fills our interactions, my admiration for Rap runs deep. When few recognized the vision, she did. For that, I am forever grateful. 

9th Wonder also showed immense support. I vividly recall the “Goodfellas” [recording] session with Rapsody, GQ, Charlie Smarts, and Swank. The approval from 9th for it to feature on [his second compilation project] “Jamla is the Squad II” was a pivotal moment, affirming that I’m truly immersed in this rap game.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

I would change how the talent is scouted and which artists are funded. We need people that understand hip-hop deeper than just numbers and analytics. That is a part of it, but right now I see no balance between quantity analytics and quality analytics. We need more quality artists to be front and center. 

What is your favorite song to perform?

That’s a tough one! It depends on the crowd, but if we’re here to go crazy I’m going with “Bankroll$.” That takes the energy to the next level at any show.

Niko Brim (Credit Marvin Lloyd Jr.)

What is new for you?

I’ve recently dropped my latest project, “HUES VOL. 1.” It stands as my most accomplished body of work to date, making it the perfect entry point for anyone looking to tune in and explore my musical journey.

Where can we listen to it?

You can exclusively find my latest music on Even. I’m taking it back to grassroots, steering clear of streaming platforms that pay artists less than a cent per stream. Recognizing my value as an artist, I’ve chosen a platform where I can set my own price point. It’s all about building value in what I have equity in. Inspired by the wisdom Nip dropped, I’m ensuring I pick up those gems. 

What’s next for you?

Get ready to spot my name everywhere! Anticipate big features, exciting tours, and, above all, the release of exceptional music.

Stay TuneDn with Niko Brim by following him on YouTube, Instagram and X, and stream his latest project, “HUES VOL. 1” on Even.

Frances Handy (aka Franie M) is a music marketing and public relations specialist from Staten Island, New York. Music has always been a major influence since interning at Roc Nation, where she assisted on numerous artist marketing projects, brand activations, and PR campaigns. After achieving her BA in Business and Marketing Communication at Berkeley College, she founded public relation and artist branding agency, CGM Publicity.

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