With their most recent endeavor, Head in the Clouds II, 88Rising cemented themselves as a collective deserving of the high praise they have received over the past year. Primarily touted for their ability to put Asian culture into a fresh new light of artistic expression, the group is much more than a diversity movement.
The team at 88Rising consistently produces hit after hit, regardless of ethnic background and the wonderful message the group represents, 88Rising is simply a home for quality music. With Joji, Rich Brian, and NIKI leading the charge, the group has proved their musical prowess with two full-length collective albums, both featuring several undeniably standout tracks.
As stand-alone artists, each individual member of 88rising possesses attributes that make them a special character in the modern music landscape. NIKI, described as “the internet’s favorite R&B princess” by Noisey, is a key member of the collective and has a distinct style that blends elements of classic R&B and contemporary pop to produce infectious tracks fans around the world have fallen in love with.
NIKI is a self-taught producer, songwriter, and singer who truly broke onto the scene with her 2018 debut EP, Zephyr. Since then, she has released several prominent singles, including the hit “Indigo,” and has existed as a staple in 88Rising’s collective efforts, Head in the Clouds and Head in the Clouds II. With several standout tracks on the most crew album, NIKI has decided to strip down the production on a few tracks and show the world her raw ability.
The acoustic recordings feature no more than a crisp acoustic guitar, gentle piano keys, and an occasional electric guitar, all crafting a nine-minute, three-track, sensation of awe. To begin, NIKI puts forward a crisp take of her track “La La Lost You,” with soft and sweet vocals and a handful of gorgeous guitar chords, NIKI tells a story of a cross-continental heartbreak. NIKI name drops a healthy amount of Los Angeles neighborhoods while calling out to her once lover in New York, juxtaposing the quickly changing lives they lead and the heartbreaking memories that continue to bubble to the surface.
Niki’s vocal performance plays out like a kind of gentle siren’s call, perfect for sinking one’s head deeper into a soft pillow, for a night of deep sleep or a soft cry, depending on the night. Her falsetto hits are pure and charming, while her lower register notes are round and refreshing to the ear. The guitar chords are complemented by the sweetest of piano keys that serve as a nostalgia-inducing lullaby. Each element combined provides a sense of sincerity that only could have been achieved in this newfound acoustic setting.
Further, the EP makes sure to highlight some key moments of the collective album. The tracks “Strange Land” and “Shouldn’t Couldn’t Wouldn’t” both make an appearance albeit without their respective collaborators, Phum Viphurit and Rich Brian. Yet, with NIKI taking center stage, these tracks allow for NIKI to showcase herself as a true star vocalist. NIKI’s vocal performance on “Strange Land” is angelic, even hauntingly beautiful at times.
The new dimensions brought forward in NIKI’s surprise acoustic release are awe-inspiring, turning moments of pop and R&B into emotionally-gripping ballads. The R&B princess is now also the queen of the acoustic campfire jam sessions, and we are here for it
Listen to NIKI Acoustic Sessions: Head In The Clouds II below: