Echo Park-Based Indie Label Nice Life Drops Debut Compilation Playlist: Politics and Fun Unite Here

by Brad Wete

 Ricky Reed, founder of Nice Life

Ricky Reed, founder of Nice Life

Based out of LA’s Echo Park Neighborhood, record label Nice Life just dropped their first compilation titled Winter ’18. The project, released as a playlist, features artists likes Russian feminist band Pussy Riot and digital artist Yung Jake.

Ricky Reed founded the label in 2016 after building his reputation as an artist-producer and working with acts like Twenty One Pilots, Meghan Trainer and Pitbull. While he never saw himself assuming an executive role—or founding a label for that matter—he felt that he could bring something to the table. “Nice Life is meant to be a platform for subversive and forward-thinking artists that can reach and impact people in a meaningful way,” Reed says. It’s something that is clearly communicated through the collection of tracks on Winter ’18.

 The 10-track compilation rings off with Yung Jake’s “Loco,” a melodic-rap track driven by a Spanish guitar, simple kick and hi-hat patterns. The hook, slightly changing each time, goes, “She made me loco, yeah/ She made me loco.” The Los Angeles native, rose to fame as an artist recognized for his use of emojis in creating celebrity portraits. After being contacted by Nice Life, Jake decided to work with the label on the release of “Loco,” which was dropped as a single before living on ’18.

“Loco” doesn’t have a complex structure or severely profound lyrics. His emoji portraits may be interpreted by some as “low brow,” meaningless art. But the power in Jake’s creations, as well as his persona, lie in their ability to connect with a youth culture that finds authority in fierce individualism, leadership, and the creative power of technology and media. We asked Jake who he’s creatively encouraged to be by his team and he responded by simply saying, “my team encourages me to [be] myself.”

 Yung Jake | shot by Joyce Kim

Yung Jake | shot by Joyce Kim

While Yung Jake finds his power in digital media and millennial culture, Pussy Riot leans on the power of political resistance with their track “Police State.” Founded on ironically glittery and bright production, this song comments on the corruption of politics and power. The band released a statement via Facebook, upon releasing the music video for the track, which denounced “pro-authoritarian trends and autocratic, conservative, right-wing leaders.”

“Police State” adds an important layer to the Winter ’18 compilation and reiterates Reed’s goal of highlighting “subversive and forward thinking artists,” but Pussy Riot doesn’t have an exclusive relationship with the Nice Life label. They explained their connection as more so friendly, saying, “Pussy Riot is not particularly signed; Pussy Riot's collaborating with Nice Life! Ricky is creative, dedicated, hard-working producer with a great sense of humor. What else could you wish?”

Another Winter ‘18 collaborator, Fat Tony, echoed Pussy Riot’s sentiment regarding working with Reed, saying, “[He] is adventurous and extremely down to earth. His hospitality makes his studio feel like home from day one. He makes a point to build a personal connection before getting down to work, and that always makes for a better song. I'm a fan of Ricky's experimentation and musicality and excited to hear where we go next.” You can catch Fat Tony’s urban-pop track, “Son of God,” towards the later half of the playlist.

 1st Vows | shot by Casey Lee

1st Vows | shot by Casey Lee

1st Vows (né Ryan Hunter) was the lead singer of a Long Island-based rock band Envy On The Coast. He was introduced to Nice Life via “[his] friend, Brad, who has been there since its inception.” His song “Up In Flames” has a late ‘80s pop-rock vibe and he co-produced the track along side Reed and Imad Royal. The “full package of talented people, good people, and people with a spine” is a big piece of what attracted 1st Vows to Nice Life.

“I’m a genuine fan of the label, their artists, and all the people involved,” Vows says. “I love what Lizzo is doing and particularly dig what Ricky has created with her on the production front. Plus Ricky working with Nadya and Pussy Riot last year during election season just sealed the deal for me.”

Thoughts on the chemistry of the Nice Life family were continued during our talk with Fast Friends, another rock influenced band whose track “Crash Here If It’s Cool” is included on the’18 playlist. The band explains, “The Golden State Warriors are in the process of educating the NBA as well as the entire world about the unparalleled value of chemistry and its impact on success. Much like them, Nice Life has great chemistry. Everyone in Fast Friends has been way tight with all the bros at Nice Life for a very long time.”

Regardless of genre or lyrical content, the Nice Life label pushes to work with artists who are confident in who they are and comfortable creating art that aims to communicate authenticity rather than fitting into, at times, generic boxes of the mainstream music industry. They also seem to select people who can connect with the other artists involved with the label, which sets the stage for organic collaboration and growth.

The Winter ’18 playlist also includes music from J Capri, Brandon Wardell, Swsh, Yung Skrt, and TOBi. The project—available via Soundcloud, Spotify, and iTunes—is the first in a series of playlists that will drop throughout 2018.