“My mantra [is] ‘Braless, Flawless, Lawless.’ That’s going to be forever. If people are ever going to ask me what kind of music I make, it’s braless music. I feel like it just covers a lot,” says rapper, singer, and producer Ness Nite.
The phrase evokes the femininity and lack of restrictions that characterize Nite’s sound, music floating in an intentionally undefined space among genres, weaving together vocal styles and varying production elements to create a sound heavy on vibe and light on constraint.
“Those three things represent different kinds of freedom to me,” she says. “Braless — physical; flawless — emotional [and] mental, like I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with me; lawless — I’m going to do whatever I want.”
This radical openness pervades Nite’s work, chasing an evolving self-definition. It’s what led her to produce her own music in the first place: from turning poetry into raps to perform over Ratatat beats at open mics, she began to create her own sound by crafting beats inspired by Flume and Joel Little (the beatmaker behind much of Lorde’s production).
“I would search online for beats and I didn’t really like any of them,” she says. “I write after I make a beat…I can move my voice around the sounds that already exist. I’ll basically make a beat until it moves me in some way; this drum pattern and these sounds all working together all make me feel this sort of way. Then I put my headphones on and turn the mic on and start saying whatever comes out of my mouth. That’s what my soul [and] body is saying, that this music wants me to say.”
With the debut of her first music video, for the single “Yes,” Ness Nite matches visuals to her sonics by contrasting free-flowing choreography across sunlit expanses of land with the solemn stillness of night accompanied by the lick of flames and the quietude of a potential lover.
“Pretty much all my songs are about a situation. Like, I’m pissed, I need to write a song about it. I’m really happy, I’m really turned on, I need to write a song about it. If you’re in my life, you’ll probably end up in a song,“ she says, and the video is bolstered by an openness that is immediately affecting.
“I find life to be very cyclical,” says Nite. “It just solidifies that the human experience is pretty universal. People go through a lot of the same things.” Featuring another smooth-voiced local singer, Nick Jordan, and inspired by a crush that remains undisclosed, the song balances a burning desire with a nervous inwardness over an minimalistic, atmospheric beat.
“That was my favorite thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I’m so serious,” she says, talking about writing the treatment and how it evolved into the evocative final product. “Seeing how it transformed into that was super cool. Getting to work with so many talented individuals in different fields who are super into what they’re doing. The dancers were so good and so excited, and [director of photography] Alan [De Leon Taverna] and [director and editor] Connor [Evert] were so excited, and it was just really fun.”
“Yes” is one of but a handful of Ness Nite tracks currently available, but a six-song project with producer and engineer Mike Frey is on the horizon.
“I initially just approached her as a fan; wherever I can fit in to help facilitate what you already have going is the way I can best serve,” says Frey. “I would never have approached her and said, ‘You should let me produce for you,’ because what I heard, it was all there. It was the total package. You don’t need anything, but I like what I hear so much that I want to be involved.”
Though Frey will add to the final product through tightening mixes and cultivating a well-executed live performance that matches the textured execution of the recorded product, he repeatedly stresses that Nite is driving her own work. Pre-conceived biases have in the past led media and fans to assume Nite was not the primary writer and producer of her work, and she finds continual misconception about her race as well.
“I’m not white, either. That’s important,” she says, highlighting a black and Mexican background that often gets overlooked but helps to define her perspective. “I grew up in black and Mexican cultures. I am who I am; I just don’t want to be one thing, which is why I call myself the ‘Cosmo Queen’ on Twitter. I’m never going to be defensive about it. If you don’t get it, I’m sorry.”
Stemming from her naturally soft-spoken affect and an introspective expressiveness, Ness Nite’s music contains a cohesive assertiveness and a bracing vulnerability that speaks to an evolving understanding of herself.
“My sound has changed since when I started, because I’ve gotten more confident with every area of what I’m doing: producing, singing, rapping…I just think it’s getting bigger, if that makes sense,” she says, implying a growth that will only continue further. “I feel like I put more into it because people have received it well. When people respond to it well, it’s kind of motivating to me to do cooler things.”
Gravitating towards a feel as opposed to a preconceived notion of a final product, Ness Nite is able to construct a soul-scorching, hybridized torchlight sound that is rare and striking. By taking the reins on the whole of her creative work, Ness Nite constructs a world onto herself that remains relatable. “Music-writing: it’s escapism, and creating your own space to live.”
Jack Spencer is a music writer based in the Twin Cities.