NADIA NAKAI COVER STORY
POWER – QUEEN – BRAGGA
STORY BY RUDZANI “ROO” NETSHIHENI
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JABU NKOSI
MAKE UP BY JOODIE LEEUW
STYLING BY NADIA NAKAI
Try think back five to ten years ago and you might be surprised at how the state of SA hip hop was operating back then. Or perhaps try to remember how commercially relevant SA hip hop was like eight years ago and you might appreciate the current fruitful but still challenging times that out hip hop industry is currently swimming through. Sometimes me reminiscing about how far our industry has continuously developed itself never ceases to amaze me, even though my flashbacks don’t just contain a jolly picture of the standards of those days, I’m still in awe of the changes that have taken place over the years to reach these days. If you’ve been a true follower of the journey that hip hop in South Africa has taken thus far then you probably feel what I’m badly trying to express to you. I believe that anything that exists has certain evolutionary stages that naturally must be reached and then overtook. And it’s that belief that has helped me increase my understanding of how crucial progress is, not just tangible progress but a psychedelic one too. I once read this quote by Oprah Winfrey that says, “You are built not to shrink down to less but to blossom into more”. That made me think more about the strength in bettering ourselves as a community, as hip hop… For so many years we have been our own setbacks all because of the doubt that many have had towards the current standards of our hip hop culture. Sure, back then there was a special, untainted, unfiltered and pure hip hop pride that we all seem to miss today but that should never be the cause of confusion and loss of unity.
I’m thinking out all these things because I never want to go against the current. I’m thinking out all these things because I’ve been watching the mixed emotions being tweeted daily about hip hop lacking this and hip hop doing that…And I won’t lie, sometimes I get bewildered too even though its my job not too. With that said, if you were to ask yourself which SA hip hop artist is at the forefront of progression then the name Nadia Nakai should be uttered by your lips. Nadia is the refined example of how strength exists through building oneself. So around 2:30 p.m., held up waiting in a familiar boardroom with my Fruity Loops opened up, I waited to have a talk with the Queen of SA hip hop, Nadia Nakai who for so many years has proven how self-belief can be a power tool in life. 5 minutes later, sort of embarrassed by her catching my beat making attempts out but hyped up about chatting to her, we started to talk about what’s been happening in her life.
“There’s a story behind me,
I didn’t come up yesterday
and just became a sensation you know?”
– NADIA NAKAI
You recently just shared the huge news about your huge collaboration with Sportscene. It seems like a lot of thing are happening for you right for you. Now when you look back at everything that has happened in your career thus far to get to this point, what really goes through your head when you reflect?
Yeah, I don’t know and I’m not going to lie, we’ve been working on the Sportscene collaboration for over a year now and it obviously started with meeting with the team in Cape Town because that’s where their offices are. Like I don’t think I understood how big of a move it was for me until I announced it. This sh*t is super massive! I think I was just like “ah it’s so cool because I like clothes”. I mean I started printing a few t-shirts for the Caspper Family Tree store and they obviously sold out very quickly, so I never understood the magnitude of how people looked at me for fashion. So, the way my fans are like “I’m going to buy this for my friend”, “OMG I can’t wait” and them tagging they’re friends because they’re excited because it looked like it was something that they were waiting for is amazing. That was very exciting for me because I put in a lot of work into it, I spent a lot of my own money to fly to Madagascar, Mauritius to London…
Yeah, so me spending my own money wasn’t part of the deal, I just really wanted to be extremely involved because fashion is one of my main passions just like music you know? So, I went there (Madagascar/Mauritius/London) with my team, followed the buyers and saw what they did. We literally walked all over Oxford Street to just find the latest trends happening that will eventually come to South Africa and figure out how to integrate that.
Oh so, you were pretty much part of the whole process of creating these threads. from designing to choosing the fabrics etc.
Yeah, the whole process from designing and even cutting fabrics. I had to sample fabrics and cut them out and say this is how I want it to be so that I can put it on the other fabric and see how it works. Then the graphic designer would go with my idea, run to the computer and quickly design come back and I sign it off. So, it was really dope… I’m honestly inspired by how involved Rihanna is with her collaboration with PUMA. I thought that when its not owned by you and some massive retailer comes to collaborate with you its very easy for them to say that these are your lines and we just want you to promote it. I feel like even though it’s not like my BRAGGA merchandise which I started from scratch, they’re helping me grow and I want that to be as much of me as possible.
“… I’m honestly inspired by how involved Rihanna is with her collaboration with PUMA” – NADIA NAKAI
Nadia what do you think made this collaboration possible? What do you think convinced the brand to go ahead with working so closely with you?
I think my hard work. I’ve been in the game for a while, people have seen my growth and I think my fanbase has grown with me as well. So, it’s not a thing of having to convince people to buy my clothes, I think they (Sportscene) knew that I had a fanbase that is loyal to me, that want to support me and are seeing the things that I’m doing. There’s a story behind me, I didn’t come up yesterday and just became a sensation you know? I have a story, a journey and I grew, and people saw that growth and really appreciate that. And I think that’s what resonated with people when I announced the news and they showed how proud they were of me from a genuine place you know? Which was cool.
That’s true because the attention that you got when you broadcasted the news was massive, how do think this fashion side of you ties into your music? The reason I ask this is because I assume that there is a tying link that people can point towards to connect your fashion endeavors to your music.
I think the link is exactly the same as the musical link because when I make music and release it, I’m trying to connect with my fans directly. Whether they’re sitting at home or in the car, listening with head phones in the gym, hearing my voice through that and whatever ideas I put on to what they’re listening to resonate and also for them to enjoy. Fashion is the same thing because its part of me. It might not be something your hearing but its something you can feel and put on and be like this is Nadia Nakai. I see Nadai Nakai wearing this. There’s nothing in my line that I would not rock myself. And there’s nothing that I needed to make it too consecutive because my fans love the way that I dress and want those same things you know? So, I think it’s very aligned, also internationally, fashion and music are linked. Especially when it comes to hip hop, think about the sneaker culture and where that resonates from that is so integrated into hip hop. You can’t separate them, it’s very aligned. People like Virgil that came into it, he’s a DJ now and he created such a dope urban culture around his fashion. So, I think it’s not like I just said I’m going to make Louis Vuitton heels or something you know? Which is still fine, there are some girls that listen to me that are about that life, but I don’t feel like it’s too farfetched from the music.