Niykee Heaton is on a high following the release of her Bad Intentions EP, and nothing can stop her — not even the Instagram haters.
Niykee, a 19-year-old pop and R&B singer known for her YouTube covers and racy Instagram pictures, has learned quickly that the music industry can be a cold, tough place. She released her debut EP under All Def Music, but later hit a wall with the label. She can’t say much about what happened for fear of running into legal issues, but she’s since reached a better place musically and creatively.
Niykee talked to us about putting together her debut album, the “thousands” of dick picks she’s received, and the one time Kanye West surprised her in a studio and sang over a beat she made in a hotel bathroom. Find out more about Niykee in our Q&A with her below.
Before your cover of “Love Sosa” blew up, were you actively trying to pursue music?
I’ve been trying to pursue a music career since I was six. I always knew it was something that I wanted to do, but I really buckled down during my early high school years. When I was uploading those YouTube videos was when I was really focused.
Can you talk about how your label deal came about?
Lauren [her manager] found me on YouTube, and I moved in with her and we started to work. After the “Love Sosa” cover blew up, all the labels started to reach out. They were interested, and we were excited, so we took a lot of meetings. Even though everyone was excited to meet me, they already had an idea of the kind of artist they wanted to mold me into, and we weren’t really interested in playing puppet games. So we took a step back, worked on the music, and built a catalog that we were proud of. Then, Lauren was online one day and saw an article about this new venture. It was YouTube-based, and we decided to take a meeting because we were bored. It just so happened that everything clicked that day, and they signed me on the spot.
Your open letter outlines some of the problems you faced with the label. What’s the current situation?
I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say legally about that, but as of right now, things are good. I’m out of the situation that I was in prior. We are now in a place where we can create music that I want to create, and we are no longer tied to the people that were holding me back.
What are you working on musically right now?
I’m trying to put a lot of songs together that I’m very proud of because I want to release an album this year. Things are going slowly because it’s harder to do things on our own. We don’t have the big label push behind us that most pop stars have. I just released one song a couple of days ago called “NBK,” and I’m planning to release a song called “Say Yeah” and a song called “Best Thing Ever” very very soon for my fans.
What does NBK stand for?
Since the very start, Lauren and I have banded together and formed this unbreakable bond that we’ve used to push through this music industry. We were always wondering, “What is our brand gonna be called?” Two and a half years passed, and we still could not think of a name to call our brand. One day, I was listening to a Bob Dylan song, and I looked in the credits, and it was a song that he had put in the movie Natural Born Killers with Woody Harrelson. I was like, “Oh my God, this is my favorite song ever.” I realized that a year ago, I had recorded a song and I put the term “natural born killer.” Me and Lauren were like, “That suits us perfectly because we kill everything that’s in our way and we don’t even have to try. Why not call ourselves the natural born killers?” So that’s the brand that we wanted to create and we wanted my fans to be able to rep that.
How did your meeting with Kanye come about?
It was very very random. We were working with some people in this tiny closet room, where there was enough for, like, two people. We were paying for it ourselves, and we were just trying to get some shit done because I had started producing myself because things were getting difficult. All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door, and Kanye walked in. He was like, “Hey, guys, how are you?” I was trying not to shit my pants. He was so polite, he was like, “I’ve been watching your guys’ journey for a long time. I’ve been following you both on Instagram. I love what you’re doing. Can I hear some of your stuff?”
I’m like, “Uh, alright.” I played him all of my new music, and finally, I had run out of stuff. I had just started producing at that time, and had made this instrumental in the hotel bathroom the night before, so I was like, “Don’t judge me, but I just made this beat. Do you wanna hear it?” And he was like, “Yeah, sure.” And I played him this beat that I had just made, and he was like, “Wow, this is really dope. Do you mind if I lay down some ideas on it?” And I was like, “No, I don’t mind at all.” It was some sort of dream. It didn’t make any sense.
Did he rap over your beat?
He sang a really pretty melody, and I just watched him in awe. He was like, “Yeah, so, let me know what you do with it.” I’ve been cherishing it like a piece of gold.
Let’s talk about your Instagram. You’ve got over a million followers. What do you think landed you such a huge following?
I grew up as a complete ugly duckling. I was always thick, and that wasn’t cool back then. I never thought of myself as a pretty girl or the girl who got things because of her looks. I graduated high school, started doing music, and started to gain confidence in myself. When I started my Instagram account, that was just me being me. The response I got was really crazy because people were like, “You’re so hot.” I became more comfortable with who I was, and I just kept posting pictures. My mom was a total hippie so we were always running around naked, and I thought that was natural and normal. I didn’t understand that there was anything sinful about that, so I carried that into my Instagram. The response I got from that still blows my mind because people are like, “You’re a porn star, you’re this or that.” People can think what they want because no matter what opinion they have, they’re still coming back and checking my Instagram, and they’re still stalking me. If I can use what I can to grab people’s attention, I will. And they will come to look at my pictures, and stay to listen to my music.
What do you do about the haters?
Even if I really dislike someone, I’ve never felt the need in my whole life to say something mean publicly. When people do that to me, it hurts because I don’t get it, but I’ve learned to deal with it by remembering that what people say is not about me. I just have to pray for them because you have to be a really ugly person to say those things and I can’t let it be about me because it’s about them.
What photo editing apps, if any, do you use?
I really love Instafy. It’s my favorite app because you can crop everything to fit in Instagram and it has the best filters. I literally just used it two minutes ago.
How many dick pics would you say you’ve received?
In my lifetime?
Let’s say after the popularity of your Instagram.
Oh my God. I try not to open the majority of them, but I would say thousands. Literally thousands. The age range is mind-blowing. It’s anywhere from a 50-year-old dad to a seven-year-old boy.
What do they say?
You would be so shocked. The most violently sexual comments I get are from nine-year-old boys. I just want to know where the parents are.
Can you recall an experience with social media that stood out to you in either a positive or negative way?
The most important thing that’s happened is over Instagram DM. All these girls were getting tattoos of one of my lyrics. I think it’s gone up to 70 or 80 kids now who have gotten this same lyric tattooed on their skin. I was looking through my DMs, and there was one from a 12-year-old girl and she was like, “I’m not old enough yet to get your lyric tattooed on me, but I swear to God that once I turn 18, that’s the first thing that I’m gonna do. Until then, I’ve been writing your lyrics in Sharpie on my arm every day.” She took a picture and it was my lyrics written in black Sharpie on her arm over the scars where she had cut herself, and she was like, “Your songs give me the strength to believe in myself so I don’t have to self-harm.” If I get anything out of this journey, it was that message that that girl sent me.
What were the lyrics?
It was from “I’m Ready,” which is this terrible demo I put on SoundCloud. The lyric is “my ambition is my weaponry.” It’s the tattoo that I have on my shoulder. I feel like it’s a way for my fans to feel close to me, that they get it tattooed on them, too.
What advice would you have to aspiring Instagram models or YouTube talent?
I think the advice I would give to Instagram models would be to invest in a craft other than Instagram modeling to go along with it. Looks will only get you so far. For musicians, I think the most important thing is to not give a fuck what anyone else says. I had no one believing in me. My family didn’t believe in me, I didn’t have friends, everyone thought I sucked, no one came to my shows, and it didn’t matter because I believed that I could do it. Don’t listen to anyone and if you believe that you can do it or you believe that you want to do it, then do it because it’s possible.