At Work: Nikki Glaspie
“A lot of my week , I’m reading and researching history,” drummer—and newly minted solo artist—Nikki Glaspie explains, while phoning from her Austin, Texas home. “Things that I missed before or never got around to.”
Since COVID-19 limited her touring capabilities, Glaspie has kept busy, having tough, but necessary, conversations via her thought-provoking Strange Fruit livestream, which she co-hosts with Katty Rodriguez. (Rodriguez and Glaspie originally met as part of Beyoncé’s live band.).
Glaspie acknowledges that the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Trump Administration’s troubling actions have all increased her desire to engage in political discourse, but her music has always explored themes of injustice. Just look at the work she’s put out with The Nth Power. “We’ve been screaming it since the beginning,” Glaspie says of her band with Nick Cassarino and Nate Edgar, who hope to release a new LP later this year. “It’s always been on our radar because it’s not just racial equality; it’s all types of equality. The way that people just disrespect life in general— human rights, racial equality—whatever— it’s all kind of tied in together.”
While on tour with Maceo Parker a few years ago, Glaspie spent time volunteering with the Harold Robinson Foundation, and it wasn’t long before the program’s director pitched her the idea of teaching a music-making class for at-risk youth. Glaspie was interested, but she knew that most students didn’t have a steady internet connection or even their own computers. All they had were smartphones. Spinning a limitation into an inspiration, she began plugging away at her forthcoming EP, iPhone Sessions.
“I can literally just put the phone in my lap and press record,” Glaspie chuckles. “Or I can just pull up a keyboard, pull up some bass sounds and press record. It’s pretty amazing. I played it for [a friend] and she was like, ‘You did that on your phone?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, you can too!’”
The blistering hip-hop track “Sinister” acted as the LP’s lead single, and it shows Glaspie stepping out from behind the kit and into the spotlight, spitting verses about the struggles of oppression and a government that often ignores the needs of its citizens.
“People have been like, ‘I didn’t know you could rap,’ and I’m like, ‘Honestly, me neither,’” Glaspie says with a grin. “The thing is: I write all types of music, from punk-rock to hardcore rap to house to chill music. That’s honestly the spectrum for me.”