You, like me, may have first heard Njomza featuring on the standout track “Planet God Damn” by Mac Miller off his fifth studio album The Divine Feminine. She flutters over producer Vinylz’s created synths on the hook with the simple yet potent lyrics, “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell truth / Show me you, show me you, show me you.”
“It was my first day going to New York. I pulled up to work on Sad For You, my first EP. Mac was helping me shape it in the studio,” she says about the day of the track’s creation. “When I first got in, I heard that beat playing on loop. The hook just came into my head and I was like, ‘Oh that sounds really cool!’ Mac was like, ‘Get in there and record that!’ I was like, ‘Wait, what?! You want me to get on the song?’ I got so excited ’cause I knew he was working on his project too. I recorded my part and he got in and recorded his verses. The song was done within a couple hours. Then he told me he was gonna put it on the album and I was so excited. I’m sure I was playing it way cooler than how I felt inside my brain.”
This is the purest example of Njomza’s proven process of being able to organically exist in a musical space with others and produce magic. This mentor-led moment in the studio propelled her on her path. She says, “I felt like I stepped into my own collabing with him on that song. I felt like, ‘OK, I’m meeting you somewhere close to your level.’”
Njomza’s collaboration trajectory peaked again when she was a part of the team crafting the writing and melodies on Ariana Grande’s fifth studio album thank you, next. She says about her favorite moment of the process, “Ariana had picked me up one morning and she was like, ‘Oh lets go to Tiffany’s.’ She bought us all rings. She was like, ‘I wanna buy rings for all my friends that have been working on this with me.’ I was like, ‘This is some true rich girl shit right here. You need to make a song called “7 Rings,” and you need to flex on everybody.'”
This time, Njomza’s natural sonic impulse resulted in one of Grande’s most successful singles that now has clocked in at over 1 billion streams. This path to success and acknowledgement, however, was an unexpected one for Njomza. “I never went into music thinking I was gonna song-write for other people,” she says. “I didn’t even know that was really a lane. Now that I know, I’m finding a real love for it. Even when it comes to collaborating on my own music I really love it. It really gives me that alley to explore something else and tap into another person’s world.”
Eventually, her adept ability to feed off the energy of others needed to be infused into her own work. Through this, Njomza would be able to reach her true solo artist potential. Now with her third seven-track EP LIMBO, Njomza is as organically collaborative as she’s ever been. The closing track from her new EP, “Tidal Wave,” feat. Ari Lennox, was recorded in one of the most collaborative studio environments in recent history, the J. Cole-led Revenge of the Dreamers III sessions. Artists were invited from far and wide to record in Atlanta’s Tree Sound Studios with hopes of contributing to the Dreamville label’s third collaborative album.
“I’ve never been to anything like it because of how many people were showing up,” she says. “Then how collaborative every studio session was. Ari is super sweet and I walked into her session and they were playin’ around listening to beats. She was just like, ‘Let’s write together.’ Initially I thought we were just writing a song for her, which I was so happy to do. Then when the second verse came she was like, ‘Go in and record it.’ I was like, ‘What, you want me to get on the song too?’ I’m so happy it got on LIMBO. It’s a great fit for the project. It was an organic thing.” Naturally Njomza’s lack of comfortability with forcing herself into spaces resulted in a standout element to complete her own body of work. As she just let things flow, sonic blessings resulted.
Another standout track on the album, “Winter in Atlanta,” feat. Russ, was also created in a circumstance that was the epitome of unforced. On a random link-up in the Atlanta area during the chillier months, Njomza pulled up on Russ in the studio. “Russ was playing a bunch of beats and that one felt so cool to me,” she says about the initial spark for the single. “It had this dark eerie feel, but still smooth. We were just like, ‘Yeah we’re gonna go with this one.’ We were also just shooting the shit the whole time. I was talking about moving to Atlanta because it’s so dope and collaborative. By the end of the song we were like, ‘What do we call it? Oh, “Winter in Atlanta,” duh.’” While the feel of the track embodies the energy of the city, the collaboration embodies everything that Njomza is as an artist at her best. She took in the environment she was a part of and let it decide the fate of sound in the resulting recording.
The project itself, LIMBO,came to be through this same organic energy. “The songs themselves were kind of in limbo. They manifested themselves into a project,” Njomza proclaims. “I was in the car one night listening to all the loosies I had, and realized I had a project. I went home immediately at 2 in the morning and wrote down every song. Then I was like, ‘I gotta playlist this and send this to my team and see what they think.’ Then thank God we all ran with it because we all saw what was there.”
Those eventual EP songs included two more with featured artists Metro Mars and Wrld, as well as collaborations with a multitude of producers including Heavy Mellow (Kid Cudi, Jack Harlow) and Bizness Boi (6lack, Chris Brown) on the title track. Still the project is seamlessly cohesive. “It’s pulling from everything I listen to and I did my best to pull everything together into something that sounds like me,” Njomza says about it. “When working on my other projects I was just learning and finding my ear. My main thing is I really wanted it to feel like a world. This LIMBO world.”
The word limbo can be defined as “an intermediate state,” or in Njomza’s case being caught between two choices or worlds to exist in. “The whole project feels like a back and forth of whether or not you’re in love or if you should get out of it. It’s going through the motions. After I made the project I realized phonetically LIMBO is: Love Is My Best Option. While writing it I was like, ‘Do I love this person? Do I not love this person? Is this something I should stay in?’ I was in this in-between space where it was like being in the talking stage, but you know that person way too well. But in the end, love was my best option whether it be loving myself or choosing this person.”
Though love is the throughline, the bounce between varying states of psychological processing, and the sonic colors of that, is the EP’s true backbone. Njomza’s LIMBO world is the musical equivalent of the internal exchange between her heart and brain.
Being in LIMBO helps Njomza live in her artistic sweet spot. Whether she’s caught between two feelings or balancing her sound with her collaborators, somehow it always results in her most poignant product. About what she hopes this project will accomplish, she says simply, “I hope they feel the growth in my music. Then the feeling of wanting more ’cause I have so much more music coming out this year.” If Njomza continues to musically ruminate on the space of the in-between, what’s to come will surely live up to the expectation LIMBO has set.