Back in November of 2014, Nikki Jean released her free EP, Champagne Water, which was backed by the single “Champagne Waters,” which featured TDE soldier Ab-Soul. As this was my first introduction to Jean’s solo work, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew this wouldn’t be the Nikki Jean I heard on 2008’s “Hip-Hop Saved My Life.” I somewhat expected to hear much more of the Nikki I heard on Ab-Soul’s “Worldrunners” last summer. That’s somewhat what I got.
You can tell from the jump that Nikki draws from many different musical influences to craft her sound as an artist. From jazz to hip-hop and everything in between, you never truly know which direction she will go stylistically. She spits upbeat bars on the Ab-Soul-assisted title track and evokes elements of her jazz influences on “Rivers.” Her delivery also takes many forms. From rapping to rambling to stream of consciousness singing, she approaches tracks creatively no matter the occasion.
I really enjoyed the subject matter of this project. On “Tommy’s Song (Hands Up),” she tackles the very important topic of police violence. The song tells the story of Tommy, a young black male that is shot by police. He is simply walking down the street with his hands in his pockets and headphones on, and is shot down by police. The track also makes note of the fact that many police officers see black males as intimidating, scary, and brutal. The title track, “Champagne Waters,” discusses the use of Jesus’ name and likeness in music and everyday life, which is something that the black community has debated for many years. The track also references Jesus turning water into wine in John 2: 9. On the closing track, “Cool On You,” she tearfully and triumphantly says goodbye to her current lover.
My only gripe with this project is its length. At six tracks, it’s over as soon as you put it on. And to make matters worse, “Intro” and “Worried (Interlude)” clock in at 1:39 and 2:11, respectively. As intros and interludes are usually short, I understand them being that length. However, both are tracks that could’ve easily been longer. With this change, the project would be just as good of a project, if not better. Regardless, this project was still great.
Standout tracks: “Hands Up,” “Champagne Waters,”