Don’t call it a comeback: The musically imbued twins that make up Nina Sky, Natalie and Nicole Albino, have been here for years. You just didn’t know it.
Despite an ignorant attempt by radio to erase all traces of the Queens-born natives who brought us hits like “Move Your Body,” “Turnin’ Me On,” and the N.O.R.E.-led anthem, “Oye Mi Canto,” the 32-year-old sisters have consistently released some of the best music that you’ve probably never heard of, including the underrated club-banger “On Some Bulls**t” in 2007 and the critically lauded EP The Other Side in 2010.
They have also maintained an active career as in-demand DJs, spinning vinyls at clubs all around the world and, occasionally, in hot spots across the city that they still call home. Make no qualms about it, though, Nina Sky’s main love has always been connected to their voices, and they’re using them in more ways than one to bring forth a strong contender for 2016’s song of the summer, the easy-breezy “Champion Lover.” The hot track leads into the girls’ upcoming album, Brightest Gold, which is set for release later this year by Tommy Boy Entertainment, and its heartwarming music video dropped Thursday evening.
In the “Champion Lover” visual, which was directed by Ariel Fisher & Austin Kearns, there are several, wonderful moments of queer love that are displayed without boundaries or explanation. It is, at times, emotional, moving, and knowledgeable, something that is still gravely necessary in a world where 49 nightclub attendees can be killed just for being themselves, or where Olympians who risk death for being gay in their homelands are outed by so-called journalists looking for their time in the sun. It is, as sung during the chorus by Nina Sky, an outright winner of a return to deserved prominence.
It is also something that holds a bit of personal relation to at least one of the Nina Sky ladies, most specifically Nicole, who came out publicly as a lesbian in 2010 after years of being forced to keep her sexuality secret.
“[We were told to tell people], you’re not in a relationship, you’re single,'” Nicole recently told Spin. “‘You’re not 19, you’re 18. You’re not lesbian, you’re straight.’ [However,] as Natalie and I got older, we got smarter and we were just like, ‘[staying closeted] makes no sense. The best way to do anything is just to be honest about it, and we felt like we could make better music if we were honest about [me being a lesbian].”
That honesty is also translated into the way both the song and video of “Champion Lover” shines a light on the beauty of New York City life, something that Nina Sky have always been respectful of. Those who grew up in the Big Apple will immediately pick up the sampling of Shabba Ranks’ 1992 hit “Mr. Loverman” (which was actually an interpolation of the late reggae star Deborahe Glasgow’s 1989 single “Champion Lover”) and recognize several staples of the city being interlaced with everyday people whom they might come across on the daily.
It adds a level of unabashed realness to a song that was already genuine in both its creation and promotion (although well-recognized as a hip-hop/dance mecca, Tommy Boy Entertainment is an independent label), and makes for quite the moving moment of entertainment. As you might have guessed, however, this was also more than likely intentional.
“We’re [just] two girls from Queens,” Nicole says. “It’s in our blood.”
Nonetheless, Nina Sky’s work on “Champion Lover” is one of rare moments that makes us remember that there are real artists out there who are hoping to change the game, and the world, for the absolute better. One can only hope that they won’t be silenced again by an entity that needs proper resuscitation, but as Nina Sky has proven with “Champion Lover,” greatness can never be stopped.
P.S. The Lady Bee remix of the song is even more phenomenal than the original, and that’s saying something. You’ve been missed, Nina Sky.
[Photo by Brad Barket/Stringer/Getty Images]