Vibing out with Nyota Parker

The artist’s multigenre sophomore project comes three years after Spectrum

Dorothy Mombrun

“It’s N.Y.O.T.A” is the catchy tagline Montreal artist Nyota Parker uses at the beginning of her work, and she would want you to know it is pronounced “NEE-O-TA.” 

Parker was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but was raised in South Africa. From a young age, she knew she wanted to pursue music as a career, and started to delve into the world of hip-hop and rap. 

At 16, Parker officially began recording her music. It was also at this age that she wrote her first song, “Don’t Get Me Started,” and held her first performance. She performed in a new artist competition, which was the opening act for Nasty C in Cape Town, and won. “Maybe it was delusion, but I acted like I had done this many times before,” said Parker. Now eight years into her career, Parker has collaborated with many artists and released multiple projects. 

Parker moved from South Africa to the Big Apple at the end of 2019. She goes back and forth between New York City and Montreal and officially got an apartment in the latter in late 2022. “[New York has] so much energy, everything is fast-paced,” she said.  Parker’s only issue with New York is that it is very oversaturated. “There are so many artists trying to make it. There’s not a lot of space for artists to create and connect.”

The kernel of Parker’s love for music first began to pop back in Cape Town. Parker’s uncle would play music for her in the car on the way home from school. She’d then go home, inspired by artists on the radio to create her own song lyrics—a memory Parker cherishes.  

Her mother, Ange Bukasa, is her manager and oversees Parker’s bookings and finances. She wants her daughter to focus on creativity and  not have to worry about the external factors of being a musician. 

Bukasa shares an extremely strong bond with her daughter. The duo is inseparable; they could likely read each other's minds. "We have a lot of the same ideas and we work well together. It’s always my mom and me everywhere," said Parker. When Parker was about to turn 18, she was told by a record label she would have to start wearing more revealing clothes in order to be signed. This made Parker deeply uncomfortable. Instead of conforming to the label’s requests, Bukasa stood up for her daughter and told the label off on her daughter's behalf.

Artistically, Parker describes her music style as “trazz,” an amalgam of rap, hip-hop, soul and jazz. Parker’s sound harbours inspiration from artists like Erykah Badu, Saba and Robert Glasper, The Internet, Noname and other neo-soul artists. 

Parker is multifaceted in the way she writes, bringing levels of originality and versatility to her craft. On one track, she is capable of smooth silky vocals, while on another, can serve up multiple kinds of rap flows. For instance, songs like “Yours” feature softer vocals over a light bass, while songs like “Alright” feature slower rhythmic rapping over a humble strum of a bass and 808s.

When she isn’t producing music or performing, Parker still keeps busy. If the weather allows it, she will cruise on through the city with her skateboard. She likes going to the beach, attending concerts or eating at a good restaurant. When it comes to hanging out with friends, Parker prefers seeing friends one-on-one rather than a group hang-out. 

“How else can you really get to know someone,” Parker said.

While Parker isn’t one for cooking, making food is one of the things she does most often with her friend and collaborator Mosez Jones. Her and Jones met at the end of 2022, but their incredible connection makes it seem as if they knew each other long before. 

“She’s somebody who’s very compassionate, who’s very loyal, who’s very considerate,” said Jones. He described Parker as “the best kind of friend you would want to have'' as she is a great listener who is extremely supportive of her friends' dreams and ambitions. 

“She's one of the best that I know in terms of her versatility and how she approaches the craft itself,” said Jones. According to him, having a certain level of open-mindedness is essential in the music industry—and Parker has exactly that. 

For Parker, authenticity is fundamental. The message she aims to send through her music is the importance of individuality and nonconformity. 

“Finding who you are, that’s what I like to promote in my music,” she said. In fact, Parker started to make music for that very reason. “Everyone really wants to have something to relate to. And I don’t think I really had that as a child, besides relating to people through music.” 

Hardbody Jones, an artist and friend who has worked with Parker, said that Parker always keeps him on his toes when it comes to the artist's musical vision. “I never know what to expect. I never know if she’s gonna rap some crazy fast flows, some slower flows [or] if she’s gonna sing,”  he said.

“She’s versatile and she adapts well. She tries to bring original ideas to the table. She’s gonna try to not do what is expected,” Jones said. He thinks Parker’s versatility and perception of the world make her fun to work with. 

On March 28, Parker will release her second album, Intrusive Thoughts. The project is “all about having those good and not-so-good thoughts come to the forefront of your mind. And it’s kind of leaking onto the tracks,” she said.

According to Parker, her new album is more thought-out than her first album, Spectrum. She felt as if her previous album was mainly a collection of random songs that made sense as a body of work. 

What makes Parker stand out—besides her curiosity and overall soothing aura—is the messaging behind her music and the core values she seems to hold dear. “I like when someone is able to not compromise who they are, and they won’t sway the scale,” she said. “People shouldn't take themselves too seriously in life. Go with the flow and have fun.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 12, published March 19, 2024.