by Alma Hill
TALIB KWELI with Niko Is
9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9 | Bullitt Bar, 33 E. Pine St. | 407-839-0999 | bullittbar.com | $10
Niko Is, the Brazilian-born, Orlando-based rapper who’s making waves lately with legends like Talib Kweli isn’t new at all. Colours of the Culture, the creative team he’s been working with, has been around for a decade already, and they’re not showing any signs of slowing down.
Fresh off the heels of his last mixtape, Good Blood, which dropped this past March, the team is getting ready for the release of the Brutus LP, Niko’s fifth project, which somehow has been finished for two years. “Nothing’s different,” Niko says about the album. “We’ve just been polishing and making it better. We’re in the same place with the same people.” If you’ve ever listened to anything else this crew of creative savants puts out, you know that more of the same is very, very good.
That’s, after all, what caught the ear of hip-hop master Talib Kweli. After he was given a copy of Niko’s third mixtape Chill Cosby, by former host of Backbooth’s Shake ’n Bass Triska, Kweli came back the very next day. Niko and the hip-hop veteran have been kickin’ it ever since, the way only the coolest of hip-hop heads can. “We used to get tacos and go to clubs,” Niko says. “But it’s an honor. An extreme honor. I’ve learned so much.”
The up-and-comer hasn’t let the shot at fame get to his head, which is refreshing. You can still catch the emcee freestyling at free pop-up shows at Reilly’s Pub on Conroy Road between trips to Miami or New York. Everyone who comes to the open mic is fam. Colours of the Culture and Niko have no problems hanging out until the wee hours of the morning with any and everyone who’s so inclined.
The Brutus LP will finally debut in November after being pushed back twice. “We wanted to release it in March
you know, Ides of March, Brutus,” Niko says. “At first we were writing this Greco-Roman masterpiece, but we stripped all that and got back to the core of great music.” The new release date is set at Nov. 11, which the team swears is just the hand of fate at work. The LP features some of the hottest acts in hip-hop including Cyhi da Prince, San Fran rapper Kool A.D., and the master himself, Kweli.
Known for his freestyle abilities, Niko’s been perfecting his craft since age 14. “To me, freestyle is natural. That’s how I started doing it, because that’s how I thought people were doing it. And then I find out, it’s not, but that’s good for me.” He rarely leaves the stage without dropping one impromptu rhyme and will often interlace Portuguese phrases, from his native Brazil. The skill and homage to his heritage are off the wall but also cool-as-hell and give his shows a unique sense of personality.
So what’s next for Niko Is, the City Beautiful’s own? He’s opening up for Talib Kweli on Oct. 9, at Bullitt Bar. Doors open at 9 p.m., and tickets are only $10, so cop 'em quick. Not only do you get to witness the artistry of one of the founding fathers of hip-hop (for ten freaking dollars!), you get to see what it looks like when a newcomer holds his own in the ring with a heavy hitter.