Image by Sabelo Mkhabela
To make an album, particularly an album debut, is to leave one's self-open to scrutiny without armour nor weaponry. To make an album to be naked before your one's friends and foes. This was the making of Nadia Naked, a first from Family Tree rapper, Nadia Nakai.
Over two years in the making and Nadia has 17 tracks to show for her efforts and as well as the love of her supporters and family to celebrate her moment at the album launch at Shine Studios. Sponsored by Castle Lite, Courvoisier, and Sportscene, the rapper hosted her guests in Braamfontein to present her album to the world. Nadia took the stage in a CINNEL gown, gladiator heels, and sleek black curls. She performed the introduction track of her album in the dimly lit room and a single mic on her stage. Before rendering the song, her opening line was a nervous "Hi," which she followed up by asking, "How hot do I look, neh? I'm so nervous, I'm shaking."
The first track of Nadia Naked has an epic feel to it. Imagine watching a "going into battle" scene of a film, that's what Nadia's opening track sounds like. It is soon followed by "Africa," a percussion-heavy track featuring Nadia's particular brand of pidgin English. The track takes on the subject matter of colonialism. This is quite an explosive way to come out, especially for Nadia, whose subject matter is often far more light than the consideration of how colonizers, "took our brothers to irrigate their land and ours."
The album takes a move into her most recent single, "Imma Boss." At the launch, instead of performing the song, she premiered the music video for the track. True to our suspicions, she did shoot the music video while she was in Bali. When explaining how the music video came about, she said, "I don't know how to take a vacation." More so, she described how she feels like she's living out the lyrics of "Imma Boss" whenever she's surrounded by her girlfriends and enjoying the fruits of her success.
This brings listeners to the next track, titled "Big Pun." For those who don't know who Big Pun is, the man is most recognizable to lovers of hip-hop for his hits like "Still Not A Player" and "You Ain't A Killer." The American rapper's stage name in full means "Big Punisher," which is a sentiment Nadia feels towards yourself. "As a hip-hop artist, you have to flex on yourself," she explains. Ayanda MVP being the host for the night followed up to this by saying that Nadia needed to "flex on them." However, in a way, Nadia didn't misspeak. Making an album forces artists to question their every decision, and sometimes, they've got to flex on the sides of themselves that believes greatness isn't in site.
Another song that received visual treatment was "Trappy." This is the type of song fans will be able to recognize from Nadia Nakai. Lyrically, the track is sound, and visually the music video is engaging. This song is certainly a "bad bitch in the section" type and if her track record is anything to go off, it should come as no surprise that the song is enjoyable.
The next two tracks on the album are "Yaas Bitch" and "Naa Meaan (feat. Cassper Nyovest)". Since the release of the former track, I've maintained that this was not her strongest single. We've heard Nadia push her pen so much more, and hearing the other songs on Nadia Naked is only further confirmation of this. At the same time, seeing Nadia speak so fondly of the release of the single makes one warm to the song more. Technically, "Yaas Bitch" was the first official single of Nadia Naked, which also serves as a type of bar. The fact that this album took so long to make and "Yaas Bitch" was the first official single only further serves to illustrate her efforts in ensuring that whatever she put out she could rep wholeheartedly; and "Yaas Bitch" is one of those songs for Nadia. As for "Naa Meaan," she referred to the song as her baby, and in all honesty, the song is one of her most recognizable.
Moving on, the album takes a turn into "The Block." This track takes listeners back to the smooth hip-hop vibe of the United States hip-hop scene in the '90s. "The Block" features Khuli Chana and in all honesty, this was one of the most well-received songs in the room. This isn't to say that the crowd didn't receive the music well before this track, but they had definitely warmed to the album by this time. A group of people bobbing their heads to this track, in particular, include Donald, Priddy Ugly, Bontle Modiselle, Yanga, DJ Sabby, Roo, Yule, Gemini, and Speedsta to name a few. At the launch, when asked how she secured the Khuli Chana feature, a voice coughed on the mic. Nadia laughingly acknowledged Cassper Nyovest who was waiting backstage at this time to perform with her.
Moving on, Nadia Naked takes a slower cadence with "Darkness Defined" featuring Lady Zamar. This is an unexpected collaboration and Nadia recognized this too as she worked on the song. DJ Radix and Sliqe worked on this production, and Nadia happily shared that it only took 30-40 minutes for the hook to come to life. The song tends more towards being a ballad of sorts, given the punction of Nadia's rap verses. But it's also very personal, where the rapper speaks on a love that ended bitterly. When she finished performing the song to the crowd, she noted to the crowd, "To all the people who [have] darkness in them, you best be taking it out."
