- Words Aimee Phillips
- Photography David Townhill
"Who's That What's That" hitmaker and rising rapper, Niko B, muses on his favourite GTA game, his hopes and dreams, and those dreaded gherkins.
Teenage Milton Keynes rapper Niko B has seen remarkable success with his hit single “Who’s That What’s That”. It stormed the UK charts and has amassed almost 4 million streams on YouTube and crazy 20 million+ on Spotify.
Having launched his career just this year, the addictive, bouncy number was a follow-up to his equally viral debut “Mary Berry”, which saw Niko B shout out the beloved octogenarian TV chef, as well as “drip lords” NSG.
As a testament to the swift cultural impact of “Who’s That What’s That,” the song was quickly snapped up by Majestic for an official house remix. Now, the teenage beatmaker and rapper is back with the equally addictive “Quick Drive”.
The appeal of Niko B (real name Tom Austin) lies not just in his ability to craft a moreish beat but in his relatable, humourous lyrics and deadpan delivery. Millennials and Gen-Z alike can bond or bicker over the McDonald’s gherkin dilemma as Niko raps on the chorus of “Who’s That What’s That”: “Copped a Big Mac / Milkshake and some large fries, it cost / Four pounds fifty / Take the gherkin out of the inside.”
As one YouTube user aptly summarised in the comments, “dislikes from people that eat the gherkin.”
But whilst you may have come for the music, you stay for the bants. Niko B is a rapper that can have a laugh – both at himself and at the world around him in his songs as well as on his social media. In a world where everyone takes themselves far too seriously, Niko B provides some much-needed comic relief.
It’s a disposition epitomised in the sarcastic description he leaves on the “Who’s That What’s That” music video: “The greatest song ever I hope you all dance to this at your weddings.”
From rapping about getting his phone confiscated [“Mum just took my phone I punched a hole in the wall / Now I have to use my android that I hid in my drawer”] to joking “If music fails then I have the worst standup career ahead of me,” on his Instagram, Niko B has somehow captured the zeitgeist of British youth. “I want teenagers to understand they can do anything they want and create anything from just being in their bedroom,” he said.
“I’m not someone special. I’m just regular. I feel like people can see that and relate to that. I guess because everything I’ve talked about is what everyone else would go through… like getting a meal deal.”
Before “Who’s That What’s That” became the smash it is today, there was a viral YouTube video of Niko interviewing revellers at Reading Festival – and his longtime idols NSG – that led to Niko’s performances on the rap group’s ‘OT Bop’ UK tour last year. Shortly after, he then went on to support Big Heath.
With only two releases under his belt and another soon to be unleashed, we wanted to know what’s next for the inimitable young rapper.
Were you making any cakes from Mary Berry’s cookbook during lockdown?
No, I have never made a cake in my life. Honestly, unless it’s like the packet cake mix. Baking really isn’t my thing. I like cooking. But baking is too intricate. I guess.
Maybe you can link up with Mary Berry and she’ll send you some cakes.
I wish. I think we’ve tried to get in touch before and she’s just been like, nah.
Oh, really? She’s missing a trick there.
I know. In the future, in the future… she’ll come to my wedding or something.
Yeah [laughs]. And she can bake your wedding cake.
Oh, that’d be pricey though.
Do you think part of your appeal is down to the fun nature of your content? So many rappers take themselves way too seriously. It’s refreshing that you aren’t afraid to have a laugh.
Yeah, 100 per cent. I think it’s just because I’m like every other teenager anywhere I guess, and they’re sort of looking at me like I could be their mate if that makes sense. Like I’m not someone special, I’m just regular. I feel like people can see that and relate to that. I guess because everything I’ve talked about is what everyone else would go through – not necessarily deep things but like getting a meal deal or I don’t know, meeting my friends on a bench in a field or something like that.
What do you kind of want people to feel then when they listen to your music?
I don’t know. I don’t really have any feeling that I want them to feel, just whatever they do feel. I don’t like to say what you should feel if that makes sense. If they can listen to it and just feel like, oh, this is funny, or they can listen to it and be like, this is very different, fun, well thought through.
There’s the occasional 50-year-old man named like, Gareth. They’ll listen to it and be like, ‘my four year old could have wrote this!’ And I’m like, well, he didn’t, Gareth [laughs].
For me personally, I just feel with music, if you hear it, you should want to go up and just start bopping around. Yeah, that’s the main feeling.
I saw that “Who’s That What’s That” made it on to the latest Now That’s What I Call Music record! Has that been a dream of yours?
Oh my God. That’s better than a Grammy, I’m telling you! [laughs]
It wasn’t even a dream because I didn’t even have that in my head. Like, I never thought that would happen. So that wasn’t a goal or anything. And then it happened. And I’m like, wow… In my mum’s car when I was younger, that’s all she’d ever buy. And if there was a new one, we’d look at the tracklist before it came out.
So what about collaborations? Can we expect a song in the future with “drip lords” NSG?
Hopefully. I saw one of them the other day actually. I was outside the shop and he just came around the corner and I was like [acts starstruck]… a dream.
Your moniker is inspired by Niko Bellic from GTA 4. Is GTA 4 the best GTA game?
San Andreas was my first one. I used to get a piece of paper, write down the cheats on it and play it at my Nan’s house on a PS2.
[Speaking about GTA 4] I went to my Mum’s friend’s house and there was her 16 year old there. I was like eight. And he had it and I remember he just drove a limousine off a cliff and then just spawned a helicopter out of nowhere. I was like, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Like, I need this in my life. GTA 5 I’ve spent the most time on definitely. I don’t know, it’s difficult. It’s between GTA 4 and GTA 5 I think.
GTA 4 is your namesake, isn’t it? I suppose the party line has to be that it’s GTA 4.
Yeah, I’d say GTA 4 actually, because the physics in it are better as well.
Your songs so far have been quite tongue-in-cheek. Are you going to continue with this tone in your future music?
I’m winging it and it’s going fantastically at the moment.
Nah, it just like depends on what’s happening in my life. Like right now, it’s just fun. Maybe that could carry on for like, the next 20 years or in two years, my cat could die – touch wood – and then I could start writing more emotional songs. Who knows? Or I could win a lottery in two years. And then my songs will just be about how I won the lottery, I guess.
If you keep writings songs you won’t need to win the lottery.
I don’t know how to make money from music yet, I’m still figuring that out. I’ll get there though, I’ll get there.
And what about gherkins? I mean, what have they ever done to you?
It’s a sour, wet cucumber. They just ruin everything. Everything [pulls disgusted face].
It’s the texture as well. Ugh, nah, it’s terrible, terrible.
I saw that McDonald’s gave you a Quarter Pounder with like six gherkins in…
They didn’t even mean to do that! People thought they did that to me as a joke but I literally just went to the drive-thru. I dropped my girlfriend off the train station, went to McDonald’s drive-thru, after I came back home – I got a Quarter Pounder meal – and there was actually six gherkins in it. I was like… [pulls exasperated face].
Do you think they know your song?
I reckon it’s just the universe. I manifested gherkins so much that they just all came my way at once.
And lastly – what are your hopes and dreams for Niko B over the next couple of years?
I don’t know, to change everything I guess. To change the world [laughs]. Change a few cool new things, just bring something so new to the platform and to the table I guess.