It has been about two years since Nola Darling was reincarnated as a band, a vivacious duo of Alex Nikkobya and Jaquita Aziza, two young women who grew on on different coasts (Nikkobya in Queens, New York, and Aziza in L.A.) but with similar upbringing and family values. In that time, they've joined up with the AOK Collective, a New York-based clique of like-minded artists. In 2008, they released a mixtape, Nola Darling's Gritty Mini-Mixtape. Most recently, the ladies remixed the Black Eyed Peas' smash “Boom, Boom, Pow” complete with a viral video.
The ladies' accomplishments haven't gone unnoticed: the organizers of the annual UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival added Nola Darling to a show over Memorial Day that included Reggae stars Mavado and Soca singer Machel Montano. Nola Darling took to the stage backed by Mulatto, an L.A.-based touring band for Nas and Keri Hilson.
With two upcoming mixtape projects, the ladies of Nola Darling are artists on the rise.
"That Nola D" by Nola Darling *Boom Boom Pow Remix" from Nola Darling on Vimeo.
On Their Beginnings: Jaq: "I myself grew up in Los Angeles, born and raised in Altadena and Mount Washington. I always had a lot of art around me, I am the third generation in my family to be in the entertainment business. I acted as a child. You may remember me from Hangin' With Mr. Cooper. I was an actor and that's how I ended up meeting Alex here, through a program at the New York University."
Alex: "I started as a musician and I come from a family of musicians. I always played something, sang something and then got into acting in high school as we did this program at NYU. We clicked and started working on art of all different kinds: music, theater, film, multimedia stuff, fashion. There's a synergy there."
On How Nola Darling Was Formed: Jaq: "We just started making music as Nola Darling about two years ago. We actually made a documentary called WORD?! I Didn't Know ( ____ ) Could Get Down Like That. We traveled around the world to Africa and some places in Europe documenting hip-hop and youth culture, and we were on the road with our boy LP the Chemist in Rome around Christmas. He had a beat and was like, 'This will be fresh for you guys,' because we were talking about how we wanted to make music, how we were inspired by the trip. So we rolled with that beat and since then we've been doing it.
On The Meaning Behind The Name: Alex: "Both of us have some roots in the South. But Nola Darling actually comes from the Spike Lee movie, She's Gotta Have It, which was his first movie, his thesis project. Nola Darling is the main character in that film, and really how and why we connect with Nola Darling is her ability to choose and be cognizant that it is virtuous that she does what she feels is right. But, at the same time, as archaic as a character she was, Nola Darling's story is told through the eyes of her three lovers and not through her voice as a woman. So, we kind of like to say that we're giving Nola Darling her own voice. It's like chapter two, after Nola Darling left Brooklyn, she went to Harlem, Los Angeles and South Africa."
On Their Creative Process: Alex: "We write all our material. Each song is kind of a little mini-project. We don't have a defined work method or process. It'll start with something one of us says, like, 'This could work.' Or we'll hear a random melody and go, 'what can we do with that.' I guess the main thing is that it feels organic and right to us."
On Their Musical And Cultural Influences: Alex: "We're lucky to have the most amazing parents in the world. They exposed us to a lot of different genres of music. You can hear some of those elements in our music."
Jaq: "It's really funny that in both places, in New York and Los Angeles (where we grew up), there's two sets of parents that raised both of us in similar fashion: in terms of our culture, in terms of our Pan-Africanism. Our parents are advocates of listening to music from Brazil, from Europe, from all over the world. It's about the willingness and a desire to learn. That's why we ended up meeting at school. And it's why we are so eager to incorporate all the different sounds into our music."
On Working With Mulatto: Alex: "We met through some friends our manager knows. It was an instant click. It just worked once we met and was easy. It's important that we can vibe with you, because otherwise the music just won't be good. They're supremely talented and we're really happy to be working with them."
Jaq: "We're trying to steal them. Nas, can we have them for a little bit please? [Laughs] They're great.
There's that live instrumentation, which we felt we don't have. We love live instruments. We usually just rock with the deejay. I have a limited background in live instruments. I played the violin for all of three years, but then I forgot because I hated it and didn't want to go to my lessons."
Alex: "The songs take on a new life with live instrumentation."
About Their Mixtape, Nola Darling's Pretty Gritty Mini-Mixtape: Jaq: "We released it last year. It's been a year, June '08. There are features on there from some of our AOK members, Fresh Daily, Picasso. Shouts out to the whole AOK fam. It stands for All Out Kollective. We're the only women in the collective, out of New York."
What's Next For Nola Darling: Jaq: "We're working on two different mixtapes right now. We're working on a very hush-hush reggae project, it's gonna be dope, there's gonna be a lot of talented ladies on that project. Our project is coming soon, we're still picking out a lot of the material, getting it together, but you'll probably see that this summer."
Photographs by Robert Adam Mayer.