Lil Niqo - Demeanor Is The New SwagBy Xavier Aaronson
The other day I stumbled on an incredible video for a track called “OK Then,” by the San Diego rapper Lil Niqo, AKA Boy Wonder. Lil Niqo is 12 years old, but he’s got more pint-sized bravado than most rappers twice his age. Peep how Niqo reps his fat stacks—and keep in mind he’s referring to tickets he won at the arcade:
I was so impressed I decided to launch a new column where I talk to rappers under the age of 12 or so. You know, tykes who throw “lil” at the beginning of their name and still go to school and stuff. I thought I’d kick things off with Lil Niqo since he inspired the series. This little guy has collaborated with Akon and DJ Khaled, spitting game about staying positive, going to school, and being awesome. Here's the premiere of his new single, "Where The Party At." The video will air on BET next week:
I caught up with him on the phone the other day to find out more about his Def Jam deal, puberty, and the new slang on the street. BOW!
NOISEY: Yo Lil Niqo! What’s going on?
Lil Niqo: Yo what up ya'll, it's your boy Lil Niqo! Kickin' it with VICE magazine you already know what it is. BOW!
Nice to meet you too. So how old are you, Lil Niqo? Where are you from, what’s the story?
I'm from San Diego, California. I turned twelve in November—November 23rd. Yeah, you know what it is, (laughs). I'm getting taller, you know, I'm twelve! I'm cool, man. You already know what it is! Being twelve, it's fun because it's like your last year of being a preteen. Being twelve is pretty dope.
I’m pretty sure you’re the most famous pre-teen in the rap game right now.
It's definitely a great feeling. I feel like we've come a long way but for me and my team, it's a huge blessing. Looking back on that day when I was performing at the second grade talent show… it's a great feeling to achieve dreams, like I said. Especially when people have doubted you so much. It's the most wonderful feeling you could ever imagine. BOW!
How'd you get started rapping?
Well, I started rapping back in a second grade talent show. At first it was kinda tough convincing my mom to sign the slip for me to perform, but I kinda convinced her to do it. After the performance, I didn't really think about it as like “being an artist,” “having a career.” I thought about it as a one-time thing, a little somethin' somethin'. But it kinda grew into a career. I really loved the performance. I got a standing ovation and that's where I really found it out… “really-found-it-out…" excuse me… that's how I REALLY FOUND OUT I wanted to be an artist.
Your new single "Ok Then” with DJ Khaled is pure crack. How did you link up with Khaled?
Oh man!!! Big shout out to DJ Khaled! Well, we actually linked up when I went to go showcase for L.A. Reid over at Def Jam. Shout out to L.A. Reid, of course, nah mean? He signed me. When I went to go showcase, Khaled was there, and I actually went into his office. I think he might have been in a meeting cuz there was another gentleman in there, but I was like "Yo Khaled what's up?! I'm trying to get work! We gotta do something."
So long story short, after the showcase Khaled was so impressed he was like "Yo, how quickly can ya'll get down to Miami?" And I was just like “that's crazy, man!” For him to want to work with me? Khaled is huge! He's dope! That was a huge blessing, man. That’s how we linked up. In less than a month, we were down in Miami.
Didn’t you cover the Grammy's for BET?
Yeah man, covering the Grammys for BET was really, really huge. Grammys is the biggest night for music. Whitney Houston had just passed, rest in peace Whitney. It was a beautiful tribute. It was an all-around dope show. Especially getting to see all the performers was really dope, man.
You recently said in an interview that swag is dead. What’s up with that?
No more swag. I don't want to hear anymore swag. It's all about “demeanor” now. Swag is just played out now, man.
That’s the new slang? “Demeanor?”
Yeah man. Also, I love bow. BOW! BOW! My moms says she's gonna make me a shirt that says "My name is Niqo and I'm a bow-aholic."
Wow. OK, so “demeanor,” and “bow.” Anything else?
Yeah dude. “Yert.” Yert is like "Ya' heard? but the Niqo version (laughs). I got a song featuring Da Kid and all that on YouTube called "The Yert Man." I still said 'bow' a couple times in that.
Tell me about that record deal with Def Jam.
IT. WAS. AMAZING. Just being able to go into the Def Jam offices. Def Jam is a legendary label and I'm extremely blessed to be part of a legendary label. Honestly I always really wanted to be with Def Jam out of any other label. So being able to accomplish a dream is always a great feeling, especially when so many people have doubted you on something. You know what I mean? I heard a whole bunch of NO’s when I first started rapping. "Oh he's too young,” and this and that, but just being able to overcome all of that is a huge blessing. I thank God. Being with Def Jam is huge! I can't wait to just… BOOM!
Do you have a release date?
The EP should be coming out soon. We just shot a video called "A in This Here" with Akon, which is on the EP. Shout out to Akon. The album should be coming out after that. No exact dates yet. Can't talk too much on it. The EP is going to be dope. Everybody cop it as soon as it comes out!
How do you balance work, fun, and school?
Aw man! Obviously you know academics is the most important thing, period. If my grades weren't in order, my priorities weren't in order, I wouldn't be rapping. In between shows and studio time, and then you have red carpets and award shows, I always gotta get my homework done. I'll probably do my homework and then studio time, and you know when I'm not in the booth with the engineers mixing stuff down I'm either sleeping or doing homework. I always gotta get my homework done.
If you could choose one producer and two rappers, dead or alive, who would you go with?
You said dead or alive? I would have to go with Biggie and Tupac, and then let's see producer… producer… Man, that's tough, maybe Just Blaze. Yeah! Just Blaze.
Who would win in a fight between Jedi Mind Tricks and MOP?
Who are they?
What's going to happen when you're voice changes?
I guess I'll just sound like I'm older. Obviously, my voice is going to be cracking and stuff, but when my voice changes, I don't know. Man! It's kinda tough to say. I think I'll just sound kind of different when I rap and stuff, but you know I'll still keep it funky witchya'll, nah mean?
Some rappers keep the "lil" in their rap name and some people lose it after a while. What's it going tobe for Lil Niqo?
My thoughts might change, but I think I might just be Niqo when I get older, you never know.
One more thing: I gotta hear about your backstage rider when you’re touring.
A certain pack of Skittles. The orange pack. Then the little Reese's Pieces… then Voss water.