BET's 'NEXT BIG THING' Exclusive with Season 1 Competitor, Niyala Hedge “Lovee”

IMG-1633.PNG

The newest reality music competition is here! Hosted by Charlamagne Tha God, BET’s THE NEXT BIG THING premiered July 9th with an amazing line up of tomorrows superstars. 21 R&B and Hip Hop contestants fight their way through a one of kind artist development bootcamp for who’s got next!

The League” or the judges using their expertise to see who’s got what it takes to make it to the top includes the legendary Dame Dash, Tina Davis and Zaytoven. However, The League is not alone in coaching the contestants. Celebrity guest mentors to the show are Tamar Braxton, Keyshia Cole, Joe Budden, Remy Ma, Jeremih, Lil Kim, Tank and The Late Nipsey Hussle.

But right now we have our eyes on a contestant whose talent and heart is undeniable. Check out my exclusive interview with a woman who was ready to show the world why she’s next and also change it at the same time through her music and mission. Meet Hip Hop Recording and Performing Artist, Niyala Hedge “Lovee”!

IMG-1635.PNG

You are more than just an artist. You’ve got your hands in a few things. How would you introduce yourself to the world? 

Lovee: I’m just simply a visionary and creator. Anything dealing with entrepreneurship I’m definitely into, but more of the creative aspects. Outside of my artistry, I’m also a DJ, audio engineer, producer and I’m also the owner of a personal chef and catering company.

The show premiers July 9th! How excited are you and how do you feel about the world being introduced to you and your talent?

Lovee: I’m actually very excited. I think the thing I’m most excited about is that I’m in my own lane and I feel like there are some females, even some males, who will be able to relate to me. Just to have someone that’s like me and loves that old school feel while also trying to uplift Kings and Queens, and overall, just spread love…I feel like I’m most excited for people to be able to have someone like that that they can at least relate to.

How did you land on The Next Big Thing?

Lovee: Actually, a friend of mine tagged me in a post. It was really that simple. They said “Hey, you should apply for this!”. I hadn’t seen it. Honestly, I rarely have time to watch TV, so I didn’t know how big auditions got or how much promotion had gone into it. All I know is that it was one post that I saw and I was like ok, you know what…WHY NOT?

At the time I was really focused on school, my daughter and my business, but something told me just to give it a shot. The worst thing that could happen is that I don’t hear anything. Then I got that email back literally the next day that was like “can we set you up for a Skype interview?”.

Most artists are a combination of their musical influences, the era that raised them and their own personal identity. Who are your musical influences and how would you say the era that we live in has inspired your artistry? 

Lovee: I would say that I have several different influences that all pretty much travel back to the music I was raised on. You know listening to my father who would always play Ice Cube and basically Gangsta Rap in general. But he also played KRS1 and Slick Rick, but when it comes to Lil Kim, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Rah Digga…a lot of the old school artists are some of those that I related to. I just felt the music. Growing up in Cleveland in the Midwest I had a hard interior even though I was still Lovee, so a lot of that music kind of catered to my flow and my style.

Now a day with Kendrick Lamar and with J Cole, the storytelling and the flow, it was able to give me what I would l say is that old school feel with a new school vibe.

You mentioned Lil Kim. You got the opportunity to work with legends like her and the late Nipsey Hustle in really developing your craft on the show. Tell me about your experiences with them and the influence they had on you while on the show? 

Lovee: Lil Kim I would say was one of the most influential to me on the show. By the time I had met her I felt like if I go home today I’m good (laughs). One of the biggest lessons that she taught me that I really grasped and understood was to “don’t fear your mistakes”. We make mistakes. And up until that time I hadn’t really made a mistake on stage ever in my career when performing, so I didn’t under the principle of “there are no mistakes” basically. It’s just lessons.

You make a mistake, you fall, you get right back up and then keep doing the dance moves like that was part of the routine. And so I think really being able to understand that you got it no matter what. The good, the bad, the highs, the lows. No matter what anyone has to say, no matter how they feel about this or about that, there are no mistakes, just all lessons.

It’s seems like the goal of the show was to see who had more than just raw talent. What would you say is the “more” you bring to the table beyond your talent?

Lovee: I feel like it’s my stage presence. I’m really a true performer at heart. When I’m on stage that’s when I’m the most comfortable, the most confident and that’s when I can really feel the energy. I’m really big on energy and vibes. That’s when I get to feel the energy of the crowd and that’s when I feel like they really get to truly feel me, more-so than just recording a song and putting a song out. I would say that my stage presence and my energy is what really takes me personally to the next level.

