The soul sound evolution of Niki J. Crawford

This is the first article of a three-part series feature on blues and soul singer Niki J. Crawford

NORTH HOLLYWOOD-World renowned singer Jeffrey Osborne once said his father told him that if he couldn’t sing a whole in an “A” note, he couldn’t sing. Niki J. Crawford doesn’t have that problem. The volcanic eruption  of a singer can not only hit that whole in a note, she can blow it out of the water.

Crawford doesn’t just sing. She can sang.

For anyone thinking about looking for the next great American singer, they don’t have to go no further than the Louisiana native with the booming voice. Skeptics will say, yeah, we’ve heard that drumbeat before. In Los Angeles, good singers come a dime a dozen.

Intimate night spots are full of good singers trying to catch the attention of that one music producer or record label executive. It shouldn’t be too far off the horizon for someone to notice the powerful, nuanced singing that Crawford can electrify a crowd with.

niki3We all know the great singers of our time: Whitney Houston. Natalie Cole. Chaka Khan. Gladys Knight. Patti LaBelle. Barbara Streisand. Then there are the singers who can do a little bit of something with their vocal skills like Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill.

All of these singers have something in common and then nothing in common at all at the same time. The trait they all share is that they can hit that whole in a note that Osborne described. The similarities end there. What they don’t have in common is cloning.

All of these singers bring something different to the table with their unique style of singing. This is the calling card that works well for Crawford. She’s different. She is like no other singer you’ve ever heard. It’s a simple line to suggest this from a public relations standpoint for some people to help get a couple more CD’s sold and try to book a gig. That cliche has been around forever.

But Crawford is not your everyday, roundabout singer running around from one club to the next just for people to see her as just another viable entertainment option. There’s something special about her. Listening to Crawford can move you in a way that makes you feel good about yourself like she does on her single “I Wanna See You” from “The Genesis Block” CD.

When Crawford sings, it is like having your best friend whisper an intimate conversation to you as she croons on the tantalizing and inviting “No Fear.” If you love good, old-fashioned, bluesy soul-singing that galvanizes your spirit, listening to Crawford is the right medicine to take.

“It is soul music,” Crawford said. “It is so funk music, moving and I would like to say that it is definitely from my soul. I sing honest. I try to sing honest. I try to sing what I’ve been through, what I’m thinking about, what I saw, what I felt. I try to go down there and get it and let it come out. That’s kind of how I do.”

She knows how to bring you to your knees with the piercing church anthem “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” a song Crawford shows off with blunt intensity as she corroborates wonderfully with the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra.

Where Crawford shines the brightest is belting out songs live. Performing at the 2016 Long Beach Jazz Festival’s JAZZTYME Stage, Crawford rocked so hard that it would be hard-pressed not seeing her on the main stage in the future. When they say stopping you in your tracks, Crawford will invite you to her first-class clinic on this subject with her musical mastery of voice and command.

This is one bad (good) cookie.

Everything about Crawford does musically is far from the norm. Her southern drawl and infectious laughter can easily disarm a stranger into melted butter. Crawford’s soul-penetrating eyes is a reflection of an old spirit that tell a story of depth and life experiences. Seeing her onstage is like watching a bronze goddess command the attention of her servants.

Set all that aside and you have the voice of a woman who makes you feel what she’s singing about. Not too many people can do that. There are a lot of people with big voices that sound empty and make you feel like you’re just listening to a lot of noise. You feel Crawford’s cheerleader prodding as she encourages you to “Spread Your Wings.”

Listening to Crawford’s smooth, throaty sound is like hearing a steady stream of oceanic water rushing out over some of nature’s rocks and ravines with the constant pounding of a glacial rinse: pure and breathtaking.

If you had to define a category to Crawford in, there is none. She doesn’t put herself in a box. Neither should anyone else, Crawford said.

“It is so funk, R&B bluesy,” said Crawford. “I think that it would right good in there in that spot.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1106 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.