Niko Sheffield, the twenty-two year-old self described “Neo-Hippy Godboy of hip hop,” from RVA, who spits flames under moniker Niko Del Yato,  released his debut album, DEL YATO in October. DEL YATO was released as a part of the House Artist Grant Program from House Studio in Washington DC. The program selects six talented artists from all over the country and gives them the opportunity to take their careers to the next level, with full recording, video, marketing and a production package from House at no charge. This investment from House Studio is an estimated $30,000 value for each artist selected. Every independent artist should look into this opportunity.

Niko used the grant program to create DEL YATO. He recorded the entire 11 track project in one week. The project features guest appearances from RA The MC, Rob Regal (formerly known as Lyriciss), Patience Singz, Mikki, and fellow House Artist Grant winner Manny Wellz.

Niko’s confidence shines through on each track, it’s undeniable. He has serious bars – serious bars. The patterns of his flow reminds me of Eminem, with a vocal tone that is more Chance the Rapper, but his style is his own. He proves on Del Yato that he has wide range.  The first single that sticks out to me is “Level Up,” he uses a crazy up-tempo rhyme flow to solidify his style early on the project.

My favorite track on the album “My Last Dreamer Song.” I just love MCs doing their thing over classic hip hp beats. Niko not only holds his own but talks that talk over a classic hip hop beat pattern. He flow stands up strong. And I like that there is no feature on this song, it really shows what he can do.

Pay attention to the subject matter on the song “Trophies” featuring RA The MC and Mikki.  Niko takes a spiritual approach to talk about the modern injustice that still exist in 2014. Whether it’s senseless violence or injustice in general, Niko puts his faith in God and uses hip hop as a vehicle for improvement.

The other tracks that I really like:  “Dark Humor” featuring fellow House Grant winner Manny Wellz, and “No Midas” featuring Patience Singz, both show a different level of Niko’s range and lyrical talent.

If I didn’t know that the project was completed in a week – if you’d told me it took six months, I would have still been impressed with the project. It’s a solid debut album. BUT since I know it was completed in a week, I have even more respect for Niko’s talent. A week — that’s crazy!

Yet, I still have to judge the project fairly and while there are some really good tracks on the album, it does miss that one track that I would play over and over again. I also feel that he can dig deeper with his subject matter – he proved it on “Trophies” that he can really create songs that smack you in the face not just with his bars but with his subject matter, I need more of that to make the circle complete. I rate the album 4.1 out of 5 mics. But I’m going to tell you now – he did this album in a week…give Niko real time to figure out what he loves…I can’t wait until album number two, the sky’s is the limit.

Follow Niko Del Yato on Soundcloud and twitter.

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