NAIMA DROPS “CITY LIGHTS”: A CINEMATIC ODE TO NEW YORK CITY

NAIMA DROPS “CITY LIGHTS”: A CINEMATIC ODE TO NEW YORK CITY

NAIMA DROPS “CITY LIGHTS”: A CINEMATIC ODE TO NEW YORK CITY

The born and bred New Yorker sits down exclusively with V to discuss her latest single, the first of many to come.

The born and bred New Yorker sits down exclusively with V to discuss her latest single, the first of many to come.

Photography: Don Brodie

Styling: Shola Shodipo

Text: Sam Tracy

It’s an age-old debate: is an artist born or made? For rising star, NAIMA, the answer lies somewhere in the in-between. The New York City-based singer-songwriter has come bustling onto the scene with a monochromatic music video for her new soulful single, “CITY LIGHTS”, released today. Between poignant vignettes of two lovers and lyrics with Solange-like sensual tonality, NAIMA’s star quality shines bright. So bright, even, it’s hard to remember that she’s a newcomer to the scene.

Describing “CITY LIGHTS” as a cathartic release of pent-up anxiety and self-doubt, Naima chronicles her journey to surrender. “Specifically in this song, we're talking about love and not just directed to a person or someone, but something as well,” says Naima in her soft-spoken, ASMR-like voice. “For me, this is actually a love letter to New York City.” 

The Big Apple. The city where dreams are made of. The city that raised her.

A Taurus (that explains her down-to-earth energy), born in Brooklyn and raised between the outer borough and New Rochelle, NY, music is in her DNA. She describes her parents as “lovers, lovers, lovers of music” with emphasis growing on each repetition. They ensured that their daughter’s introduction to music came early on — as early as possible, in fact — naming her after an influential track by their favorite musical artist. “I was named after a John Coltrane song,” Naima recounts a nod to the famed saxophonic ballad. “My parents even went as far as my birth announcement. It was literally the song and then my dad recorded me crying over it. I don't think I ever really had a choice. The universe was like, ‘Alright, this is what we’re doing here!’.

And so far, Naima’s life journey has been living up to her name’s musical connotation. She honed her craft at Berklee College of Music in Boston, studying voice and music business before promptly returning to her home city upon graduation — this time, surrounded by her new musical tribe of fellow former music students trying to make it in New York so, as the saying goes, they could make it anywhere. And so began her hands-on real-world approach to music education. Naima became a regular on stage at DIY shows at New York venues like C’mon Everybody, H0L0, Baby’s All Right, and Palisades, using each performance as an opportunity to hone her craft and discover her voice not as “Naima”, but NAIMA.

“Trying to discover who NAIMA is as an artist, as a musician — that definitely took me going off into the real world and experiencing things and exploring myself that way.”

So when the opportunity arose to creatively collaborate on a track with old Berklee pals, Nick Hakim and Jon Nellen, Naima snatched it up, playing them a song she wrote in 2018 with first single-worthy cred. While on a watch-spree of 90s classic film, Love Jones, a music video idea struck her, combining the storyline of two black artists navigating love in a major US metropolitan city with accents of post-2020 reality. Co-directed by NAIMA and Jared Malik Royal, the video brings her story to life, capturing non-linear scenes of lovers interweaved with NAIMA’s stage performance for her partner.

“I definitely was very intentional about having the visual be black and white. To me, that invokes feelings of timelessness, and also given that it is a love song, which I think is timeless and infinite and never-ending,” says Naima. “I'm always inspired by things that have come before me. If you don’t know where you're from, how are you going to know where you're going?” 

There’s only one direction she is heading and that’s up. “CITY LIGHTS” marks the first of a string of singles to come, accompanied by enchanting visuals with retrospective storytelling and eye-catching aesthetics. NAIMA is a musician for the sake of the art, valuing each step of the creative process from idea conception to visual formation and her favorite, on stage presentation. The self-professed introvert relishes in the face-to-face connection of live performance, the space where she can connect with people and express herself most freely. Her fortune is not lost on her, noting her gratefulness to finally be creating art that resonates with others and having the platform to share it

“My goodness, just knowing that you're lucky enough to have made something that connects with anyone or moves them in any type of way — that's an honor.”

Listen to and watch "CITY LIGHTS", out now.

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