With all competition shows there is always the good cop, bad cop dynamic between the judges. On this show the judges are Damon Dash, Tina Davis, and Zaytoven. Who was the toughest? Who was the most compassionate?

Lovee: I would say they all had their moments. Dame, I can’t say anything bad about him because he will give it to you straight. He will give you those lessons and I feel like knowledge is everything. So anything that he’s willing to teach me I’m definitely open to hear and listen, but he won’t sugar coat it so I’ll say that. When it comes to Tina, I think the same thing. She was able to give you constructive feedback while still telling you how to be better and be different next time. When it comes to Zay, I’d say he was the coolest, maybe. He was laid back and he really tried to see more of the positive sides. He definitely gave constructive criticism, but it was more behind the scenes.

This is not a typical competition show. It has even been described as a bootcamp. What was the most challenging part of participating? What was your most memorable moment on the show?

Lovee: The most challenging part about participating was the fact that we had no time to do anything. Most of the time you can sit back and be comfortable and write your song. You can usually get a feel for your song, you can memorize it, perform it, but most of the time on the show the challenge was you had 4 hours to create this song and perform it. And as an artist, especially ones that feed off emotion, most of what I do is based on exactly how I’m feeling. So I had to dig deep and pull from areas that I wasn’t feeling at that time to make sure that I can still present and I can still perform. Those crunch times and not really having time was difficult.

The most memorable moment for me was when I truly learned the concept of mistakes do happen. As I said, it was so crazy how it happened because Lil Kim taught me to keep pushing. I ended up being in a situation where I was caught off guard and I tried to keep pushing, but at the same time you could see it on my face. And like I said earlier, energy is everything and people caught and felt that energy as well. So that was the first time where I felt like I actually had my back against the wall. But sometimes you have to have those moments where you do fall so that you learn where your strengths come from.

Me having one of the biggest mistakes that I ever had in my career, I would say that prepared me for anything that’s coming in the future.

IMG-1634.PNG

What was the vibe like amongst the other cast members? 

Lovee: We are all artists so that was cool. For me it was almost like an artist bootcamp or summer camp. We were all artists of different backgrounds who had different lifestyles, but that still loved music, so we all connected on that. My name is Lovee and I’m genuinely a lover at heart. I say all the time that I love humans in general. I could never meet you, but have love for you. So I pretty much had that same energy with everybody apart of the cast. So it was all good vibes.

What did you learn about yourself?

Lovee: What I learned about myself is that although I love and I love everybody, it all starts with the love for myself. The love that I have for myself and the way that I accept myself is what’s first. So I went through my entire life projecting love and wanting to love others, but it was mainly because I realized that growing up I never really got that love from my parents. I never got that love from my mom. I got that love from my dad, but he was away. He wasn’t physically close for many years. So it was pretty much a thing where I kind of pushed it off to the side and I just wanted to love everybody so that they never felt how I felt. But I have to start with myself.

I would say that this experience has really smacked it in my face and taught me that it all starts with me.

We all know that trying to make it in the industry isn’t easy. What fuels you to keep going?

Lovee: My daughter. One of my biggest goals is to be able to homeschool my daughter and I want to be in a position to do so comfortably. So I know in addition to the show, in addition to music, and why I do try to do so much is because I know that the average millionaire has seven sources of income. So I’m trying to be at a place in my life where I can get that residual income and I can make money while I’m sleeping, so I don’t have to work until I die. I want to spend my life being there for my daughter and my future children, travel the world and explore life the way I really want to. That dream and that vision that I’ve already seen is exactly what I’m pushing for.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Lovee: I want my legacy to be love. Simple as that. Through my personal chef and catering company. It’s called Mixing Mama and the basis of that is literally we try to save your time one meal at a time so that you can spend more time with your family. We do a lot of different things that’s all about family. Through my music. It’s all about love, although I may have a Gangsta vibe, what I’m talking to you about is up lifting. Also through my nonprofit. I have a nonprofit organization called Spreading Love Naturally that caters to those who can’t afford therapy or just don’t even feel comfortable going, raising suicide awareness and a place where people don’t have to feel alone. I want to pass all this down to my family so that my daughter doesn’t have to go through what I went through. I want her to be able to do what it is she wants to do and have the comfortability to still work and make money, but follow her passion.

Would you do the show again?

Lovee: I definitely would do the show again. One thing I know for a fact is that I wouldn’t be the same person if I did. I would learn so much that I would be an even better, elevated version of who I was before.

What’s next for you?

Lovee: I do have a single that I’m working on that’s coming soon, followed up by an EP. But overall I’m just truly grateful that BET event gave me this platform. That’s the most exciting thing for me and that’s what I feel like is the NEXT BIG THING that’s coming soon.