Q&A: Nico & Vinz On Breakout Hit ‘Am I Wrong’ & Their Rap Influences
No shade to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” but Nico and Vinz’s “Am I Wrong” ruled summer 2014. The hip-pop duo, who landed on the airwaves straight from their native Norway and racked up 75 million views on YouTube, have been shmoney dancing (visual proof here) their way to greatness. In between opening for Bruno Mars and invading Fashion Rocks 2014, the longtime pals brought their feel-good tunes (Sept. 6) to Whatever, USA—Bud Light’s makeshift party town in Crested Butte, Colo.—and chatted with VIBE about their smash single, early rap influences, upcoming LP and which sticky tune they voted the song of the summer.—Adelle Platon
VIBE: How did you know “Am I Wrong” was the right song to put out first?
Vinz: We didn’t actually know. We didn’t know that was the song we were going to go with. We wrote it because of the topic: being at the crossroad, having faith in your dreams and trusting your gut feelings. We played it for people and they thought it was their favorite song but weren’t sure if it would do well on the radio. If everyone likes it, then what’s the problem?
It’s definitely become a summer playlist staple, but which songs have been on your rotation these past few months?
Nico: I really like “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore. I thought that was cool. i liked the melodies. I like [Pharrell’s] “Happy” and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.”
’94 Week is approaching at VIBE. Do you remember the great rap albums that dropped that year?
Nico: Illmatic was the first CD I ever bought. I was a huge Nas fan, still am. I was big into West Coast rap, Vinz was into East Coast rap. We would have discussions, go back and forth. The first genre I listened to was African music, because of my father and then I started listening to hip-hop when I got a little older, a little cooler.
Vinz: I was an East Coast [rap] fan. Something about the rap style reminded me of Norway. We would walk to school with our headsets on and baggy clothes. It reminded me of New York. It was the same kind of climate.
Nico: I started breakdancing at the age of 10, 11. During break dance class, the instructor would play “Forgot About Dre” and Chronic 2001 would go back back and forth, along with Snoop Dogg’s Tha Last Meal, which introduced me to Xzibit, who is my favorite rapper. I used to have my cornrows and bandana like Xzibit, bandanas. Tupac [was my favorite rapper], too, of course. At that time, a lot of people [weren’t] into rap. It was a niche thing.
Looking into the future, what can we expect from your album?
Vinz: The album, Black Star Elephant, will be out in October. Our music is a mix of everything that we are. We didn’t say but we used to rap a lot before. You’ll hear rap music with African music, mixed with pop vibes. That’s typical for Scandinavian artists. Ghanainans call themselves the Black Star, and Ivorians call themselves the Elephant. It’s a journey of the Black Star Elephant, which symbolizes our dream, from where we started with nothing but a dream, into where we are now.
Any collaborations producer-wise and artist-wise?
Nico: We worked with nothing but Norwegian producers. Thomas Erickson, Will IDAP, and also Stargate. we kept it within the family, and we’re really happy to showcase their talent as well. No features, we just focused on ourselves for this one. But who knows? Maybe next album, we will.
Nico and Vinz’ Black Star Elephant LP drops Oct. 14.