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
So, there’s this proverb that says, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson after” that really made me think about how valuable experience can be if it is understood and handled correctly. This then made me think about how “experience” doesn’t really guarantee longevity within our hip hop game. I mean you don’t even have to think too hard about examples of “experience” no longer bearing praiseworthy fruit for artists that have been around for a pretty long time because it has suddenly become clear that although the value of “experience” is recognized, the certainty of it being credited for a successful and long career does not exist. That realization convinced me that Nadia Nakai has really passed her “experience” test and learnt the lesson soon after because she was around during the transitional SA hip hop phase that filtered out those that couldn’t maintain themselves and introduced (some reintroduced) those that represented the shift. In other words, the Nadia Nakai that we see & experience today, was birthed through her consistency and willingness to develop herself into the powerhouse that she is today. In part one of our interview, she made it clear how her hard work has been one of the main reasons for her current and future success. Part one then again found her revealing how her hard-working mentality helped navigate her through the creative expectancy pressures that existed during her involvement in bringing her Sportscene collaboration to life. Now in part two of our conversation, we discussed how she deals with the constant criticisms that are thrown her way daily as well as her other projects that are on the way.
“I’m competing with myself, so I always feel like my next move needs to outdo my previous moves”
That’s interesting because it is a fact that the integration between music and fashion is undeniable, especially internationally. However, in South Africa it seems to be slowly paced when it comes to that. You’re the 2nd hip hop artist to do a major collaboration with Sportscene. It feels like it has taken so many years to reach this qualitative progression amongst local artists and commercial entities. five years ago, the idea of you making this move would’ve been ridiculed, not only from the hip hop community but those commercial entities themselves
I always say that hip hop as a genre in South Africa is still new and I think its all about growth. I think people need to understand you as a person, therefore they can buy into things that are different to music. If they understand you as a person, they’ll be interested in what you eat, where you get your hair from, your clothes from and they’ll be interested in other aspects of your life. But If they don’t understand you as a person then it’s as if you came out yesterday, dropped a dope song but they don’t know you as who you are. And I think that only comes with time and back then we had just all started. We all started just trying to figure out sh*t, we all started to commercialize sh*t because I entered that hip hop game as an MC for Back To The City and when I was emcing for BTTC there was hardly any commercial musicians on that f*cking stage. And it was like the underground cats, the Miss Nthabi’s and Ms Supa’s, talking about the women, and then there were the Amu’s. It was those guys that were killing the stage and if you were making commercial music or sounded like the states, they literally did not respond to you. And then I watched BTTC flip, and the audience flipped as hip hop changed where you could now have the AKA’s, Kwesta’s, Nasty C’s, the Nadia Nakai’s and the Rouges’ kill that crowd. And that’s why I say time, time made that change happen, people need to change their perspective.
Hey, if I’m rambling you need to tell me to stop because I can go on for very long [Laughs]
Nah this is good… So, Nadia what do you then say to those fans that are stuck with perhaps a 2008/9 hip hop mentality that find them criticizing artists, such as yourself, that put their focus on different aspects of their life apart from the music? What do you say to those fans that feel betrayed by your expansion? How do you communicate or reassure with that group of fans?
I completely understand it because my basis is music. I never want to feel like anyone is neglected with the music, so if I start getting those questions I would be very much concerned. If I get those “we see you doing the fashion but where’s the music?” questions, then I would be like sh*t I really need to make sure I deliver because if it wasn’t for the music I wouldn’t have any of this sh*t. If it wasn’t for the music I wouldn’t have this collaboration and opportunities that I have. So, there’s no way that I would leave the music to focus on anything else that’s coming into my life right now. Everything needs to link back to my music and with regards to communicating with them, I’m not really a person that likes communicating with people on social media because I feel like people read to respond and they don’t read to understand where you’re coming from you know? So, I’ll always be like okay I take note, so people say they want more music, people are saying this, and people are saying that… I then start reflecting and know what I need to do… But I’m not going to conversate on social media, I’m going to conversate through music and be like, “I know yal be waiting for a minute” [laughs]. You know? But its always going to be through the music and must be based on the music. I love fashion, but I can’t be like now I’m just a fashion designer.