Moving forward, the album picks up to a hard hip-hop vibe with "Chankura." On first listen, the song, unfortunately, comes across as an uneven spread between Nadia and Cassper on account of him opening the song and the length of his verse. Nevertheless, the explanation gives the track more context. Apparently, this song was set to be on Cassper's 2018 Sweet & Short, however, he claims that Nadia, "bullied me to take the song." As the person who invested in her career before the public got to see the type of might she had, Cassper was the picture of pride. He said, "Personally I'm very proud. Nadia is such a hard working person. She's one person who's able to work with everyone and love everyone."
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PLAYGROUND MUSIC! Produced majority of my album!!!!!! No words to explain how I feel! I’m a F*cken mess okay! Can’t stop crying! I LOVE YOU GUYS! Watch em REEEALLY HIT YOU UP! But with the same FLAME they can’t make the SAME HEAT! ???? ???? @lashshotsstudios #NadiaNaked OUT NOW!
The next song, "More Drugs," features Tshego who says "It's a very true story, but it was a little awkward." The Pink Panther rapper explained this way because the song tackles the subject matter of breakups, something Nadia Nakai had to deal with publicly in 2018/9. This song is another that received a warm reception from the guests in attendance of the launch. On his relationship with Nadia, Tshego continued to praise her by saying, "You only grind like this because it means so much to you."
"Rap Bitches," is another song that pays homage on Nadia Naked. The late Nipsey Hussle became a favourite of Nadia's before his sudden passing. He has a song titled, "Rap Niggas," at which point Nadia thought it would be cool to comment on the "Rap Bitches" in the world. The song sought to illustrate that Nadia is in a league of her own, among other things. Similarly to how Nipsey passionately stated, "I ain't nothing like you fucking rap niggas," Nadia is her own person, not a copy of the "Rap Bitches" against whom she's often compared.
Nadia slows down the pace with visuals to accompany "Love," the song on the album that truly illustrates the pain of this album. This is the type of song that one would listen to in the middle of getting over an ex-partner. It comments on the fact that when a partner cheats, the other is left with questions that are more to illustrate outrage than to necessarily request honesty. A glass of Courvoisier on the rocks is likely the best drink to accompany this track.
"Amai" is probably the most candid and raw song on the album. The song title translates to Shona, Nadia's mother tongue. In the crowd were members of her family, inlcuding aunts, siblings, her mother and grandmother. Given how graphic her lyrics can be, it was sweet to see Nadia and Ayanda do their best to censor themselves out of respect to Nakai's grandmother. However, at the same time, the fact that "Amai" specifically questions the ugly question that children in single-parent homes wish to ask but never can is momentous. On stage, Nadia explained that she was nervous for her mother to hear this song because it was the first time she had ever posed the question about the absence of her father. Nadia finished off her explanation of the song saying, "It's very hard to raise a girl in this world."
"Kreatures," still maintains that moody and slower tempo of "Love" and "Amai." The song focuses on the people around an artist, or anyone at that, who may wish you despair. She features Sio and Kwesta on this track, and in all honesty, she couldn't have chosen better co-collaborators than these two. Sio brought a mood that harkens to alternative sounds we expect from artists like those of Afropunk, while Kwesta brought a powerful pen and a voice full of bass to further amplify the sentiment. He explains, "I did the song because I feet like I was speaking back to her as she was rapping," and the public fcan only be thankful that the moment was captured so well.
Not wishing to end the project this mood, Nadia brings the tempo back up. In her explanation of "Calling" with YCee, she explains that the song often reminds her of a song that she'd done for the Bragga (EP), "Don Dada." She said on stage that while she wished the song could have gone further back then, and that YCee could never be a replacement for Gemini Major, getting the chance to make "Calling" gave her the same spirit as if she was getting to continue and afro-pop dream.
The closing of the album keeps an upbeat tempo and includes the feature that most likely got many excited. Steflon Dada can be heard giving "big ups" to Nadia Nakai in a voice recording. While Steflon isn't rapping on the song, this is almost a good thing, given that an outro should generally be the last flex of the album's artist.
It may be hard to choose which song should take the number one spot, but for an album debut, Nadia Nakai outdid herself. Granted there were some stumbles here and there, however, she has come out and handled them like a seasoned artist. On the topic of heartache and the pain she was experiencing when planning Nadia Naked, she explained rather jovially, "I'm fine, I'm fantastic, I'm thriving, I'm happy." Nadia is in a better place, and it is with great pride to share that her music is too.