From time-to-time, words of wisdom, wrapped in assurance, echo in our minds. The most popular phrase is: “make sure you get an education first.” Smartly, 25-year old rapper Shaniqua Lottihall, known professionally as Niqua, took note of that advice. A four-year stint at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana earned her a degree in psychology before she stepped out to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a singer. NSU was also a platform to test her talents as a rapper, performing at campus events in front of an audience of university students. Spotlighted on center stage triggered her vision even more.

Niqua uses her college degree working nights as a Behavior Technician in her hometown of Pensacola, Fl., caring for acute mental health patients, mostly homeless, suicidal, and drug abusers. Offering them a means of support away from living in the streets..

When she’s not toiling away as a caretaker for her patients, Niqua’s other passion is spent fulfilling her second ambition – music.

The theme of the new album [not yet titled] is filled with empowering messages of strength and power that encourage self-worth and confidence from a women’s perspective. Songs on the album takes you through the highs and lows of her own journey, filled with trials and tribulations. She describes her music as a mellow-type style, filled with instrumental bass, all penned by her. And in all that she does, throughout the nights into the days, her passion to support people, whether through her health profession or music, is her given nature.

The release of Niqua’s first single “Not the Only One,” an upbeat bass-filled cruiser, introduces her skills as a songwriter. On the track she describes how men like to put in the effort to get the girl, but once that’s done they show little interest in keeping her. She insists, “It’s a reminder that no one is irreplaceable.”

Niqua names rapper Eve and hip hop artist Missy Elliott as her musical influences. She also adds entertainment-business mogul Jay Z to her list of favorites.

Niqua was born and raised in Brownsville’s Marcus Garvey apartment complex in Brooklyn, NY, surrounded by the problems of poverty that have troubled the area for years. At the age of 10, her mom, who became a single parent, moved her and a younger sister to Leesville, Louisiana where they lived near an army base stationed at Fort Polk.

Transitioning from the fast-paced streets of the projects to a small town with a mere population of 7,000 took her through culture shock. Living off post near the base, people were always coming and going. Military kids moved from place-to-place. And gaining new friends was simply, wishful thinking.

At a young age, she was already experiencing people stepping in and out of her life. Particularly her absentee father, which robbed her of having a male figure to lean on. She had to learn lessons about toxic relationships with men on her own. Little did she know that her self-teachings through her challenging experiences in her own personal relationships would set the tone for some of the songs on her album.

From the start, Niqua was always drawn to music. As a little girl, she recalls growing up surrounded by music playing throughout her house. The Annual BET Awards became a tradition for the family to watch on cable. “Every time I watched it I would get this surge of energy and excitement and tell myself that is going to be me up there one day.” She ponders about the time her mom brought her a pink feather bower. She would sing and dance in front of the mirror at her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother would tell her, “you were born to be a star.”

Perception goes far.

Her grandmother was “not the only one” who saw her singing and songwriting talents. So did Christopher Starr (Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown…), who took her under his wing to assist molding her dream of making music. She grabbed at the opportunity to, finally, introduce her talent and step back on the stage.

On her album, it’s all in how she strives to relay fun, inspiring messages on her songs aimed to encourage women’s empowerment and self-confidence. She reassures the ladies that they can achieve their goals and visions in life, minus any limitations that others may attempt to put on then. Simply, inspiring.

And the more listeners embrace her music, they too will agree:

“She Poppin”!

Written by: Juanita Stephens

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