Niko Karamayan hit his stride last year when he, along with his collaborator Tierney Finster, won the coveted and much-discussed DIScrit 89plus challenge. His prize, awarded by DIS magazine and 89plus—a global research initiative dedicated to discovering creatives born in or before 1989—was a grant that allowed the 21-year-old Los Angeles native, who creates under the moniker Niko the Ikon, to complete his trilogy of super-suave odes to the low-fi R&B music videos of the ‘90s, a project that began with his reimagining of Tevin Campbell’s teenage come-on, “Can We Talk.” The videos, which are delivered with a combination of a wink and total sincerity, feature Karamayan as a shadowy lothario singing (or lip-synching, it doesn’t really matter) buttery come-ons to a blonde paramour (played by Finster), and oozing the kind of machismo that would make Sade blush.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I would say it’s stealthy, Earthy, and playful.
How did your career get started?
It started with opportunity.
Where do you hope to be professionally in 5 years?
I hope to be earning a comfortable living doing something that betters the lives of others.
What’s your next project?
The third and final installation of my video series with Tierney Finster.
What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career?
I take no pride in career.
What famous person dead or living do most wish you could have as a roommate?
Sade Adu. I’d like to get to know her intimately.
What is your favorite driving music?
Napolian, Kelela, Sade, Hot 92.3 The Beat and 94.7 The Wave.
Whose career would you most like to emulate?
Anyone that has aided in the elevation of human consciousness and the preservation of Earth.
If you had to live in a past time, what do you think would be the most fun era and why?
Take me back to the Paleolithic period. Back to the basics.
What activities do most enjoy doing alone?
I like to lay on the ground, wearing only the Sun’s warm embrace on my skin, and eat the fresh fruit harvested from the plants in my garden. I wouldn’t mind doing this with someone else though.
How do you wind down before bed?
I’m naturally wound down. I shut my eyes and the body takes over.
When are you most relaxed?
What kind of person were you in high school?
I was undeveloped and unhealthy.
Can you tell me a quality about yourself that you are genuinely proud of?
I am proud of having faith.
Do you have any phobias?
What’s a serious side of you that people are unlikely to know about? Either in terms of interests, hobbies, or personality?
I think it is unlikely that people know I take nutrition and overall wellness very seriously. I do my best to only consume organic GMO-free nutrient-rich food and also never have or plan to use alcohol, drugs, coffee or cigarettes. I make no judgments against those who don’t practice the same, I only wish for everyone to be more conscious of their health.
What most bothers you about life in Los Angeles?
Driving a lot can be taxing, but it ain’t intolerable. Los Angeles is an amazing home.
What are some new hobbies you would like to take on?
What are some of your favorite Internet “memes” of all time?
I don’t have a favorite.
How do you hope to grow as a creative person?
I am not sure how, I just hope I do continue to grow. To develop and progress and inspire others to do the same. Growth is growth and growth is good.
If there was a phrase that you think best sums up your approach to life what might it be?
Photo by James Orlando.