Up-and-coming California duo Nikki and Rich’s pop stylings are sweet, sassy, and soulful. Its first breakout single, “Cat and Mouse,” was a perfect fit for fans who wish for a nicer Amy Winehouse, a more vocally powerful Duffy, or adore anything that Mark Ronson has ever touched.
Considering the updated-vintage, tambourine-heavy sound of that singalong anthem, then, it’s surprising to learn of the two collaborators’ unexpected and divergent backgrounds. The namesake Nikki was born Nikki Leonti and grew up religious, the daughter of a pastor. She actually got her start singing in church, and wandered around the more country-ish fringes of the pop industry for a while, at one point singing backup for American Idol alumna Carrie Underwood.
Rich (Velonskis), meanwhile, is much more familiar to pop audiences, but not by name, necessarily. Born in Queens, New York, he grew up a diehard hip-hop head and club DJ. Later, under the producer pseudonym Rich Skillz, he worked with a number of leading artists, including Eve, Robin Thicke, Mario, and Ludacris. In fact, his work with he latter included a contribution to Ludacris’ 2007 Grammy-winning album, Release Therapy.
Since beginning to work together two years ago, Rich’s industry connections and Nikki’s impressive pipes have made their rise rapid and success pretty much assured. Their songs have been included on American TV shows like Entourage, 90210, Basketball Wives, and The City, and their newest single, “City Lights,” is currently scoring pop radio airplay there as well. It helps, of course, that the track is boosted by a guest rap from Fabolous, who helps keep things moving over a bouncy piano beat.
With all that considered, Nikki and Rich are an act to watch, but for early-adopter fans, they’ve already released a gift: a six-song debut EP, Finally Free. Check it out at nikkiandrich.com or get the direct download link before. It also includes another standout track, “Next Best Thing,” whose video we’ve included here!
Download: Nikki and Rich -- Finally Free EP