The Buzz On: Nikki Jean

Most aspiring singers compile wish lists of legends they dream of working with. Minnesota singer/songwriter Nikki Jean found a creative way to actually make that happen: She asked.

In her travels across the country, the singer reached out to everyone from Bob Dylan to Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier to songwriting heavyweights Carole King and Burt Bacharach to help co-write her recently released debut album Pennies in a Jar. Blending soul, hip-hop, torch songs and classic Motown, Jean is that rare artist that can bridge the Hot 97 and NPR crowds. And when Lupe Fiasco, who appears on Jean’s “Million Star Motel” and featured the singer in his 2007 album The Cool, recently announced he was leaving Twitter, he handed his page (and more than 700,000 followers) over to Jean for upkeep.

Though she just released her debut album this week, Jean has been singing for years, first as a member of Philadelphia-based neo-soul/hip-hop group Nouveau Riche and subsequently as a vocalist on Kanye West’s “Glow In The Dark” tour.

But now the shine’s all on Nikki Jean. Her goal from the beginning was to make an updated version of Carole King’s 1971 landmark album Tapestry, a soulful album lauded for its various melodic textures. It’s a lofty goal, but with people like King herself helping out your already prodigious talents, not to mention gauzy, dreamy songs like “Steal And Feathers (Don’t Ever)” and the arrestingly retro “Pennies In A Jar,” it looks like Nikki’s well on her way.

+ Listen to Nikki Jean.