Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard‘s weekly series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
This week’s edition comes from NIKI. The Indonesian singer-songwriter — born Nicole Zefanya — has been quietly plotting her global takeover since the release of her breakout EP, 2018’s Zephyr. Signed to Asian hip-hop collective 88rising, whose roster includes Joji, Rich Brian, Higher Brothers and others, NIKI featured prominently on the label’s two compilation LPs, Head in the Clouds I and II, and was the sole female headliner at its second annual festival of the same name this August, which brought 23,000 attendees to Los Angeles’ State Historic Park.
After earning a high-profile co-sign from Halsey, who enlisted the singer as support on the Asian leg of her Hopeless Fountain Kingdom Tour, she dropped her follow-up EP wanna take this downtown? earlier this year. Last week, the self-produced artist took a moment to relish in all of her recent success with the release of her first-ever holiday song, “Sugarplum Elegy,” written as a thank you to her fans following her whirlwind crossover year.
To celebrate the milestone, NIKI put together this week’s #TBT Mixtape to share some of her earliest (and ’90s R&B heavy) influences with her fans, including tracks by Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Luther Vandross and more.
Give the playlist a spin and check out NIKI’s reflection on the set and some throwback snaps of the artist below.
“As the child of a singer, I was drawn to a variety of genres. Basically, anything I could sing, I probably liked. My mother was a huge part in developing my musicality and taste. A singer at church, her influences rubbed off on me right away. She loved the 90’s era, thus R&B was very much the household stereo go-to. But on the flip side of that, she also had a deep sense of appreciation for the subtleties and sentiments in music, which is now something I carry in my own musical personality as well. Lyrics, coupled with tasteful production choices, are truly the best way to express sentiments and elicit emotion. They are a huge part of my writing – in fact the very backbone of it – and these tunes house some of my favorite lyrics of all time. So, my friends, what you’ll find in this playlist is my childhood in a nutshell. Nostalgic to a fault, these are songs I know by heart. These are what catalyzed my musical journey. From the groove and sway you find in R&B titans like TLC and Destiny’s Child, to the hair-raising Motown melodies you get in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “Who’s Loving You”, to the iconic diva ballads, to the undeniably poignant lyricism from folk, country and rock legends like The Beatles, Willie Nelson, and Fleetwood Mac. Every song on here has something to offer, and they serve as reminders as to why music is a gift to mankind. Welcome to my favorite kind of throwback!”