Meet Halima and Nick.
Halima is a New Jersey born, London-bred, Nigerian R’n’B singer-songwriter, producer, and guitarist currently based in New York City. Nicholas Lee, better known by the stage name Paper Son, is a Chinese- and Japanese-American producer, jazz trombonist, and DJ. Basically, these guys do everything. And well.
The charismatic two have joined forces to collaborate on a new tune, ‘Hot Spice’, which is a melting pot of genres including jazz, dancehall, EDM, and Caribbean street music. This upbeat summer jam encompasses a range of influences, attributes and elements which compliments the artists, who both enjoy a diverse and rich background. gal-dem caught up with the duo to talk about their journey, musical inspiration and debut collaboration.
gal-dem: So, back to the basics. How did you guys get into music?
Halima: Nick should go into this one first, he has a cool story.
Nick: I started taking private piano lessons at 6 years-old, then switched to the trombone and worked my way into jazz, which I am currently studying at Juilliard. I fell in love with music production after producing a song that my cousin wrote in our grandfather’s memory after his passing in 2015. It was through my grandfather’s past as a paper son, (a Chinese immigrant who came to America by assuming a false ‘paper’ identity in order to circumnavigate the Chinese Exclusion Act), that inspired me to come up with my stage name.
Was it after discovering your love for music production, that you decided to pursue a career in music?
Nick: No. A little over a year ago, I realised I wanted to be a jazz trombonist in New York city, which is what I am now majoring in. But I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career path from the tenth grade.
Halima: I had always played the piano but I felt restricted by the composed music I was given. So, I started writing my own music and realised I couldn’t stop. Later on, through my love of songwriting and toplining, I decided to come out to America, and successfully applied to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music (NYU).
Why did you feel like your career was in America over the UK?
Halima: New York in particular has more opportunities than you’d find in London. America is a pioneer of popular music in the industry, and London is maybe a few steps behind- not in terms of quality, as the UK produces loads of talented artists- in terms of equipping us with the skills to cope with the industry. I felt that America was the best option for that.
Who are the artists that have most inspired your music?
Nick: Whenever I listen to music in an analytical way, whether it be pop or jazz- I absorb aspects which I like and blend it into my sound or what it is becoming. So, it is quite hard to narrow it down to one artist – but I would say my biggest inspiration is Louis Armstrong.
Halima: I think I would say Lauryn Hill, and it goes beyond her musical accomplishments- her artwork and the way she sees the world inspires me in my current projects and how I want to be perceived. She’s pretty damn cool.
What inspired you to write the song ‘Hot Spice’ because obviously, it’s a London slang term you’d be hard pressed to hear in the states?
Halima: (laughs) I was missing home in a sense, and I thought the song was fun, so I asked myself: ‘what is a fun term that we [Londoners] always use?’ Nick and I were joking about the different words we used to describe an attractive person in our area. We weren’t even going to use it in a song until I said “hot spice”, and then he said we should definitely put it in the chorus. “Hot spice, hot spice” came into the sound, I ended up recording it, and it stuck.
What would you like any future fans to take away from this new track?
Halima: ‘Hot Spice’ has a light-hearted message that is relatable to a lot of people. We would love the song to be a spring-break/summer tune that people can have fun with and enjoy.