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I Don't Want to Turn Up Anymore

Why Miami's Niko Javan is leaving trap bangers behind in search of something more thoughtful.

by VICE Thump
May 22 2014, 6:00pm

It's not even summer and I'm already tired. Tired of listening to epic workout mixes hoping they'll help get my jelly belly in "festival shape." (It's never gonna happen.) Tired of pushing myself to stay out till dawn because it's finally warm enough to stumble back home. Tired of turning up to death.

I just wanna lie around eating ice cream in my loungewear watching every episode of Lindsay until I pass out in sticky bliss. So thank you Chill God for these drowsily experimental rhythms from Miami's Niko Javan, which sound like they were made by someone sitting alone in his room at 3AM on a Friday night making songs for no one. Probably because… they were. 

"They're kinda loungey. I'm loungey," said Javan when I called him up a couple days ago. I wanted to find out what prompted the 180-degree turnaround from his old sound—after all, Javan's been ruling the weird trap game with L.Rey as O'Grime, releasing a swaggery hip-hop mix tape called Erbody Yoppin on Mad Decent, and even played at TomorrowWorld's inaugural trap stage last year. All signs pointed towards Javan being on the come-up in Miami's thriving trap and bass scene. Why had he lost interest in making club bangers?

Javan's old look

"I started out making music that I knew people would like," he admitted. "But the songs I'm writing for myself, when I look back 30 years from now, those are the ones that are going to give me goosebumps." 

These two songs, "Dream Boat" and "Let Go," are a step towards the "thoughtful and hypnotizing, organic and soulful" music that Javan hopes to be remembered for. They were inspired by simple moments, like hearing a hummingbird in a park and rushing home to make a song about it. In many ways, these two tracks are more fitting for a guy who describes his perfect night as sitting next to his girlfriend at home, with both their headphones on, making sweet, all night. 

Javan's new and improved look

So yeah, Javan's a bit of a solitary soul. "I don't have that many friends because… fuck them," he says, with a smile hiding somewhere behind his jaded tone. "I've had people who want to sign me and help me make money and shit. But they weren't really friends, and I don't trust strangers." 

But don't mistake Javan for some sad sack weirdo who sits at home eating his own earwax all day. He has friends—well-connected friends who once brought him into the former Beastie Boys studio in LA for a music-making marathon. "We slept in the studio. It was uncomfortable… but I would rather let the music seep into my soul than stay at a hotel a mile away," said Javan.

That same friend, who works at Mad Decent, helped push one of Javan's remixes into Diplo's hands, who ended up playing it out on the main stage at Ultra this year. Again, Javan is characteristically reserved when asked about this: "I don't try to brag about it or take selfies with him. He has to connect to the music first." 

Still, he'd love to play at a massive festival like TomorrowWorld again, calling his stint at their first-ever trap stage "the coolest thing I've ever done in my life." For now, he's happy with where his new shit is headed, making it his personal goal to "forget about what's really popular at the moment." Amen to that. 

Michelle Lhooq will turn down for Lilo - @MichelleLhooq