Nickesse Toney, a NOLA bounce artist and rapper who went by the name Nicky Da B, is dead at the age of 24. Details on the cause are still scarce, but his manager told The Times-Picayune that he died of a “short illness.”
Nicky was best known for his explicit high-energy rapping, delivered in smooth lyrical fashion that stood in contrast to many of his bounce contemporaries. His trademark style informed many of his videos, with his first hit “Drop It Hot Potato Style” emerging in 2011. In it, his lips are superimposed on various home YouTube clips and the likes of Emilio Estevez, Jean-Luc Picard, Pee Wee Herman, and variety of other stars. At one point, the lips become so forceful hundreds of them literally eject from his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.
It’s videos like this one, and, of course, the relentless ass-pumping, that put him on our art radar. A look at “Express Yourself” with Diplo documents New Orleans as the kind of seething creative center that New York’s East Village scene once had in the eighties and nineties. As we reported recently in an interview with celebrity drag queen Linda Simpson, in the nineties “New York was still considered dangerous, but the city became decadent because of it; the police were so busy fighting street crime that the clubs were really wild and crazy.”
And for once, Dave Hickey’s crazy Facebook sentiments about how art can “bring people together and redraw social boundaries” seem to hold some kernel of truth. “Express yourself,” along with videos from Big Freedia and others in that NOLA scene bring together people from all demographics—white and black, old and young, straight and gay—perhaps the only people you don’t see here are the rich. This music reached them eventually, though. Nicky Da B performed in front of a sold out crowd at the Sydney Opera House in 2012.
Of all the videos we’ve seen, perhaps the most notable was Nicky Da B’s collaboration with photographer and filmmaker Clayton Cubitt. In “Go Loko,” we watch Nicky rap while wearing a sailor’s hat that reads “Homo” while exposing his bare chest with an open leather jacket. In one scene, a leather-clad dominatrix walks a man on a leash as they both bounce along to the track; they’re multiplied by four before soon covering the entire screen. In another, a throbbing pink ass is reproduced so many times, Nicky must wade through the gyrating bodies. Kaleidoscope asses are everywhere. This is the video Busby Berkeley would have made were he gay—and had clone tools and strobe lights.
It’s probably cliche to say that I felt delight listening to and watching these performances, but that’s pretty much what it was. You can feel the creative energy of the city in this music, but also his own unique voice. When reflecting on the Bounce scene and his place within it, he told Rolling Stone, “I’m more different than they are.”