Ness Nite is redefining what it means to be a night owl. “It’s okay to stay home and chill,” the 22-year-old artist tells me over the phone. Nighttime for her is when she decompresses from the weight of the day, but in her case, she turns those feelings into EPs. As a self-taught musician, she’s transformed her rapping, singing, and production skills into something more celestial, fitting for her obsession with the nocturnal. Nite considers herself a surprise, as her sound doesn’t fit simply into the confines of rap, R&B, or pop. Her inability to be defined is what she calls “braless” music, a feeling of liberation she compares to, well, going braless. In 2016, the Minneapolis-based artist released her debut, Nite Time, and now she’s back with Dream Girl, a compilation of airy production that hovers over moments of introspection.
Over 12 tracks, Nite weaves extreme bouts of confidence in songs like “Magic Bitch” against moments of anxiety and depression on “Tightrope,” a battle she still deals with presently. Dream Girl resonates because of Nite’s ability to expose her full range of emotions, instead of just a highlight reel. Co-produced by Mike Frey and executive produced by Alex Tumay, Nite’s latest LP reads like a series of diary entries for the world to see.
Dream Girl is just as untethered as Nite. As a teen, she bounced between the city of Milwaukee to a Chicago suburb before settling in Minneapolis. There’s a beginner’s quality to her voice that feels raw, which underscores the messages of women’s empowerment laced throughout the LP. Over the phone, she sounds slightly less confident than she does on Dream Girl, which makes it clear music is where she’s most comfortable.
Stream Dream Girl ahead of its release on March 2 via POW Recordings.
Let’s talk about your relationship with the night. It’s reflected in your name and are themes in the names of both of your projects, Nite Time and Dream Girl.
It’s about having a chance to reflect. It’s just the time of day where you can actually reflect on what’s going on in your life. Take a seat, sit down, smoke, or whatever. I just find myself able to think more clearly at night than with all the distractions that come along with day. It’s just about taking the time to really process what’s going on in my brain and like in my life.
You’ve said that you’ve always wanted to do something grand. What does grand mean to you? Do you feel like you’re on your way or already there?
Growing up I feel like I never thought I could something other than have a normal job, go to college, lead a non-creative life… I don’t think people are encouraged to pursue what they actually want to do. At least that’s how I felt growing. I just want to do something impressive. As a woman, I just want to show we’re capable of doing amazing things.
How’d you come up with the concept of Dream Girl?
Women before us have done great things but have not always had the opportunity to say what they want to say and do what they want to do. Dream Girl is not “I’m the girl of your dreams.” It’s the concept of having the ability, space, and opportunity to achieve our dreams. To me, it’s like what my great-grandma and what my grandma would dream of doing. We’re at the point in society where women actually have power and control of their own lives and bodies.
You hear the phrase “Flex on Me,” you’re thinking you’re going to hear something cocky and arrogant, and this didn’t really teeter on those lines. How’d you flip the meaning for this song?
It’s more of an emotional flex. Flexing in general is more of an emotional response to feeling inadequate. The hook, “You don’t have to flex on me,” is like, you don’t have to pretend to be anything around me. It’s really just about being yourself. There’s no need to overcompensate.
On “Water Colored Roses” you’re definitely shattering public perception on what an Instagram Honey is and what people perceived as that can achieve or attain. It’s saying, you can be this type of woman online, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to being only that. What inspired that song?
I’m just irritated with how men look down at women so much, no matter how much they say otherwise. Every day people are going crazy about what some woman did on Instagram. How a woman wants to live her life or make her money is none of her business. You no longer have the right to say anything and we don’t care.
On the second verse I say, “I do it for my mama’s mama’s mama, for my daughter’s, daughter’s, daughter.” I’m doing this for the women who came before me and the women who will come after me. We’re in a really pivotal time in the world I think it’s important to speak out.
It seems like making music that speaks women’s confidence is really important to you. “Magic Bitch” is definitely anthemic and there’s a great line on there about being the damsel and the rescue. How’d you tap into that?
I don’t hate men, and I don’t want it to come out like that in the album either. But I really want to put out the idea that women are completely independent of men. I’ve definitely been a victim of assault and in general abuse from men, so that played a big role in me writing that song. I really just want to show you, and show myself that I’m independent. “I’ve seen power in the glitter/I’ve seen power in the gold/I’ve seen a grown man shiver when I looked into his soul.” It’s like, the fact that you’re in a male body that’s physically larger than me doesn’t mean anything. I can’t stand the feeling of being looked down upon by man. The message is like if you didn’t have that body, we’d literally be the same. I hope women listen to it when they do their makeup, or when they’re around the city. It really comforted me writing it, like “I am strong.” Almost like someone just straightened my posture for me.
How long did it take you to push through that pain?
It’s not to say that I don’t still deal with it. But, it definitely took years… like, all of high school and most of college. The thing that helped most was making these songs. I didn’t really processed much until I wrote about them.
The song “2Nite” is a song about introversion and anxiety. Sometimes you do have to tell people, “You gone have to pull up without me.” What’s the story behind “2Nite?”
“2Nite” was probably the most reflective song on Dream Girl. It’s saying I’m a confident person, I’ve struggled with a lot, but I still need to take time for myself. The exhaustion I felt going out and having stupid conversation. I was feeling like people are talking at me versus talking to me. Dudes would come up to me and telling me what they’re doing. It wasn’t even in a friendly way, but like a flex. I’m just like, “I do not care.” It got to the point where I’m just like, “I do what you do and I do it better.”
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.