Their sophmore album The Musical has been a long time coming, but despite a major label shift (from Universal to Polo Grounds/J Records) their patience and perseverance has paid off. With the project scheduled for release in the early months of 2009, identical twins Natalie and Nicole Albino, better known as Nina Sky are a duo I definitely have my eye on. I did a little "Rebel Talking" with the ladies about their career and project. Check out my Q&A below:
Soul Rebel: So the Musical is FINALLY coming out!
Nicole: Yes The Musical is coming out January/February of next year we're extremely excited about it it's been a long time coming.
Natalie: We don't have a date but we've been working on it for the past four years, first with Universal and now with PoloGrounds and we're just excited to have it completed.
SR: Despite the label change you kept the same title?
Nicole: We still felt the same way about the music and what we were trying to convey with the music. We felt like the first album was a draft of this bigger production, and here it is, The Musical. We spent the last four years crafting this project and trying to find the right writers and producers, just like when you are trying to put together a musical you want to have the right actors, the right musical score, the right storyline and we felt like the title was still relevant. So that's why we kept it.
SR: I noticed that you guys most of the songs on this album, what inspires you when you're songwriting?
Natalie: Our first album we wrote every song, this album we actually had the opportunity to work with a lot of dope writers. We wrote with Ryan Leslie, we wrote with Salaam Remi, with Cri$tyle. A lot of the songs are based on our life experiences, things we've been through these last four years.
Nicole: We've grown so much as young women so the content on this album is a little bit more mature. A lot of relationships, breakups, love. When we first started, when we did our first album we thought we can't take other people's songs because it's not personal. We were listening to all these great songs that other people had written, like this one song in particular that's written by Range and produced by Neo the Matrix, we walked into the studio and it was a breakup song and it just felt right, so we didn't feel bad about recording the song. It's called "Vacancy," so that was the first song we recorded that we hadn't written. You can still be moved by a song, if you're experiencing something in your life and it moves you, and that's why we didn't feel bad about recording other people's songs.
SR: I heard a song of yours that leaked "Really Didn't Matter"
Nicole: We wrote that one with Ryan Leslie, we worked with Ryan a lot. There's a song on the album called "The Real" that he produced and we co-wrote with him.
Natalie: Ryan's extremely talented and we enjoyed working with him so much because when you get in the studio with him he's not trying to push you to do anything you don't want to do. He's just trying to feel you out.
Nicole: It's all about vibes. You start there, you converse a little and the way you're feeling is the way he plays the music. So it's all about vibes with him and we're the same way. His whole energy is dope.
SR: When you are writing how personal do you get? Are there some guys out there who should be worried?
Nicole: There's some really personal stuff on the album. We have a song called "Chapter's Closed" that's about breaking up with a guy and the song is like -- I'm stronger now that you're gone I didn't need you in my life and you thought I couldn't do it without you - that's a really personal song that we wrote. A lot of it is drawn from our personal experiences so there are definitely some guys out there that are gonna listen to these songs...
Natalie: Yeah they'll know it's about them.
SR: I mentioned you guys in a blog I wrote earlier this year when I noticed Prima J was having trouble getting attention - especially in R&B because Latin artists tend to be categorized as Latin. Do you think it's more difficult marketing Latino artists sometimes?
Nicole: It's easier for the label or corporate people to label you as Latin. When reggaeton got big we did a song with Nore called "Oye Mi Canto" and automatically Nina Sky became a reggaeton group and that's not who we genuinely were. People don't take the time out to delve into the music and get who Nina Sky are. If you listen to our catalog we've done songs with Alchemist, we just did a song with Talib Kweli. People don't get into that much they just go with what's on the surface, the songs on the radio "Oye Mi Canto" and Move Your Body. In the beginning, me and Natalie thought about that, but at the end of the day it's like when you make good music people are going to embrace it. We just put out a song that is completely different from what anyone knows Nina Sky to be. We put out "Move Your Body" and the first thing off this album is "Curtain Call" which is a straight R&B feeling track but that's still true to who we are. So more than being Latina artists we are R&B artists like the next group that's putting out a joint so we hope people embrace the music for that reason. We don't really feel like it's holding us back we embrace being Latinas and we embrace being R&B artists but the two things don't really affect each other.
SR: With the label change and album delays, what has the last four years taught you guys about the music business?
Natalie: It's tough because we put out "Move Your Body" independently with Cipha Sounds and the production company we were working with at the time, and it took off so fast, we got signed to Universal and recorded the album in three weeks. We were so young we didn't know what to expect and everything just happened so quickly we couldn't catch up to. We tried to put out "Turnin' Me On" We didn't understand why it didn't take off the same way and the label wasn't supporting us. When you are a new artist you are at the bottom of the chain and they weren't listening to us the way we felt they should have been, because we had a huge song, we wrote the song with nobody from the label there. We handed them a hit. They didn't help us make the song. We just knew when we got out of the Universal deal that the next situation we were in, we wanted to have more say. We wanted to be more creatively involved because we're so hands on. Then we came to Polo Grounds/J Records we learned so much as far as the business and grown as young businesswomen and it taught us a lot. We are co-executive producing this next album which is extremely dope. So far so good.
SR: Being twins, and having been in this group so long, do you ever have moments when you want to go your own way - just to fight for some individual independent space?
Nicole: There is no such thing as solo with Nina Sky.
Natalie: We talk about that a lot, like 'Nicole, what if you wanted to do it?' or she'll say 'What if you wanted to Nat?' but we'll always be involved in each others projects. Nicole is a DJ on the side and every time she has a gig I go with her I'm her support. She'll ask me "What do I play next?" So we're very supportive of each other.
Nicole: If Natalie were to work on an album I'd be right in the studio with her, writing with her. If I were to work on an album she'd be writing with me, we're always going to be involved. Natalie just did a fashion collaboration and she was like "Nicole what do you think about this design?' We're always working with each other on everything. We're best friends we're sisters.
Natalie: Even if we have a fight we get over it right away.
SR: Any funny stories?
Nicole: We film a lot of stuff we do and we put it on our YouTube, you get to see who we are outside of Nina Sky, you really get to see Natalie and Nicole.
Natalie: There was actually a girl that used to get every tattoo Nicole had. And there was a fan in Germany that would come to every show we had there even if she had to drive for hours. We appreciated the love.
SR: How did you guys end up with Rick Ross on "Curtain Call"?
Nicole: When we recorded the song we felt like we needed someone on it, and we thought he would sound dope on it. We first worked with him when we were on Universal on a song called "Flippin That" so we sent it to him and when we got it back we were really happy with it.
The Musical is set for release February of 2009. The set includes production from Cool & Dre, Krucial Keys, Ryan Leslie, Salaam Remi, Neo da Matrix and The Runners among others.
Visit www.youtube.com/ninaskysessions for Nina Sky Vlog entries and www.myspace.com/ninasky to hear "Curtain Call" and "On Some B*llshit" off their upcoming album The Musical.