“I think people need to understand you as a person, therefore they can buy into things that are different to music” – Nadia Nakai
Word. Now talking about the fashion, I tend to think, no in fact I know that when artists start announcing and executing huge deals it usually means that something else bigger is on the way. When you announced the collaboration, did that signal the start of something on new on the way? I mean I know I kind of have a little bit of insight [humble brag]
Hmm [laughs].… hmm, I feel like you have a lot of insight but let’s keep that a secret. So there definitely is something bigger on the way, obviously the album. You know what the problem is? I initially wanted to drop the album this year, you’re literally the first person that is going to know about this, I haven’t even told Cassper or anyone about this yet, but I had initially always wanted to drop this year. Now by end of year I literally don’t have time to promote my album. I’m doing so much and I’m so grateful that I can actually have this problem where the music is there, everything else is there but I just don’t have time to promote the album the way that I want to promote it you know? I have the Sportscene stuff that I have to do with the store openings, the launches, the medias and whatever. Then I have this big project that I’m doing that I can’t actually announce yet, but you’ll know soon in November. A really big project that is very different to what you would’ve expected from me and I’ve got the December run which is the normal shows. It’s a lot so I’m very excited about what’s going but next year I’ve also got another venture that I’m doing fashion wise which is super exciting that doesn’t clash with Sportsene… and then the album. So, I’m very excited about everything because the tour is going to nuts…
Damn, Nadia just to conclude, it’s clear that you’ve had a good 2018 that you’re ending off with a strong punch. You’re undoubtedly one of the most watched hip hop artists in the game right now, do you still feel the pressure to constantly deliver & effectively executive anything you drop? If so, how do you seem to manage that constraint?
I feel that everybody is going to feel like that pressure to outdo themselves. I’m competing with myself, so I always feel like my next move needs to outdo my previous moves. So, I did Castle Lite this year and I was reflecting yesterday on seeing tweets of people saying that Nadia has been bodying 2018 without an album.
In my head I was like, am I really bodying it? Because I never like acknowledged it like that. Like f*ck I still feel like I’m trying to scrape through. I’m hustling you know? I don’t feel like I’ve done things that the Kwestas’ have done. So, I feel like I’m always bubbling under in my head…
“There’s no way that I would leave the music to focus on anything else that’s coming into my life right now” – Nadia Nakai
Nah trust me, you not bubbling under no more…
[Laughs] I feel like I’m always bubbling under, I swear to GOD because I was even speaking to Siya the other day. I don’t see it and that’s the f*cked up thing. I don’t get it… Anyway, so I’m working really hard and like anxiety is something that a lot of artists deal with you know? And you really must have a strong foundation, but you also must have a strong mind too. And I know it was Mental Health Day the other day and it really made me reflect on how we must be very strong mentally about everything that’s going on because everyone has an opinion on something. Everyone feels what you are doing is wrong and that they can do better, or you should’ve done this, or it should be that person. And Its weird because even with our meetings. Like when I was sitting in the meeting I still felt like I needed to convince you guys to work with me. You know how I was at the beginning when I had to like beg you to please work with me [laughs], because I know that I can be the artist that’s is going to be great. And when I was sitting with Jay the other day, he was like dude I didn’t even understand where you were because he was looking at me from what I had released so far and then with the album he was like you’ve grown, you’ve become such a diverse artist and that made me realize that I actually have f*cking grown. And I’m still thinking that I’m this girl that dropped ’Money Back’ two years ago and still need to convince people that I’m the sh*t [laughs].
Man… Let’s wrap it up, for real this time, by finding out what sort of words would you say to the 10-year-old version of yourself if you have the opportunity. How would you encourage that Nadia to keep on pushing to get to this version of Nadia that is sitting right before me?
I think there are so many things I would say but the one thing I would say is that trust yourself. I think at the beginning I was very nervous about the industry and I wasn’t confident in myself or my music or anything that I felt like I needed to rely on people that I thought were better than me. And I realized that they were actually slowing down my progress, they were slowing down my growth because their pace wasn’t the pace for me and If I had known that then I think I would’ve been a lot further now because there were things that I would’ve wanted to accomplish at this age if I had started earlier you know? Like there are a lot of musicians coming out that are super young and doing amazing things like Nasty, I mean he just came out of high school and look how much he has accomplished. Imagine when he is 28, 29, 30, so I’m just like, I should’ve just trusted myself because everything that I have achieved this year was because of trusting myself and I came through and was like I know I can f*cking do this. I don’t care how much money I lose for people to understand what the f*ck I’m doing. I’m going to give you a show, remember with the Castle Lite show I told you that I put in more money into my show then I got paid to perform there. And I was like that’s stuff that someone would always advise against because Castle Lite should give you the money, they want you but I was like no its my show, I’m representing me and I have to make sure that it looks amazing , if Castle Lite is not going to give me the money then I need to find the money somewhere you know? And those are a lot of things that I would’ve just told myself that don’t be afraid to cut your check to make sure that everything just works well because you grow at the end of the day. You must invest in yourself.
END OF PART 2