SLAM: Tell us what specifically your role is on the OVO crew?
Niko: Well I grew up with Drake. It was hard times growing up. In the neighborhood we were hustlin’ in the clubs, promoting. Drake told me about eight years ago, which is not a long time ago, he told me, “One day I’ll be rapping, I’ll be the best rapper out there.”
SLAM: True enough, he is now.
Niko: He is one of the best if not the best out there. My role consists of helping Drake out making sure he’s good. Styling and stuff.
SLAM: What’s a day in the life for you?
Niko: Well now we have the OVO brick and mortar store in Toronto so there’s that. Right now for All-Star weekend just focusing on music. You heard the tape yet? (Referring to Drake’s mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”)
SLAM: Yup. It’s fire. Tell us more about your Filipino background.
Niko: Growing up, I heard stuff about the Philippines, the beautiful horror stories about dwendes and how you have to piss outside (laughs).
SLAM: Superstitions. Talk about Tito Ness and how that started.
Niko: Right. Tito Ness is actually my father. Drake salutes homage to my OG father, he loves doing skits, he loves Manny Pacquiao. We ended up having me sit down with a straight face and it worked. Drake loves Christmas, Filipino style and he spends it with my family every year.
SLAM: Why do you think the OVO sound is so unique?
Niko: The city is unique. That’s our sound. The inspiration, that Caribbean influence infused with Toronto culture makes it different. There’s that east NY sound, that West LA sound, different cultures, reggae. This is our sound, the sound of the city.
SLAM: Talk about the partnership with the Toronto Raptors.
Niko: It’s been in the works for a while now, shout out to Future. For awhile then, Colangelo did not deem Drake to be as powerful, but Tim Weileke took a chance on him and made him one of the team’s brand managers.
SLAM: Which 4 players would you roll with from the NBA?
Niko: I’d go with the best backcourt in the league, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Of course LeBron and maybe DeMarcus Cousins.
SLAM: Why do you think music and basketball is so intertwined?
Niko: At the end of the day we’re all young. Basketball is such a cool sport and the genre just fits. Ballers and rappers can relate to what is going through in their lives.
SLAM: How do you guys stay creative as far as the OVO collection is concerned?
Niko: Now we have a whole team for that. Before it was just the partners. Oliver, 40 and Future but now we have expanded the team and we have expanded the business which is doing really well.
SLAM: Favorite kicks?
Niko: Of course the OVO Jordan 12’s, The black ones.
SLAM: Those are never coming out though.
Niko: Never say never.
SLAM: Okay.. That got me. What else?
Niko: Kobe 8’s, the lows. Kobe 9 flyknits, Jordan 11 Concords and Timbs.
SLAM: What’s your style like?
Niko: I’m more of a classic guy. Black, White, Gold, Grey.
SLAM: You played ball right? What do you think of when you hear about Philippine basketball?
Niko: Yeah. It’s great. I’ve heard about the Gilas team. (Niko has a customized Gilas jersey and we hooked him up with our Issues #171 and #181 the Gilas covers) We played on a traveling team, the Toronto Red Barons. We played against Jacksonville and Sol Mercado. Also, look up Dean Labayan he could ball.