Nicolet Aleta Heaton (born December 4, 1994), better known by her stage name Niykee Heaton, is an American singer-songwriter. She was discovered through her YouTube channel after uploading acoustic guitar covers of contemporary hits, most notably hip-hop songs, which went viral. She released her debut project, an EP entitled Bad Intentions, on September 23, 2014.
Nicolet Aleta Heaton was born on December 4, 1994, in her mother's native South Africa and raised in Geneva, Illinois, located outside of Chicago, in Kane County. After writing her first song at age 5 and teaching herself to play guitar at 9, Heaton dedicated her childhood years to making music. "I realized early on that the only way to make my voice heard and say what I wanted to was through music," she claimed. She also gave herself vocal training by singing along to a Diana Ross greatest-hits CD, since her family couldn't financially support her musical education. She has an older brother and a sister Rachel, who beat liver cancer and died in 2007 at age 21 while waiting for a second liver transplant, whom Heaton regularly notes taking inspiration from. Heaton also struggled with bullying throughout her school years.
In 2011, while still enrolled in high school, she began uploading clips recorded in her bedroom on YouTube, including covers of contemporary R&B, rap, and pop hits, along with occasional originals, for which she accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. "I was doing everything I could to move my music along, but nothing was working out at all," mentioning her plans to put her music career aside and go to college if she hadn't made any major strides by the time she turned 18. In December 2012, on her eighteenth birthday, her cover of Chief Keef's "Love Sosa" particularly was featured on the website WorldStarHipHop, promptly helping to propel Heaton to prominence, and subsequently taking meetings with several record labels. Heaton graduated high school six months early and self-financed the recording of a host of her own songs, opting to take a step back and build "a catalog that we were proud of" with her manager Lauren, eventually signing with All Def Digital in 2014, a YouTube-based label founded by Steve Rifkind and Def Jam-founder Russell Simmons, in partnership with Capitol Records. She topped Billboard's Next Big Sound chart on April 24, 2014.
On September 23, 2014, Heaton released her debut EP Bad Intentions digitally in the United States, topping the Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 chart and reaching the top ten in the U.S. iTunes Store on the day of its release. On April 28, 2015, she posted an open letter online expressing frustration with her label and explaining the delay for her music. On June 13, 2015, she launched a website, NBK (Naturyl Born Killers), stating "NBK is the movement," where new music was then premiered in following weeks. Heaton later clarified, "We are now in a place where we can create music that I want to create, and we are no longer tied to the people that were holding me back," revealing her desire to release an album in 2015, adding that "it's harder to do things on our own. We don't have the big label push behind us that most pop stars have." In October 2015, Heaton announced her debut headlining concert tour, The Bedroom Tour, beginning on November 14 in Houston, Texas and concluding on December 18 in Los Angeles, California.
While talking about her sound and songwriting, Heaton said, "My music is a direct reflection of who I am. My writing is everything to me because that's all I had growing up. I had a really tough childhood and at a point when I was very young, I sort just stopped speaking because I stuttered. [...] I wanted to have friends, but I thought so differently that I couldn't be a kid. My sister and my mom were always in the hospital, my dad was always drunk, the rest of my family was in South Africa so they were never around. I was always alone, so I would just write all the time."
"Even when I'm not writing literally about things that have happened to me, all the pain of my childhood and losing my sister ends up getting pushed into my music," she adds about her creative inspiration, "It shapes my songs and builds this deeper meaning under everything, which is one the most important things to me—I need to know that I could listen to any of my songs 20 years from now, and still be proud of what I had to say." She has mentioned being heavily influenced by Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and is also a fan of hip-hop, noting rappers like Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Jay Z, Drake and Nicki Minaj as other influences.
Heaton addressed claims regarding her social media presence in platforms such as Instagram overshadowing her music saying, "If I can use what I have aesthetically to draw people in, then why not use it? I'm not going to put on a turtleneck just to prove a point, or to make people feel more comfortable according to society's standards. If people think I'm hot, cool. They'll come and look at my bikini pics, and then they'll click on my Soundcloud, and love my music."