i-D's music class of 2017: nadia rose
We meet the writers, thinkers, players, and performers who are creating, crafting, and composing the future of music right here, right now.
Nadia Rose doesn't enter a room so much as burst into it. It's an energy that easily transcends into her music — and no coincidence that her new EP, out today, is titled Highly Flammable. The West Croydon MC has so far shot guerilla-style videos in railway stations and during nights out. Rose's raps are mind-spinning combinations of skill, imagination, and ambition that crackle with both shrewd perceptiveness and occasional beguiling naivety. The former betting shop worker, who happens to share DNA with West Norwood's own Stormzy, has had a pretty strong 2016; Nadia signed a major deal with Sony and picked up a MOBO win. She's come a long way from her early life as a troubled teenager, she tells i-D.
Name: Nadia Rose
From: The ends, West Croydon.
Live: The ends, West Croydon.
What's the best and worst thing about where you live?
I'd say the best thing is the diversity; the worst is no tube!
Who's your favorite Londoner?
Kate Moss, she's from the ends and she's done what she's done.
What's in that Croydon water?
Well, we've got the Brits School, Fairfield Hall, a lot of things that encourage creativity. Sometimes people don't look at Croydon as London, so we all get lumped together — Thornton Heath, Norbury, Croydon. But I look at it as a super-force that's killing it right now. I think coming together as made all the difference. East did that from the beginning, whereas we were all segregated. We're all in the same pot here, so we should build together.
A lot of artists are choosing to remain independent now. Why did you sign a record deal?
I had never had any real thoughts of signing; it wasn't something in the plans. I just love music; I was just seeing how it went. But then Relentless came and I felt like they'd really thought about it, and me, and they made me feel comfortable, and comfortable in my situation. I make all the decisions, it's all on me, so I can't complain.
What do you want to say with your music?
Growing up, I heard a lot of 'no you can't' and 'that's never going to happen,' so I just want to prove everyone wrong, really. I want to encourage other people who have heard, or are hearing, the same thing — that there is a way out. What they're hearing doesn't have to be the be all or end all. Also, women in this game aren't looked at as equal or equivalent to the guys. They're not. There is segregation, there's always the 'female rapper' thing. My thing is about slicing through that and smashing it to smithereens.
What are your thoughts on the UK post-Brexit?
I voted Remain but not enough of us did the same. You think it will go one way, and it doesn't, which was a surprise. It's going to be a new thing for all of us; for me personally, traveling and doing European shows won't be as smooth, but I guess there's no going back on it.
What other big issues are facing young people today?
As well as the politics, there's road politics. To this day we're losing great artists to unnecessary road lark. There are people that could be doing a similar thing to what I'm doing, but instead it's a completely different story because of something that's preventable. I want to push this through my music; there's not just one life that you have to live. You can be knowledgeable about those things but you don't have to solely dedicate your whole life to the street.
Is it easier for women to avoid that life?
I think it all depends on the person and their surroundings. Some of the things I've grown up around, I'm sure they're alien to other girls. But I was completely in the mix of it, I was in it. I don't know that's it's easier for guys to get into it, but I guess there are more males affiliated with that life.
So what was your turning point?
Well, my mom was ready to send me off to Ghana for a start [laughs], so that was one thing. I thought, 'I better knuckle down.' I could just see my mom was riddled with disappointment. She knew I had this great talent, and she was doing everything for me to push that, but everything I was doing was completely counteracting that. I realized I could be doing what I loved to do, as well as pleasing my mom. So I made that decision and I haven't looked back since. And my mom's really proud.
What's the worst job you've ever had?
I worked in a shop called Discount UK; like a bodge PoundLand. Everything about that place was not for me.
What do your parents do?
My mom is a nurse and my dad is a gas engineer.
What film would your music best soundtrack?
Bruce Almighty. I'm a huge Jim Carrey fan and there's a lot of fun in my music, but sometimes I have a dark side too. So I'd have songs ready for the whole film.
Who inspires you artistically?
Ganja definitely helps. The energy, if me and the producer are on the same level that helps. My squad. The music I've grown up on — Spice Girls, Missy, Eminem, Jamiroquai.
Who are you working with and who would you like to work with?
I'm wrapping up the EP; this body of work is about people getting to know me better. I'm working with J-Hus on that. I'd love to work with Stromae. I've used one of his instrumentals as a freestyle. The ultimate goal is to reunite the Spice Girls and I'd be Herb Spice!
Do you have plans to work with your cousin Stormzy?
Most definitely. We've done stuff already, so it's just a matter of timing whether it's that that we use, or something new.
Who are you tipping for next year?
Prynce Mini, Ray BLK, and Dave.
What are your plans for 2017?
I want to reach different audiences next year; I want to branch out to ears that might not naturally take to my sound, but I think I can convince them. 2017 is the Nadia Rose effect!
Listen to Highly Flammable here.
Text Hattie Collins
Photography Hanna Moon
Styling Max Clark
Hair Maarit Niemala at Bryant Artists using Moroccan Oil
Make-up Athena Paginton at Bryant Artists using Kryolan
Set design Mariska Lowri
Photography assistance Alessandro Tranchini, Ilenia Arosio
Styling assistance Bojana Kozarevic
Hair assistance Benjamin David, Mikaela Knopps
Make-up assistance Billie McKenzie