You’ve heard her vocals over tracks with Lupe Fiasco and Ab-Soul, but who is Nikki Jean? Nikki Jean is a soulful singer and songwriter from St. Paul, Minnesota who began making a name for herself after being featured on Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool album.
Here are eights things you should know about this songbird.
1. Nikki Jean is also an actress.
At a very young age, Jean began acting and was even featured in the award-winning independent film, On the Outs. As a child actor, she was also featured in several plays in the Minneapolis theater scene. While in Minneapolis, she strengthened her vocal abilities under JD and Fred Steele, who were back-up singers to Prince. Jean credits the Steele duo for her sense of harmony and vocal arrangement.
2. She studied at Howard University.
Jean attended Howard University where she studied Sociology. She was a member of Howard University’s Musical Theatre Department along with being on the National Dean’s list and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In 2011, Jean embarked on the “Living Room Tour” which included a stop at her alma mater.
3. She used to be in a band called Nouveau Riche.
After graduating from Howard, Jean moved to Philadelphia and began working with Dice Raw and a band that would come to be known as Nouveau Riche. In 2007, Nouveau Riche, was nominated for OkayPlayer’s “Rookie of the Year” category but lost to Gym Class Heroes. After releasing their second EP entitled Free Money EP, the band announced their break-up on their Myspace page.
4. Nikki’s music was discovered online and led up to her working with Lupe Fiasco.
In 2007, two producers known as Chris & Drop contacted Jean after hearing her music. After playing them some of her music, they introduced the soulful songbird to rapper Lupe Fiasco. Shortly after, Lupe contacted Jean and she was featured on his sophomore album, The Cool.
Check out Nikki Jean’s initial reaction of hearing her vocals on “Hip Sop Saved My Life.”
5. Nikki has toured with some of your favorite artists.
Miss Jean was an opening act for Kanye West’s “Glow in the Dark” tour. The tour featured several other artists including Rihanna, N.E.R.D, Diggy Simmons and of course, Lupe Fiasco. In addition to being a part of this tour, Jean also toured with legendary rock band, Train.
6. Nikki Jean says Irving Berlin is the artist that inspired her to be a songwriter.
Nikki Jean finds herself most inspired by the legendary and immortal singer, Irving Berlin. “Even being 5, I already knew ‘White Christmas,’ I’d already heard ‘God Bless America,” she said. “He was immortal—he was 100 years old—but there songs were so fresh and alive, and it was so important to be a songwriter. That’s when I decided I wanted to be one.”
7. “Tommy’s Song” was originally written for her brother.
A few months ago, Nikki Jean released a song entitled “Tommy’s Song” that addressed police brutality at the peak of pressing issues such as Eric Garner and Mike Brown. The emotional song was written for her brother a few years ago and was kept under wraps until late 2014.
8. Did we mention her latest EP is out right now?
Be sure to check out Nikki Jean’s latest project, The Champagne Water EP which is available now on iTunes and Soundcloud.