Nique Love Rhodes & the NLR Experience / Two Cheers
Wed, Nov 23, 2016 @ 8:00 pm to 2:00am
Nique Love Rhodes (NLR) is a hip-hop artist and songwriter with the mission to inspire listeners to improve themselves and the communities around them. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan as an only child, Nique LoveRhodes was encouraged to embrace her creativity and energy. After receiving a notebook from her mother and constantly having jam sessions with her musical father, Nique LoveRhodes began to write out her thoughts through rhyme. “As an only child, I didn’t have anyone to really talk to about how I felt about certain things I was dealing with in life, so God and my notebook was all I had,” she states. Around the age of 14, she performed one of her raps for the first time at a talent show held at the University of Detroit. It was in that moment where NLR discovered that being an emcee was her true calling. Since then, she has completely pursued that calling, and has never looked back.
Having a strong passion to ignite positive change, provoke critical thinking, and challenge and inspire others through all that she does, NLR has expanded beyond the realm of music. She is a change agent impacting her community as a youth advocate, social activist, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. Nique LoveRhodes is the Founder and CEO of Speak Out Loud Entertainment (a socially conscious entertainment company and lifestyle brand) and Third Way Movement (an urban youth and community outreach organization). Nique LoveRhodes controls her own career and brand as she is also the CEO of NLR Dreams, Incorporated, the think-tank and production company of all of her musical projects and creative ventures as an artist and entertainer. Nique LoveRhodes is also an affiliate of the 5e Gallery collective known as the Foundation, a collective of talented female emcees who celebrate women in hip hop.
Nique LoveRhodes is currently promoting the re-release of her debut album Against All Odds, which was originally released in May 2012 via physical CD format and digital format through iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. Nique was nominated for two Detroit Music Awards in 2013, and has had the opportunity to perform internationally at the North by Northeast Music Festival in Toronto, Canada, headline her own concert at the legendary Magic Stick Lounge in Detroit, Michigan, and open up for Def Jam Recordings artist Big K.R.I.T. Nique LoveRhodes is continuing to grow as an artist by touring her live concert experience backed by a full band and working on new material to be released in the near future.
Two Cheers: “It’s about feeling completely in awe of the world, being humbled by the majesty of it, and taking a step back to watch the thing happening. I feel that way a lot these days and it saves me from myself.”
Two Cheers’ new album, Splendor, is thirty-six minutes of hysterically blissed-out rock and roll, administered in radio-ready shots of fluorescent pop. Unanimously hailed by indie blogs upon its release, the wholly self-produced record harmonizes a taut, DIY ethos with hi-fi gloss. Unsigned & Unleashed’s Amber Bettis hears in Splendor “more of an event than an album, a good time with friends that you wish wouldn’t end,” zeroing in on the band’s penchant for “infectious choruses caressed lovingly by rollicking melodies, just the right amount of self-reflection, and a perfect pinch of nostalgia.” Chiming in at Property of Zack, Ashley Aron set aside precious barbecue/firework time over her Fourth of July weekend to anoint the album’s “reverb-drenched vocals and cascading, hazy guitars” as “the audio embodiment of summer.”
Splendor happened in a series of loose, afternoon jams between vocalist Bryan Akcasu and guitarist Mitchell Dill. The two holed up in Akcasu’s den through the dependably sweaty SoCal winter of 2013-2014, trading riffs in the heat during their girlfriends’ weekly playdates. “We’d just pick a drum beat, put it on repeat, and blast it through the speakers down there,” says Dill. “Occasionally one of us would bring in a fragment of some rhythm or melody we’d had stuck in our head, but most of what we did was spur-of-the-moment, whatever came out. After a bit we’d just say ‘okay, new song’ and jaunt off in a new direction.”
They bounced from song to song, each pouring their music into the den and trusting what the other reacted to, embracing a creative philosophy that Akcasu describes as, “If it sounds good and it’s something you’ve never heard before, stop fiddling with it.” “The rest of our process,” he continues, “everything that came later—it was just about remaining true to that moment, to that initial spark.” They catalyzed these sparks into an electric, cohesive whole thanks to Akcasu’s modest home studio, made possible by his alter ego as a formulation chemist in the cosmetics industry. Less robust than most pros’ but massively more convenient, his setup let them easily record every vaguely consonant, gin-soaked idea they had.
The sum of those ideas was Splendor, a celebration of both the spontaneous and the cannily familiar. Upon wrapping the record, the band did the same thing they did after every afternoon jam: they rendezvoused with the women in their lives to make a whole bunch of pizza, pop a bottle of wine, and talk long past the point where they’d stopped making sense.
Two Cheers careened into L.A. clubs in autumn 2014, bolstered onstage by bassist Al Aguilar and drummer Bryan Panzeri. In the foursome’s exuberant tunes, audiences heard a decades-spanning kinship with The Cure, The Sugarcubes, The Strokes, and The 1975. Succinctly praised by a band they once co-billed with as “dance-y as [expletive],” their buoyant live performances soon attracted attention from local tastemakers Free Bike Valet and Beating Lights, leading to features with CBS, BalconyTV, and green-screen videographers BlindBlindTiger. Emboldened by these forays into live video, they got conceptual with director Charles Cagle, creating four delirious music videos in a single month.
But in case you didn’t catch the sentiment sprawled out across album-opener “Desert Song,” Akcasu never did much like the metropolis. The Two Cheers co-founder and vocalist made good on his lyrical ambition and escaped from L.A. a few weeks before Splendor’s summer 2015 release. He decamped to the outskirts of Detroit, near his childhood stomping grounds, where he and his wife bought their first house. Despite its end-of-all-civilization pop culture rep, though, his relocation to Detroit wasn’t Akcasu living out the “Desert Song” fantasy, so to speak. He explains:
“It might seem counterintuitive to leave right as the band’s getting established in a music hub like L.A., I know, but I have faith. I lived in L.A. longer than anywhere else in my life, but I wasn’t ever a part of that place. Here I feel at home, and more creative than ever because I resonate with the more arcadian environment. I’m near the place I grew up, near my family and the people I love most, and near a smaller city where a lot of exciting things are just taking root as it rebuilds itself. The pace of life is so different here. It just suits me.”
His original Angeleno bandmates—co-founder and guitarist Dill, bassist Aguilar, and drummer Panzeri—will continue to collaborate cross-country on a follow-up record. He’s also hooked up with seasoned Detroit players Austin Lutzke, Carlton White, and Megan Marcoux—on bass, drums, and guitar respectively—to spread the gospel of Splendor through the Motor City. Meanwhile, he’ll be breaking in the Detroit basement studio with fifty new songs drawn from a cache of short, impressionistic musical sketches he’s been capturing over the past few years on his phone.
“We have notebooks, recorders, apps on our phones, instruments in every room… We don’t want those little sparks to get past us because Two Cheers is all about the little sparks; the spontaneous, the fleeting; the transient ideas we love that just pop into our heads like a gift from the unknown. The band is a celebration of that phenomenon, I think.”