Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nikka Costa: Fiery Red-Headed Funkster

Nikka Costa
Nikka Costa photo by Matthew Welch
Nikka Costa is one red-hot funky mama. If you cross Janis Joplin with Chaka Khan and throw in some Prince and '70s funk diva Betty Davis, you'll get Nikka Costa. She's a massively funky artist as well as a magnetic performer. She first came to national attention in the U.S. in 2000 with the irresistible funk/soul cut "Like A Feather," which was featured in a Tommy Hilfiger television advertising campaign. The song's video received heavy rotation on popular music video channels, such as MTV and VH1. And she also got a lot of play with the Sly Stone-ish track "Everybody Got Their Something," which was also featured in several advertising campaigns. "Like a Feather" peaked at #53 on the UK Singles Chart.

After watching Nikka's "Like A Feather" video and some of her live performances, I was positive that she was set for big things in the U.S. Her performances are ballsy, sweat-soaked emotional blowouts much in the tradition of Janis Joplin, but funkier. Her sound is a fusion of funk, blues, rock and soul, with a little dash of hip hop thrown in. Nikka didn't break big in the U.S. like I thought she would. I think she was just too raw and pure an artist to fit nicely into a safe marketable package for mass consumption, especially at a time when prepackaged pop artists like Britney Spears and *NSYNC were topping the charts.

Nikka has great musical lineage. Her father was acclaimed producer/musician/arranger Don Costa. While growing up, she met a slew of entertainment legends, including Sly Stone, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Quincy Jones. She was also Frank Sinatra's goddaughter. So music has pretty much always been a big part of Nikka's life, and she started singing and performing at a very young age. Her first gig was opening for Don Ho in Hawaii at the age of five. Although she hasn't established a huge following in the U.S., she has enjoyed much success in other parts of the world. She has released albums throughout Europe, Israel, Australia and South and Central America, most of them achieving platinum status. And she has scored number-one hits in Italy, Germany and France. Also, in addition to singing, Nikka plays several instruments, including the drums, guitar and keyboards.

Nikka oozes funk and soul from every pore on her records and live performances. She possesses the pure, raw soul of funk and rock legends of the'60s and '70s. Nikka was born in the wrong era, as she has more in common with soul and rock artists from the past than she does with her musical peers.

Related blog entry: Nikka Costa Gets Her Funk On With Larry Graham and Prince


Retrovertigo said...

I had a friend who was really into Nikki Costa's music (particularly her album "Can'tneverdidnothin'", and he was completely uninterested in Betty Davis' self titled album, with which I hear a direct and obvious connection and influence. How can this be? I just don't understand how people who dig newer music won't listen to or enjoy previous artists who are so important regarding current artists.

Ken said...

I feel you dude. There doesn't seem to be a lot of appreciation these days for the innovators and pioneers like Betty Davis who paved the way for new artists on the scene.