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Interview: Lil Niqo Tells Us to Man Up

photographer GROTSESK

Watching rap wunderkind Lil Niqo ape the swag of much older, seasoned rappers, you get the sense that things aren’t the same for him as they are for most 11-year-old boys. In his video for “OK Then,” his man-child moves give the effect of an elaborately produced SNL skit—the requisite club segment replaced instead with a kid-friendly arcade grind, Lil Niqo sitting passenger-side in his souped up ride. We checked in with the tiny star to see if he’s still just a regular kid who goes to school, and not just media-trained soon-to-be hip-hop mogul on the way to tween stardom. Turns out, he’s a little of both.

Where are you right now? Oh, I’m at home, you know, chilling in San Diego. I’m getting ready for the BET Awards soon, got to shut down the red carpet, do what I do.

Is it summer vacation now? I’m being home schooled right now, but, yeah, I’m out of school. I’m going into the 7th grade, and my favorite subjects are math and social studies. It’s kind of fun sometimes, you know, education is very important.

When did you start being home schooled? I started being home schooled in the 4th grade, and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s a lot more fun because you can go at your own pace, so I can do like, 7th and 8th grade in one year. It’s cool, and we go in and do like, art classes and stuff, and writing classes, it’s really fun.

What was the coolest thing you learned this past year? I liked algebra, being able to find the reciprocals, or finding the variables—it’s interesting.

When did you realize you could rap? I actually started out at a second grade talent show, and I performed the song “Shorty Like Mine” by Chris Brown and Bow Wow, and I just really loved the stage and the attention, you know, the crowd cheering me on. I wanted to start rapping when I was like four years old, but at that time I couldn’t really write. So it was just scribble-scrabble all over the place. I was practicing, but in disguise. Nobody really knew.

What did your parents say? At first my mom didn’t want me to rap, but I told her to man up. It took a minute for me to convince her that that’s what I wanted to do because my mom is an industry veteran, and she’s seen a lot of things. I appreciate the fact that she doesn’t want me to go through the pain she’s seen other people go through, but, again, this is something I love, and when I really proved that to her she said okay, and we’ve been on the grind ever since.

Do you have a favorite book? I do not know yet… Oh! My favorite book is the Bible.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A mogul.

What does being a mogul mean to you? First of all, it’s a huge reputation, and you never want to let your fans down, and you got a lot to carry on your back, and it’s a lot of responsibility, as a mogul, and a lot of work, but it’s worth it and it will pay off, and being a mogul is, I guess, having some type of power, and investing the money, and stuff like that. I want to have my own headphones, my own wallet, you know, giving back to the community, stuff like that.

How would you do that? I’m thinking of maybe a local Boys & Girls Club or something, like bringing my fans on a red carpet or performing with me, or to the Grammy’s or something. Computers for inner-city schools. Just something positive to tell kids, you know it’s not all about what you see on TV, education is the most important thing if you want to do anything in life, become a doctor, an athlete, a fireman—even a rapper! Academics is the most important thing, because how do you know people aren’t cheating you out of your money?

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Interview: Lil Niqo Tells Us to Man Up