Eight years have passed since Nina Sky first emerged on the music industry radar with their self-titled debut album, replete with reggae-influenced vibes and smooth R&B numbers. Since then, the talented twosome of twin sisters Nicole and Natalie Albino have gone through various label deals, released music as an independent entity, and traveled the globe rocking stages as soulful songstresses. But singing isn’t the only feat that has thrown them into the spotlight. There’s also a rewarding DJ career that’s earned them gigs in European locales and at prestigious celebrity events thanks to the record-spinning prowess of Nicole, also known as DJ Ni** Sky.
Commanding turntables since she was a teeny bopper, the tattooed DJ has had to do her fair share of showing and proving, just so she could hang with the boys when it came to blending records. While some may have buckled under the pressure of having to display her talents at the snap of a finger for a nod of appreciation, Nicole knew it’s what she had to do in order to solidify her spot in a circle of elite mixers.
Years later, she’s gone from playing high school lunch rooms to hearing thousands of clubgoers chant her name as she spins the classics. Ni** Sky, who cites DJ Cocoa Chanelle and Neil Armstrong as inspirations, seamlessly moves from DJ to recording artist and utilizes both roles in her respective sets. As a group, she and her sister are readying the visuals for their new single “Day Dreaming.” On the mixing tip, she’s embarking on a new undertaking that will see her following the production path of ladies like Missy Elliott and Ester Dean.
Read on as Nicole describes the steps she took to get put on, reveals which Michael Jackson song always puts people on the dance floor, and admits why she fancies the lyrical style of one fresh-faced MC.
1. How long have you been a DJ?
I first started DJing when I was 13 years old. That was when I first decided I wanted to learn how to DJ. The reason why was because I was surrounded by a lot of male DJs and I never saw a female DJ. I always listened to “Ladies Night” on Hot 97 and Cocoa Chanelle was DJing. I was like, “I wanna DJ. I wanna learn how to do what she’s doing.” That’s what inspired me. From 16, I started DJing a lot of small clubs in New York City and school parties and events. On a bigger level was when Nina Sky blew up; it opened the door for me to DJ larger events and bigger venues.
2. What are you currently working on?
I DJ all over. I currently have a residency at The Griffin in New York. I do that once a month. As a musician, me and Natalie are working on a new project that we’re putting out in May. We’re shooting a new video for our new single “Day Dreaming.” So that’s cool. I’m really looking forward to that. And recording. Also, I’m learning how to produce. I recently bought a whole bunch of production equipment. That’s what I’m most passionate about right now, is learning how to produce and make the music. And definitely play the music that I make when I DJ. Hopefully by the summer I’ll have something that I’m confident enough to play in the club.
3. How did you get your first big break?
When I was old enough to go out in the city, I would go out to clubs where there were DJs that I wanted to hear play and I enjoyed hearing play. The only reason I went out to the club while everyone else was going out to drink and party was because I wanted to see a specific DJ. I wanted to see their technique and I wanted to see how they rocked the crowd. When I got comfortable enough, I would go up to the DJ booth and meet theses DJs and then I would talk about, “Oh, I’m a DJ too.” And they’d look at me like, “OK, first of all you’re a girl. Secondly, you’re like 18 years old. And take two vinyl records out of the crate and mix these records.” I would take the records, go in front of the mixer, and blend the record and they’d be like, “Whoa!” That happened a few times. I think that was the defining moment for me, where I said, “I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna really make this happen.” But as far as my big break, more recently, I’ve been asked to DJ Grammy parties or parties like that. Not that that means I’m an amazing DJ, but for me to be DJing for people who make some of the music that I really love is like my big break.
4. Moment when you knew you had made it?
A moment that I thought I had made it, and just as a musician in general, being a part of Nina Sky and being a DJ, is being able to play my own music—me and my sister’s own music that we make [as Nina Sky]—at these parties and see people dance to it. I’m being asked to DJ these big huge parties with all these influential people and they’re dancing to it. And I’m also playing my own music and they’re responding to it.
5. Favorite artists right now?
I really like Frank Ocean right now only because it’s very rare that someone puts out an album and months later you’re still listening to it, from beginning to end. And it wasn’t even an album, it was a mixtape [Nostalgia, Ultra]. I just think he’s a great writer. I think he’s dope and his music is dope.
6. Artists to look out for in 2012?
I’m really excited about our project as Nina Sky and putting out something fresh and new, and putting out a full album since we haven’t done that in eight years. That’s something personally I would say everyone should look out for. Another artist who I think is super dope and everything she’s put I really enjoy is Azealia Banks. I think she’s killin’ it right now. I think her whole style of music and flow is fresh and new. She’s really talented.
7. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I think it’s pretty cool that something as a hobby growing up turned into a career for me as an adult. It’s taken me all over the world. I think that’s an accomplishment in itself. It’s very rare that happens for people, where you’re just so passionate about something as a kid and you can turn it into something that becomes a lucrative career for you. You still feel like you have lengths to go in your career, as a musician, as a DJ, in life. It’s a great accomplishment for me to still be DJing and turn it into a career when it was my hobby as a kid. Me and Natalie grew up singing and writing songs together and here we are as Nina Sky still making music, years later.
8. Future goals?
One of my future goals is to produce music and to make music that I can play in clubs. To produce music for Nina Sky and to produce music in general, for other artists. Also, a big goal for me is to put out our next project and to put out new music to let people finally hear what we’ve been working on these last few years.
9. What record always gets the party started?
A record that always gets the party started for me, and it doesn’t matter what kind of crowd it is, it could be a more urban crowd, it could be a more suburban crowd or a city crowd, is “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson. For me, it’s a timeless record. It’s a dance record, it’s a party record, and exactly what it’s saying, people feel that when they hear it. Every time you drop it, no matter what time of night it is, it always works.
10. What’s your advice to aspiring DJs?
My advice to aspiring DJs is to always practice. I think with anything if you want to be really good at it you have to practice. With computers now I think it’s so easy to download music and play music from your laptop, but I think it’s really important to practice and know your craft. You have to know all of the elements from blending to scratching to handling the microphone. Even though it’s easy doesn’t mean that you should slack. You should still try your hardest to be dope at it like anything else.