Fierce and determined, Nadia Nakai is embracing her musical rebirth. From major fashion moves to shaking up the female hip-hop scene, Nadia (aka Bragga) is here to own her moment. COSMO Deputy Editor Nox Mafu met up with her in Cape Town to dive into her new album and a plate of chicken wings.
Nadia is fast proving that she is no novelty in the hip-hop industry. Her infectious club bangers have been the anthems for many a dance floor during recent years. From Afro-beat-inspired songs such as Saka Wena to boss-babe tracks such as Naaa Meaan, Nadia has earned her spot as a trendsetter.
‘Things have been so crazy since I dropped the album,’ she says. ‘My album is definitely me stripping all the barriers – all the restrictions I have for myself,’ she says. ‘It’s just about being completely honest about how I feel about certain things – my family, my relationships and my music. I felt like I was being overlooked in the industry for a very long time, and I think that people will resonate with that feeling.’ The sound of the album is influenced by international rappers such as Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, infused with a distinctly local sound, which draws on Nadia’s South African and Zimbabwean heritage.
This is not her first album attempt. She tried to release a debut album twice before but neither project materialised. ‘You need to be able to unlock the emotional side, and be very topical and conceptual about what you want to actually portray in your music,’ she says. ‘You have to know what you want to stand for, and show every element of yourself. That was always hard for me because I was always thinking, “That does not make a hit; a hit is a song you can twerk to!”’
Nadia has been very vocal about her uphill journey to climb the ranks of a male-dominated music industry. Her singles, released over her eight years on the scene, earned her a number of top spots on SA radio charts and her music videos have received killer views. However, despite her hard work, she has felt overlooked. The focus has been on her proximity to hip-hop giant and music mentor, Cassper Nyovest. Nadia is signed with Family Tree – a record label owned by Cassper.
‘Babes, if I didn’t work as hard as I have, I wouldn’t be where I am today,’ she says. ‘Cassper could’ve signed any pretty female. It’s difficult for a man to understand my perspective and what I am trying to deliver. A woman has to do so much more – that’s why girls have to care about more than the music. You have to think about your hair, you have to think about your nails, you have to think about what you are wearing… You can’t just be a musician.’
The double standards and gatekeeping of patriarchy make Nadia visibly frustrated. ‘I am already not getting paid as much as the guys, and my money is getting chopped a hundred more times to make sure that I can become a brand that people can respect and want to enjoy,’ she says.
It is no question that Nadia is a growing influence – not only in the hip-hop game but in fashion too (she is the newly announced ambassador of Reebok Classics in South Africa, alongside AKA). ‘The nice thing about the people who I am collaborating with is that they allow me to express myself in the way I want to, not in the way they think I should,’ she says.
For more on Nadia Nakai, pick up our August 2019 issue, on newsstands on 19 August, or click here to subscribe.