In Conversation With:
Prior to Drake posting his Victory Lap radio set – inspired by the reality show Love Island – on an Instagram dump, Niko B has been steadily building a movement for the past two years through comical, often parodical raps. Born Tom Austin, he takes his pseudonym from GTA IV’s iconic Eastern European protagonist, although he doesn’t hold the same tendencies of a career criminal.

Kicking off his musical journey with his self-directed debut single “Mary Berry” paying homage to the British TV chef almost 70 years his senior, he then dropped the viral “Who’s That? What’s That?” in 2020 documenting the everyday life of a suburban kid from Milton Keynes. Niko’s conversational cadence, deep understanding of his lane, and ability to take just as good as he can give (“Niko B made the worst song of the year”) form part of his palatable personality fit for any scene whether stage shows or presenting.

Much like others in his age group, the inquisitiveness to delve into all aspects of the creative arts has allowed him to broaden his horizons and keep his options open. Despite being known for his lo-fi, relatable music videos which oftentimes are directed by Niko himself, little is known about the clothing line he launched, titled Crowd, before ever dropping any music. As well as shooting its lookbooks, campaigns, and pretty much any of the brand’s promotional material, his adoration for fashion can be spotted through his music.

Original Shift caught up with Niko B in this vibrant, tongue-and-cheek campaign to get an understanding of his musical and visual style, his new clothing brand and of course, the origins of his name.

Your name Niko B originated from Niko Belic, the character from GTA IV. Why did you choose his name?

He’s just TOOOOO wavy! I was like 9 when I first played GTA 4 and it blew my mind being able to just run free in another world. What surprised me most is that actual humans made this game, it made me realise I can make things once I grow up. But basically Niko Bellic is one of the greatest game characters to ever exist ever.

How would you distinguish between Niko B and Tom Austin?

Niko B can punch at a speed of 84mph, Tom Austin can only punch at 41mph.

Your route into rap isn’t conventional, can you fill us in as to how it happened?

I wanna try EVERYTHING. I always knew I was gonna try to make music. It just so happened that my first attempt came at 18 making a song about Mary Berry from there people liked it and yeah, I’m here just making music now.

How would you describe your sound?

Dance on the dining room table and sprint to the Co-op music.

Your music relies on you constantly being in tune with the cultural zeitgeist, do you find this comes naturally?

Yeah I think so. I’m just a supernormal kid, I enjoy what everyone else enjoys. It’s like everyone’s mates with each other. I also don’t know what zeitgeist means.

I presume this entails being plugged into the digital world a considerable amount. How do you find a healthy balance?

I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to find a healthy balance. It’s very unhealthy right now, it literally fries my brain.

Do you find yourself being pencilled in as a specific type of artist?

I don’t pay it any attention really. If I did, I think it’d sway me from being the most authentic version of myself.

How have other rappers received you?

Really well actually, which I’m super grateful for. The ones that rate me are the ones I rate ALOT, so it tells me I’m doing something right. I wanna go to a tennis game with someone though, I think that’d be funny.

Your visuals have a very DIY vibe to them, how involved are you in the story telling?

Very involved. One of the main reasons I even made my first song was because I just wanted to make a music video for something. I enjoy directing the visuals just as much as making the song.

For those that don’t know, what is Milton Keynes like?

It’s like a city from the future... if the future was set in a place full of piss and the colour grey.

What are the top things to do there?

I live in Newport Pagnell which is like the edge of Milton Keynes. One side I have fields and the other side I got the city – it’s a nice balance. I went fishing last night at a weir then got a curry after, today I might go to the trampoline park. We’ve got a Nandos as well.

You were a big football fan growing up, did you ever want to play for MK Dons?

I actually went to an open trials day when I was around 13, I was good off the pitch but when I play seriously, I crumble. I was a ball boy for MK Dons though, how mental. You’ve got your own clothing label, Crowd. Where did the name come from? And what’s the story behind it?

At first, the idea was for the brand’s focus to be on one individual – like how it’s just you in this world. But then I clocked that a lot of people have the same mentality, so if there’s lots of the same cool people together, it’s a crowd.

Is building the brand an endeavour you’re going to continue to pursue?

Yes, I just love making things. I’m super grateful too because music allows me to get more technical with Crowd and make more fun things.

What can we expect next from Crowd?

T-shirts with funny sentences on. I also made a knit jumper with a leaf on it, I got a bar stool I wanna make as well.

What can we expect next from Niko B, the artist?

I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Thank you for taking the time out to chat with us.

Thank you bro.