ROUND LAKE – Known in Lake County and beyond as Nanny Nikki for her musical block parties, Nikki Rung now also can call herself a Grammy-nominated artist.
Rung is part of the album “All One Tribe” – a collaboration of 26 Black artists celebrating the rich culture and diversity that Black voices bring to family music. Released on Juneteenth, June 19, the album recently earned a Grammy nomination for Best Children’s Album.
“I am over the moon,” said Rung of Round Lake, who began hosting music classes and performing at birthdays and special events as Nanny Nikki in 2019.
When the pandemic began, she pivoted to offer socially distant musical block parties, birthday videograms, live and virtual playdates and other programs.
Along with performing, she writes her own music, posting videos on a YouTube channel, social media and her website, www.nannynikkimusic.com.
Her song, “Playground Day,” is featured on the “All One Tribe” album as Track 15. She also performs along with all of the album’s featured artists as part of the title track, “One Tribe.”
“This is the very first time any kind of collective has done something like this for Black children,” Rung said. “The idea was to bring light and joy to Black culture, and this album, it spans genres and topics. It talks about STEM diversity. It talks about being motivated. It has something on there for everyone. It’s really incredible.”
The album, available to listen to at https://1tribecollective.com, came about after the exclusion of Black artists among the Best Children’s Album Grammy nominees in 2020 and the nationwide protests following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The album’s executive producer Aaron Nigel Smith and co-producers Shawana “Shine” Kemp and Amelia Robinson joined with fellow musicians to not only bring the album to life, but to organize 1 Tribe Collective.
“The project sets out to expand public awareness of the excitement and excellence of these diverse children’s songwriters and to remind the world that Black families do not represent a monolith,” Rung wrote about the nomination. “The 1 Tribe Collective hopes to reprogram society’s perception of Black youth while giving young people and families permission to live out loud and celebrate their uniqueness.”
Rung’s song, “Playground Day,” describes a group of children at a playground.
“It’s really special to me,” she said. “What I love about it is it’s very intentional in that I’m trying to use diverse names in talking about how all these beautiful diverse children can play on the playground together and do fun things.”
Rung plans to include a remix of the song on an album featuring her original music she hopes to release next year.
She and the other featured artists on the “All One Tribe” album connected through an organization called Family Music Forward, founded in July 2020 in response to the murders of Taylor and Floyd.
The artists from throughout the country regularly gathered virtually, and all came together on Zoom to watch the announcement of the Grammy nominations.
“My heart was pounding through my chest, and I’m reliving it now,” Rung said. “It was such an emotional experience. … We were screaming together and crying and the joy and the amount of time and work and effort to put all this together, it felt validated.”
All hope to come together in person for the Grammy Awards on Jan. 31 in Los Angeles. The children’s category winner will be announced at a ceremony before the CBS telecast. The pre-telecast awards show will stream on Grammy.com.
“The 1 Tribe Collective and this album are historic,” executive producer Smith said in a news release. “This project represents the dreams and hopes of our people. It’s an incredible honor to work with so many voices representing the rich diversity of Black and Brown artists.”