Nadia Rose is one of the UK’s female rappers on the rise. Breaking onto the radar in 2017 with her debut album Highly Flammable, she went on to collaborate with namely artists like Rihanna. Writing for others as well as producing her own music, her creative output is driven by wordplay and freestyling. Obsessed with words and language from a young age, the rapper describes how she used to read dictionaries and look up synonyms to words to expand her vocabulary. Her refined rhymes and lyrical confidence echo that love for words. Now, she is headlining the renowned XJAZZ! festival on the 12th of May.
“I will always have a great love for words and playing with them. Discovering new words; adding them to my vocabulary and finding cool ways to incorporate them into my lyrics is my favourite thing to do,” she says. While Nadia Rose’s released music is neatly produced, the artist continues to freestyle, publishing reels online that show off her riffing skill. “When I am freestyling, […] I just go wherever the sound/feeling takes me. Whereas when I am creating songs/musical experiences, I like to be structured in a particular way to evoke particular emotions and to take the listener on a journey with me”.
Freestyle and Improvisation
Thinking of Nadia Rose in the context of jazz might be surprising. But when you consider freestyling and bending conventions of rigid music industry structures as inherent to the genre, the similarities to Nadia’s approach to music-making become visible. Originating in the Black community in the United States, jazz is a genre that sprouted from an ache for expression and empowerment but has been whitewashed over the years. What images come to your mind when you think of jazz?
To Nadia, jazz music has been a source of inspiration from the beginning. She describes her love for the genre: “It evokes an emotion I just can’t explain. It transcends me to a realm beyond here. I love the improvisation element of jazz. It is freedom and I feel like that is the ultimate form of expression. Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Anita Baker, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse are just a few of my favorite jazz artists”.
“Vulnerable Real Rap Shit”
Rap and jazz give a musical voice to individual and collective pains and joys. Freestyling and improvisation become tools of resistance to hegemonic listening conventions and create space for the expression of identities that are historically and socially discriminated against. In many ways, that vulnerability and empowerment meet in Nadia Rose’s music.
“When I first started writing music as a youth, all my lyrics were very sad and vulnerable. I grew up in a rough area with bad influences all around, I got into some gang crime, etc., and naturally suffered the consequences of my poor decision-making. So, all I knew to write about was my hardship but as life improved and I made necessary changes I was able to write more upbeat/happy-go-lucky music. Now I try to find a good balance between creating hype-happy songs and vulnerable real rap shit. Yin Yang.”
Maintaining the balance, Nadia Rose draws not just lyrically from different sources of inspiration. Her musical expression ranges from dancehall and contemporary afrobeats on Rooftop, to Chicago drill rap influences on the duly titled Lyrical Assassin. That diversity of expression comes naturally to the artist. “I have an eclectic taste in music, so it reflects in the music that I create, and I don’t like to be limited or put in a box. I like to be unpredictable and do different things. I’m really into Rnb and especially tuned in to an artist I recently took under my wing; Kash Alien.”
Taking Back Control
To uplift new talent and to be completely independent in her production style and expression, Nadia Rose founded her own label, QWERKY Entertainment, via which she released her latest efforts like the catchy Recipe. “I already have some exciting talent on the label and of course, I plan to expand the empire. In my previous label situations, I think the main thing that was missing was love; I didn’t feel loved,” Nadia comments.
Nadia Rose is taking complete control over her representation and output. “My whole ethos is women empowerment. That reflects a lot in my music, especially my hit record ‘Skwod’, which is literally about uplifting women and being unified.” Among many other rising artists in UK’s music scene, the artist is reclaiming her space in the white, male-dominated music industry and does so on her own terms. “All I know how to do is be myself and I’m pretty damn good at it!”
Catch Nadia Rose and other international artists from various disciplines performing at Berlin’s XJAZZ! festival taking place from May 8th to May 14th in Berlin. Get your tickets right here.