When Nija Charles was a junior at Union Township High School in New Jersey, she wrote her first song, about being dumped by a boy.
Five years later, in 2019, she was late on her way to the Grammys in Los Angeles when a deluge of “congratulations” text messages poured into her phone. Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Everything Is Love”, for which she wrote songs, had just won the award for best contemporary urban album.
“At that time, I could never have imagined that anything I wrote would win a Grammy,” Nija, now 23 and known by her first name, told The Post. “I was just over the moon about it.”
Upon arriving at the ceremony, Nija got a second chance to watch her own story in the making when Cardi B’s debut smash, “Invasion of Privacy,” won the award for Best Rap Album. Nija co-wrote her songs “I Do” and “Ring” – the latter only took her 10 minutes to write the lyrics.
“I was like, ‘Two in one night? I can’t believe it, ”Nija said. “I seriously partied afterwards. “
Since then, she has helped design tracks for Drake, Maroon 5, Megan Thee Stallion, Chris Brown, Zayn, Teyana Taylor and Beyoncé’s soundtrack album “The Lion King: The Gift”.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to breathe the first time I went to a writers’ meeting and laid eyes on Beyoncé,” Nija recalls, adding that Queen Bey had taken her to Paris so that they can work together.
“When I met her, I went straight to pro mode and avoided having a fan-girl moment,” she said. “But when I got back to my hotel room, I was like, ‘Oh my God, did that happen? Did I just meet Beyoncé? ‘ “
Now the benchmark songwriter is doing it for herself. In August, Nija’s sultry debut track “Ease My Mind (Come Over)” announced her arrival as a singer. Earlier this month, she released her sassy single “Finesse,” on the breakup with her three-year-old boyfriend.
“When I work with other artists, I write about their history and what they are going through,” she explained. “But when I write for myself, I can express my emotions and speak directly from my heart. It’s a breath of fresh air. “
Music is in his blood. Nija’s dad, Marcellus, a DJ, spun classic records from The Jackson 5 and New Edition at barbecues and family celebrations.
“I remember being fascinated by these old jams when I was just 4 years old,” Nija said. “It really influenced the way I write songs for artists and for myself today.”
Her mother, Tracey, is a Verizon engineer who has fiercely supported Nija’s artistry since the young girl fell in love with creating catchy beats at age 13.
“When I was a kid my aunt and uncle used to make rhythms on a keyboard in my grandmother’s basement all the time,” Nija said. “And I knew I wanted to do it too. I started out as a music producer.
With Nija winning straight out of college, Tracey gifted her a MIDI keyboard with which she began to hone her craft.
“Once I got my keyboard, I spent all of my time making beats,” Nija said, noting that she was proud of herself for not being in clothes and makeup like the others. girls her age.
“[My friends] wanted to be at the mall. I wanted to be on YouTube to teach me new tips and techniques, ”she recalls. “I always tried to make timeless sounds like the old school music my dad played.”
She started posting her designs on SoundCloud and gaining attention. Her mother told NBC New York how Nija asked producers to send her songs for work – but that “a lot of them didn’t know she was 16 or 17. It was fun.”
Once they did, it didn’t really help at first. Nija admits that the bigwigs in music were reluctant to give her a chance due to her race, gender and age.
“When people [in the industry] saw me, a young black songwriter, they didn’t automatically want me on their [writing] team, ”she recalls.
She got her break in 2017 when a rep for Christian rapper Lecrae stumbled across Nija’s music on social media. She was hired to write the hook for Lecrae’s “Lucked Up” at the age of 19 and enrolled at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute, where she majored in recorded music for two years.
“But even after I got that writing credit, being accepted by the music world was really tough for me,” she added. “I had to fight [for inclusion], especially in the pop and rap genres ”- especially after being labeled as an R&B character.
“In the pop space, they saw me and thought all I could write was R&B. And most male rappers just wanted other men to write their hooks, ”Nija recalls. “But I kept pushing, even after I was told ‘No’ a thousand times. Consistency is something my mom really instilled in me and my little sister, Zoe, growing up. “
Her first major pop co-writing, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s 2020 smash, “Rain on Me,” won a Grammy in the Best Pop Duo / Group Performance category. She also worked with Grande on the songs “Obvious”, “Positions” and “Motive”.
“One of my favorite memories is meeting Ariana for the first time. She’s so hilarious, ”Nija said. “We were writing ‘Positions’ at a birthday party. And we kept running outside to write lyrics, then come back inside to come back. It was so much fun. “
Nija, who lives in LA, signed with Capitol as a performer and is now working on her own album.
“I am grateful that I can do what I love every day,” said Nija. “I’m excited to continue to grow and show the world who I am. “
Photos: Tamara Beckwith / NYPost; Stylist: Elise Sandvik / See Mgmt; Hair: T. Cooper / crowdMGMT using Eva NYC; Make-up: Markphong Tram / ABTP with Charlotte Tilbury / Alison Brod PR; Stylist assistant: Ryan Castelli; Site: The edge, Hudson Yards.