All her life, Nikka Costa has rubbed shoulders with some big names in music. Her father, the late producer Don Costa, worked with the Osmond brothers, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, the latter of whom became a close family friend when Nikka was young. Stevie Salas used to sleep on her couch, and she’s toured with Lenny Kravitz. Since starting her music career at age 9, Costa has reflected a taste for and familiarity with classic sounds, mostly channeling a funk/soul aesthetic, but her latest EP, Pro*Whoa!, has internalized her exposure to 21st century artists via shows with Pink and Lupe Fiasco. Pro*Whoa! builds upon Costa’s classic funk sound with a hard rock edge and dance music-inspired rhythms.
Costa travels through a flurry of different moods across the six tracks of Pro*Whoa!, from badass crack-smoking child star in the title track to sultry groove queen in “Chase The Thrill” and sunny-day happy in “Stuff.” Her voice ranges from punchy, fast-paced rap on “Pro*Whoa!” (“The baddest of bitches/From rock to funk seamless/Ain’t seen nothing like this/Since Jimi, since Janis”), whisper-y blues singing on “Head First” and Amy Winehouse-ish belting on “Never Wanna C U Again.”
As solid as her funk roots are, Costa can appear dated. The title of her track “Never Wanna C U Again” is a case in point: only parents capitalize their net abbreves. While she can make a solid and listenable song with disparate influences like her electronic/funk/rock lead track “Head First,” her of-the-moment elements seem contrived at times. The grinding guitars and audio effects on the EP make Pro*Whoa! come off a little overproduced, especially for an artist whose musical style and voice are overpowering live. While she might be an old hand in the music business—as she says, “did it all before I was 10″—her pro skills leave something to be desired when stretched to be too trendy or contemporary.