It is raining in Miami, however that hasn’t dampened Nicki Nicole’s spirit. The 20-year-old Argentinian is absorbing each minute of her three-day work journey away from dwelling in Buenos Aires. Having established herself in South America (with three Argentinian High 10 singles, 391m YouTube streams and a nomination for greatest newcomer at this week’s Latin Grammys), she now has eyes on the UK and US.
At 17, Nicki began following pals who flocked to guerrilla freestyle MC competitions in public squares round their dwelling city of Rosario, Argentina’s third largest metropolis. Regardless of being enchanted by the quick-thinking versatility of the rappers, the machismo and aggression on show left her feeling out of sync.
“These environments had been troublesome for ladies,” she explains over Zoom in a long-sleeved, white T-shirt. “A lot of the boys use sexism, it’s their best device.” At a small occasion, whereas testing the water, Nicki went face to face with a male rapper who thought a victim-blaming line about violence in opposition to ladies, which is endemic in Argentina (official statistics state a girl is killed each 32 hours within the nation), would please the gang. “He mainly stated it’s our fault due to how we gown and act,” she remembers. “I got here again and stated: ‘No, folks like you might be guilty.’ The viewers erupted into whoops and applause.”
Eager to experiment with different genres in addition to hip-hop – and with out males spitting misogyny in her face – she began to jot down, importing her music to YouTube as a substitute. She began out with 30 subscribers – family and friends – however one early authentic quickly gained traction. “And growth,” she says, “issues kicked off.”
Regardless of one of the best efforts of Google Translate, and my grasp of 12 months 8-equivalent Spanish vocab, I’ve struggled to get my head around the summary lyrical poetry in her tracks. That first single (Wapo Traketero), Nicki explains patiently, is a couple of good-looking drug supplier; her new observe Mala Vida riffs on life as a mafioso mobster with Billie Eilish-like depth, its video full of costumes stolen from the Peaky Blinders set. Some tunes are straight-up poppy, others lean extra in direction of hip-hop, however every is a seemingly easy mix of her skilfully easy rap and silkily sung Spanish tones.
Just a few years in the past, earlier than the globalisation of pop that has seen Ok-pop and Latin music begin to dominate, releasing music with Spanish lyrics to an English-speaking viewers would have been a problem. However having grown up listening to songs by American and British artists with no clue about their which means, Nicki is just not satisfied we have to fear an excessive amount of. “For those who see somebody screaming on the street,” says Nicole, “it makes no distinction what language they’re yelling in: you’ll nonetheless really feel the emotion.”
She believes the identical goes for music, too. “No matter language, music could make me really feel issues: to sing or dance or cry. If you translate the lyrics it might need a completely totally different which means. However so what?” The very fact I wasn’t conscious her track Plegarias is a couple of church fireplace didn’t make me get pleasure from it any much less.
There’s a tattoo on Nicki’s neck; I ask what it says as I can’t fairly learn it. She leans into the digicam to indicate me. “It says ‘bullshit’ in English,” she grins. “Bull. Shit. Ladies in Argentina are instructed learn how to act, how they need to gown. As quickly as I turned 18 I acquired this tattoo to say: ‘Fuck that – I’ll do what I need.’”