2020 was undeniably whack, however Nicki Knightz continues to delight into 2021 with honest lyricism, catchy hooks and vivid imagery in her most recent EP ‘For the Uninformed’.
Released in May 2020, her fresh approach to storytelling, accompanied by her newest visual out in December entitled “1964 (Howlett Drive)”, shows she is an artistic force to be reckoned with and an antidote to the fuckeries we all endured in the year gone by.
Nicki’s been on the London scene for over 4 years with her compadre, producer and fellow artist Henny Knightz and has unapologetically gone from strength to strength. Following up from the buzz of 2018’s EP ‘Hate’, this three track release is more searching than previous offerings, mixing personal experience of being biracial with 808’s and instrumental pieces to create something that is heartfelt, philosophical and very real.
Specifically, Nicki’s ability to use personal experience to highlight social issues feels unmatched in rap at the moment – The EP starts with the phenomenal “Blacker The Berry”. Unsurprisingly, this track has got deserved praise from BBC R1Xtra’s Jamz Supernova due to it’s punchy lyricism and excellent production. The song highlights issues on race, police treatment and Nicki’s own work ethic in a way that is both poetic and hard hitting.
The visuals on this one are great too – depicting the low lights of a Nigerian restaurant, cut with the harsh lights of a CASH and CARRY you become accustomed to when growing up in London. It’s the kind of track where you’re compelled to dissect the lyricism, but there’s no need to (if you’re not that way inclined) because the production holds its own – however, you should probably want to delve deeper – Nicki manages to rap about IC3 police codes and in doing so, is able to explore the systemic racism in the UK with poise and nuance.
The second track on the EP, “India Arie” is an homage to the song “I Am Not My Hair” where Nicki highlights her own difficulties surrounding heritage and identity. The storytelling in this is beautiful – an honest look at the difficulties in mixed families that arise because of hair, and the impact it can have on self-image. Always a voice for the outcasts, she rises above the bassline ‘why didn’t you get specialised in your mix-race child’s hair?’ before going on to defy both parents through announcing of her own image and identity ‘Got my hair did, now she looking at the kid’. It made Toddla T’s ‘Coldest Record of the Week’ on BBCR1 in 2020, and is accompanied with a 90s inspired video directed by Sau AIi. As my favourite in the EP, it’s the perfect song you would rap along to before going out, akin to the sparkle in Kendrick Lamar’s more laid back tracks.
With the visuals released in December 2020, “1964 (Howlett Drive)” is more sombre in tone denoting the issues faced by her mum when Nicki was a child growing up in Hackney, and the split between her experiences in London and her Mum’s own in Norwich. Poised over a jazzy guitar riff the relaxed yet passionate vocals paint vivid imagery of Nicki’s parent’s relationship, the isolation her mum felt in London, and the insecurity Nicki endured as a child. More instrumental than the rest on the EP, this song undoubtedly reflects Nicki’s philosophical undertone. Again, Sau Ali manages to bring life to the track through the enactment of the authentic lyricism in Nicki’s bars – the video is simple and effective, deepening the listener’s understanding of the song.
To wrap up, Nicki Knightz ‘For The Uninformed’ is a three track journey of reflective and poetic beauty, stunningly produced by Henny Knightz with his melancholic, yet bouncy beats. Easily my favourite project I’ve listened to this year – and I’ve had a lot of time.