2017-09-18 16:24
PHOTO: nadianakai/Instagram

She's a hip-hop heavyweight described as Mzansi’s answer to Nicki Minaj. Nakai (27) has graduated into the big-girl world and is fast making a name for herself with her wick ed rhymes and A-list collaborations with the likes of Cassper Nyovest, Gemini Major and Riky Rick. 

Where it all started

Nadia grew up in Eldorado Park and Johannesburg’s northern suburbs be fore her family moved to Kenya, where her mom worked in finance for  Coca-Cola. Studying drama at high school helped Nadia to tap into her artistic side and develop her love of music. “I started recording myself and I would give out my CD's at school,” she  recalls. “People would say, ‘You know what, this school thing isn’t for you – music is for you and the arts are for you’, be cause I wasn’t really great at maths and all that other stuff.” After high school she returned to South Africa to study marketing, media and communications at Monash South Africa university in Joburg. 

Her big break

During her varsity years Nadia often spent time recording music and making mixtapes and music videos at a friend’s makeshift studio. “One day I shot a music video on my phone for my song Wildest Dreams and posted it on YouTube. I still had dreadlocks; I was standing in a corner – it was so stupid!” But not everyone thought so. Hiphop artist Morale came across it and introduced her to Simone Harris,  former editor of Hype Magazine, who helped get Nadia on the label’s mixtapes and featured her in the magazine. The exposure was more overwhelming than she’d  expected. “Morale booked me at gigs too. This was around my first or second year [at varsity]. The first time I performed I was so scared that I forced my best friend to get on stage with me at ZAR nightclub in Sandton. And she did!

Being Mzansi's Minaj 

At first she had mixed feelings about being likened to US rap sensation Nicki Minaj thanks to her music genre and changing hair colour. “In the beginning it would p**s me off a lot because I was trying to find myself and I saw it as people trying to knock my hustle down. But if I’m being compared to Nicki because she’s feminine and a hardcore rapper at the same time, that’s fine, because that’s what I am too.” A huge highlight was opening for Nicki during the US rapper’s SA tour last year. “There were a lot of fans who were there to see her and they didn’t realise they have their own female rapper in South Africa. I’m happy I’ve been able to break into that market.”