An undeniable force in the local hip-hop industry, Family Tree Records rapper Nadia Nakai, 27, officially started dropping beats at the tender age of 18. With Zimbabwean heritage and having lived in Kenya before returning to South Africa, her birthplace, Nadia shares that she always wanted to pursue a career in the music industry.
Chatting to Nadia Nakai
‘I grew up with my mother, who listened to lots of music. From Sade to Erykah Badu, plus Seal and even UB40. I always enjoyed listening to this music with her, but when I went to high school in Kenya,I found my passion for hip-hop. Funnily enough, I actually fell in love with hip-hop in a mainly dance-hall-influenced country. I used to record my songs on CDs and give them to my classmates. I also performed at cultural days at school. I guess the rest is history!’
With a unique sound she describes as Afro-trap and, at times, even dance hall, the young songstress reveals that her creative process is sourced from positive energy.
‘The energy in the studio is very important to me. There definitely needs to be a good vibe, creativity needs to be flowing and I need to be in a good space mentally.’
The beat-maker shares that she finds writing music with a personal story behind it to
be difficult, as she generally moves on quickly when she is hurt.
‘I like to work on emotional lyrics when my wounds are still fresh, so I can feel the pain and write honestly, because I have a tendency to get over things quickly. It’s hard for me to
write and revisit the situation once it has passed in my mind and heart.’
One of Nadia’s hit songs, ‘Naaa Meaan’ features one of SA’s hottest rappers, Cassper Nyovest, who is also the owner of Family Tree Records. The song’s sound incorporates
synth and a snare drum, and has heads nodding all-round. Nadia reveals that a great deal of work went into creating the chart-stopping song.
‘My manager at the time found the beat for me. I was busy with sessions for my album in studio, and when he played that beat, Cassper fell in love with it first! He even recorded his part of the hook before I did. The energy and vibe for the song was amazing. I finished the hook and the first verse that night, but Cassper kept telling me to rewrite my verses until they were good enough and he was happy with them. This happened a few times and I was so frustrated having to go back and rewrite. Once the song was released, I felt like all the back and forth was worth it!’
Having made quite a name for herself thus far, with many mind-blowing performances under her belt, she nostalgically notes that performing at last year’s #FillUpFNBStadium event, being at the Nicki Minaj concert and going on-stage with Travis Scott are some of her favourite experiences. She reveals that the toughest part about the music industry has been the toll it has taken on her personal relationships at times. ‘I love spending time with loved ones, be it family or friends. I love good times where I can be completely myself and enjoy people’s company. I especially love kicking back and making people laugh.’ She advises that anyone who wants to venture into the music industry should stay true to themselves during the process, and should never compromise their values for the hype. Currently calling Joburg home, she feels the local hip-hop scene has grown tremendously, and she is especially excited about the alpha-female presence that hasn’t always been there.
‘It’s a lot harder for a girl in the game. But at least we can grab what we want by the horns now. There’s no fear, and I couldn’t be happier!’
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