“Time’s slipping away,” Niia notes on “Macaroni Salad,” the second track from her new EP If I Should Die. “When’s my big start?” she wonders.
It’s a pointed question from a gifted R&B singer trying to navigate a world that doesn’t always care all that much for R&B. Niia released her debut album, I, through Atlantic Records in 2017. She parted ways with the label before putting out II: La Bella Vita independently in 2020. She’s back with a new six-track set; this time, she executive produced every track and directed videos for each of them.
“Recently, I found my footing,” Niia explained in a statement. “In the past, I gave control to people who I probably shouldn’t have… For this EP, I was like, ‘Let me see if I can finish this by myself without relying on the people I usually do.’ It was time to jump.”
That leap was rewarded: This is some of Niia’s stickiest work, from the suave swagger of “Not Up for Discussion” to the swing-for-the-fences balladry of “Ace Hotel,” which is set in 6/8 time, the tempo that has fueled classic R&B ballads like Rick James’ “Fire and Desire” and D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” Khruangbin’s Laura Lee and the singer Girl Ultra both make appearances on the EP as well.
“If I Should Die sounds pretty brutal, but it became my reality,” Niia added in her statement. “The last album was about a relationship that ended. This is about facing time as an enemy and my own death. I’m asking, how long do I have to climb this ladder of the music industry? I realized this is just what I do: It never ends.”