Nikkole comes home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Ca. – &uot;To me, coming to Suffolk is almost like coming home,&uot; said Nikkole, a Los Angeles recording artist. &uot;I’m so excited about it.&uot;

The pop, R&B-infused singer will be performing at the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts on April 21. It will be a special treat for people throughout Hampton Roads and North Carolina who call Nikkole granddaughter, niece, cousin or friend. The tall, slim, strawberry blonde with ice blue eyes is an Ahoskie native.

She was born and raised in Ahoskie until her mother moved her and her brother, Wallace Hall, to Los Angeles when they were in their early teens. Both children had an interest in music, and mom, Glenda Hall, wanted to get them involved.

&uot;It really was the only thing to do,&uot; Nikkole said.

Her grandparents, Fred and Elsie Skeeter, are lifelong Suffolkians, and Nikkole spent every summer with them as a child. She was a performer even in those days, singing in church and putting on concerts in the back yard for friends and neighbors. She can recall being drawn to music as young as the age of 2.

&uot;I think I was like six years old when I wrote my first song,&uot; she said.

Nikkole still writes, penning and co-producing every song on both of her albums, working as an independent artist. Though taking the independent route – she has refused to sign with major labels despite offers from them – is a tougher journey to success, it enables here to remain in control of all aspects of her look and sound.

&uot;I know myself best,&uot; she said. &uot;I know what I want to say and what I don’t want to say.&uot;

In her early years in LA, Nikkole did a lot of modeling with Otto Management. At 5 foot, 10 inches, she is well-suited for the work and has additional endorsements and sponsorships with Seychelles Footwear, Joe’s Jeans, LF Larchmont, A Catherine Original and Smashbox Cosmetics. Still, modeling is more of a job, she says. It cannot compare to the joy she finds in music.

Nikkole and Wallace started out doing background singing for various artists, honing their craft. Then she produced some demos and released her first album, &uot;Appearances,&uot; in 2001. It was a successful CD; recordings from it earned her the title of No. 1 independent singer in the United States by, an Internet music downloading site.

Later she received a Best Pop Album award from Radio Free Virgin and Jackson Free Press, beating out 7,800 other independently released albums. Her winning streak continued with another award from Radio Free Virgin and JPF with her song &uot;Over It&uot; being named one of the top 20 Best Pop Singles out of 25,000 independent successful songs in 2003.

That success enabled Nikkole to branch out and work with some legendary performers such as The Emotions, The Commodores, Gregory Hines, Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer and Babyface, said Wallace Hall, who now is a backup singer in her band. Each collaboration brought new challenges and has helped develop and enhance Nikkole’s own unique voice.

She was raised on a variety of music and continues to draw inspiration from many artists. Nikkole names Mariah Carey as a role model, but also looks to musicians Alicia Keys, Natalie Cole, The Beatles, and Earth, Wind and Fire. Singing and writing come naturally to her, she said. Many songs start as poetry that draws on her own experiences as well as those around her. She keeps notebooks and a recorder with her at all times in case inspiration strikes.

Nikkole has toured along West Coast, in Europe and Japan, where she struck a chord. Fans there were so enamored that she eventually recorded two songs from her new album in Japanese.

In October 2005, she released a new full-length LP entitled &uot;A Girl Like Me&uot; on SE Entertainment Records. On this CD Nikkole exercises her five octave range. The lead single, &uot;It’s Too Late,&uot; features The Emotions and can be heard in more than 60 commercial radio stations around the world, and her current single, &uot;Gon’ Bounce,&uot; is gaining popularity.

Her April 21 performance in Suffolk should be invigorating for the audience, she said, adding that a mix of upbeat numbers and ballads will take people on an emotional rollercoaster. One thing they won’t get: an onslaught of background tracks and distracting dancing. When Nikkole gets onstage, there is nothing between her voice and the audience.

&uot;I want to enjoy every moment of it. I love to be in front of a crowd and performing.&uot;

(Ashley McKnight-Taylor is a Staff Writer for the Suffolk, Va. News-Herald, a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index.)