Nikka Costa has had a rough time in the music business. She made waves as a young musical protégé influenced by early funk legends Quincy Jones and Sly Stone. Featured on the Fame soundtrack, Costa finished high school and began focusing on her career. From the attention she was given for her debut album (as an adult) Butterfly Rocket, Costa was approached by record execs galore. The result was the funk-soul-tastic Everybody Got Their Something, featuring the extraordinarily funk crazy lead single “Like a Feather”, and it’s more than adequate follow up “Everybody Got Their Something”. Listening to her sharp shrill voice set against the craziest production techniques (at the time), you knew you were listening to something special. Unfortunately, as all things that are special, she was not universally embraced by the mainstream music buying public. So, with two more major label efforts, Costa fell off the map.
Fast forward to 2011 and it seems like Costa is making a go of being indie—it’s a popular fad amongst once relevant artists, now being sidestepped by frenetic record companies who are taking less and less risks. Costa has begun her own record label, Gofunkyourself Records, and is releasing a series of EPs over the next year or so. The first of which is Pro*Whoa!. Upon first listen, these tracks are more tight and focused than the majority of her previous two efforts, but lack some of the occasional introspection we saw in her superior major label debut Everybody Got Their Something. These songs are quite cool and there is no vulnerability, no unintended missteps (except the occasionally silly rap in “Pro*Whoa!”). The biggest problem with Pro*Whoa! is that it can occasionally sound like an amateur’s stab at soul/funk/pop—a very dangerous combination if left in the wrong hands. But Costa is no amateur, and it shows. She manages to pull the crazy buzzing and frantic rhythm sections from slipping into a chaotic mess, every time.
Also notable on Pro*Whoa! is the caliber of the songwriting. Costa is definitely marching to the beat of her own drum, and on this six-track EP that shines through stronger than ever. These aren’t your ordinary garden variety pop songs… they jump back and forth, bouncing off walls and back again. It’s a party, and if you’re cool enough, you can come.
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// Notes from the Road
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