For far too many young people trapped behind the walls of poverty-stricken urban America, their only chances for survival are drugs, guns, music or sports. Very few make it past the graveyard or penitentiary to retire from the streets. And even fewer have the talent to excel in music or make it to ESPN.
Jackson, Miss.-based rapper Nickoe is an anomaly amongst those chosen few. Last year, he strapped the city on his back with debut single “Eat” featuring Boo Rossini and earned his respect in the rap game with two much-talked-about mixtapes– From Me To You: Free Game and From Me To You: Christmas in The Trenches. And he is scheduled to set the city on fire with his upcoming Loyalty Is Everything Music Group-released mixtape From Me To You: Free Game 2.
“This is authentic music. When you hear it, you can tell that I mean what I say. It ain’t no lies,” Nickoe explains. “The people feel me because they know my life. They may know the whole situation I’m talking about. They follow what they know is real.”
Nickoe was born in raised in West Jackson, an area known as the home of Jackson State University, the historic Farris Street and the world famous Lynch Street. It is also known for being one of the most dangerous areas in the city. With a violent crime rate that rivals cities ten times its size, residents nicknamed the area “The Bottom,” inspiration for Nickoe’s newest single of the same name.
“West Jackson is the gutter. That’s why we call it the bottom. Everything goes over here,” he details. “We’re on our own over here. Potholes in the streets don’t get fixed. Houses don’t get fixed. We take care of ourselves over here. Ain’t no help. Everybody is hustling, gaining and maintaining.”
Although Nickoe is the hottest rapper coming out of his area right now, he wasn’t always known for his rhymes. Instead, he was a neighborhood superstar who shined on the football field at Provine High School. While Nickoe was busy tearing heads off shoulders on the gridiron, his younger brother pursued music as a career.
“He always wanted to be a rapper,” Nickoe reveals. “He used set up the microphone and the laptop in the bathroom when we were little, and I used to go in there and knock his computer down.”
Over time, big brother concentrated on sports, and little brother concentrated on music. After high school graduation, Nickoe got a scholarship to play football for Mississippi State University. All the while, he noticed his little brother and cousin were getting better and better at the music. So Nickoe bought studio equipment and moved the two youngsters to Starkville to live with him and perfect their music. But that situation lasted for only so long.
“I had to go to football practice so I would wake them early so they could record. They didn’t want to get up, so I’d end up doing it by myself,” he recalls. “I would record myself as a way of motivating them to make their own music. But they were in the streets, acting like they didn’t have time. After a while, I noticed that my music sounded just as good as theirs.”
Before long, Nickoe had enough. He sent them back home, sold the equipment and put music to the side. That was until he returned home to Jackson after graduation. A few NFL teams were interested in him but three knee surgeries cut his football career short.
Back at home, he remembered just how good his music sounded. So two years ago, he secretly hit the studio and would let other people critique the music without telling them it was him. “I really didn’t tell anybody that I was rapping,” says Nickoe. “I would just play the music and watch their reactions. They would ask who the rapper was, but nobody believed it was me.”
In September 2016, he shook up the town with debut single “Eat” featuring Boo Rosini. A month later, he hit them in the head again with mixtape From Me To You: Free Game hosted by Bigga Rankin. Then on Christmas Day, he came again with mixtape From Me To You: Christmas in The Trenches hosted by DJ T. Lewis.
And he is scheduled to turn up the heat again with upcoming Loyalty Is Everything Music Group-released mixtape From Me To You: Free Game 2, fueled by grimy lead single “The Bottom.”
“You ball or rap to make it out the trap, and I’ve done them both,” Nickoe boasts. “I always wanted to either play ball or be a rapper because I ain’t getting a job. I just rap my life, and people want to hear it.”