All words: Lu Makoboka
At the moment I would definitely consider this young lady as one of the best Hip-Hop artists our city has to offer, making waves with an approach that is vastly different to her peers with a blend of Boom-Bap, Trap, Jazz, and of lyrics with substance. The latter is the most important out of the combinations mentioned above as there is so much new Hip Hop out there that is based on ‘copy and paste’ of content that aims only to create a ‘vibe’. After performing at various shows across the country, releasing two impressive EP’s and working with Red Bull… This 17-year-old has proved she’s here to make a difference. This is what she had to say when I got to know her story behind the music.
MCBN: At which moment did you realize that you wanted to pour most of your time into your craft and start taking music seriously?
Nyota: So… Music has always been a passion of mine while growing up. There was a point where I began listening to a range of artists and began writing my own lyrics, just to see how it would fit with different pieces of music. I can say two years ago that I began taking music seriously as I wrote more lyrics. Through a friend, I met a producer and he was sending me beats, eventually, I recorded over them and yeah… We’ve just moved on from then.
MCBN: Was it ‘Kiid Banger Beats’?
Nyota: It was J Loops. We’ve been working together from then till now. All my beats are produced by him and if not, he mixes, engineers and masters the records that aren’t. My team consists of young people like Kiid Banger Beats, 21;00er Konnekt and J Loops, although I do work with outside producers when I hear sounds that I like.
MCBN: So I first took notice of you while you were doing a cypher on Long Street, your name popped up again on my Facebook when local producer Revert Beats made a post about you signing to Sony Music Publishing. Although, my question is when did the city start taking notice of your music?
Nyota: Between the end of 2016 and the beginning of last year I’d say. I was getting involved in a lot of underground rap events. Those events got me acquainted with key people who have are now loyal supporters of my music. They would continuously share the work that I put out and from the strength of their support; I’d get to win competitions I entered.
Me: Yeah I saw the competition you won in December. Care to expand?
Nyota: It was Cape Town lights festival. Because of certain key people, our activeness when it comes to marketing and literally going out there and doing those cyphers helped secure that performance from getting supporters.
MCBN: How have your musical influences differ from when you first started, and now?
Nyota: To be honest, it’s not like influenced have changed but my perspective has changed on what I’ve taken out certain artists. My influenced have been the same since I was 10, and the main person is Nicki Minaj.
MCBN: I remember when we were speaking via text; I expressed how I was so surprised!
Nyota: Well that goes to show we tend to focus on the wrong things in people: she is a lady dominating in a male-dominated industry. People point out the way she dresses and raps, although her talent they tend to overlook. Although how she raps doesn’t interfere with how I wish to rap, it’s more so I want to be a game changer for her. Nowadays my influences have been Tom Misch, he’s my favourite all rounded musician. I even got to meet him at the Jazz Fest. It’s very interesting that he is 23 a right now (I think). Oshun is also on my list, so is Mick Jenkins and Steve Lacy.
MCBN: I’m glad you actually brought up Jazz, what motivated you to go towards Trap Jazz or Trazz as you call it?
Nyota: I started off doing the regular Hip Hop/Trap. Although what you mainly hear in trap is a lot of the same thing. It can be good if the content is good not just, “Drugs ay! Money ay!” kind of stuff. I am really into Trap elements like 808s, catchiness and just cool things within the genre. My other side is ‘Jazzy’, ‘Boom-bapy’ and mellow. So I just wanted to find a way to combine the two. I’ve had a couple of magazine articles write about me and Trazz, so I feel as if it is more established and associated with my brand. The genre doesn’t define my content though; it is just the genre I prefer. It’s not like I ONLY do Trazz.
MCBN: What motivates and drives you, not just with music but with life in general?
Nyota: The first thing that I think about is me on a certain platform spreading my messages, I know it sounds cliché but it literally what I think about all the time. God drives me all the time too. I always try making something happen since I believe every day must be productive. I wanna be able to make a living off my passion but that is later, money is just a bonus, not the motive. I heard this really nice quote on some award show, where this lady said it’s sad to see that nowadays the motive has become the money and getting the fame, while a long time ago fame and money was just a by-product of hard work and purpose.
MCBN: Your situation with Red Bull… How did they get involved with the promotion of Purification Project (the latest EP) and how it like working in their studio?
Nyota: It was through someone named Brain the Tool who is a great underground rapper. He contacted me via Instagram. He’s one of those people that listen to local artists and searches for talent, in the hopes of Cape Town artists coming into unity. He said he has had three days at Red Bull Studios, and asked if I would like to come in and record one of the days. I went there and I recorded, we chatted and now we’re friends. We spoke to the manager who was also there and we the topic of giving me a couple of days to record at their studios and doing an interview (which later was posted on their website) arose. They really decided to push Purification Project and I appreciate that. It was also nice recording there because the equipment they had was quality. After some time they also decided to create an individual article for Purification EP which they promoted on their site.
MCBN: I’m interested in how your creative process looks like, could you elaborate more on how you write your songs?
Nyota: I get inspiration from things I see every day, from things that annoy me and also society in general. I write about those things. Sometimes a cool hook comes to my head and I expand on it. I write in a book usually, although I prefer my phone because I could save them on google docs just in case. I also write according to a beat and figure out the structure (the chorus bridge and where I’m gonna put my adlibs) through the beat. Sometimes I memorize my verses as much as I can so by the time I get to the studio I can record as many songs as I can in an adequate amount of time.
Me: Hold on, I assume that the beat you pick must be really specific if you are able to structure out a song without an actual beat in front of you.
Nyota: Totally. I give my producers some ideas of what kind of elements I would like to use.
MCBN: You and Crazy J Suave seem quite close, what is the relationship between you?
Nyota: So J is my cousin. He started rapping before me, and he’s 22 now. We’ve always just rapped together and it helps that we come from a family involved in music. He would get downloaded beats a long time ago and show them to me, and one day I did the same and showed him. He was really impressed and we both just started collaborating.
MCBN: Both your EP’s seem to be leaning towards the conscious side of things, if we really think about it not everybody is ready for the kind of content you put out. So Nyota, who are you actually rapping for?
Nyota: At first I wanted to cover conscious content on commercial beats. When people hear a trap beat they usually tend to tune in more, and but the catch is that I begin delivering content and knowledge so people can learn some things instead of the usual. And I’m not only rapping for those who are conscious but for the new generation too, if my music is on doing very well on the radio or TV then that would increase the chances of them knowing what is going on in the world. And hopefully, my generation will inspire the next. You know, I’m just rapping for everyone man. It’s never too late to inspire and educate, so it’s really for everyone.
MCBN: What difference are you trying to make with music?
Nyota: I want to inspire the masses not to conform to societies norms. Also, I’d like to inspire my inspirations, for example, I’d like to be able to inspire Nicki Minaj, Tom Misch and the artists that I listen too. I’d also like to lead people to a greater purpose; personally, I believe in God and even lead them toward the Lord. People don’t have to just ‘go with the flow’ and conform; we can choose our dream and shouldn’t be held back.
MCBN: In your mind, what does your ideal stage performance? In fact which show do you feel was your best stage performance?
Nyota: So I’m gonna start with the second part of the question. This has nothing to do with numbers actually and if it did, I’d say the Cape Town festival of lights because over 100 000 people were there. I feel as if my best was probably with a smaller and much more intimate crowd where I got to interact with people. The one at Pick and Swizzle was super good because the crowd were able to lean in and listen to what I was saying and feel more of it. There was this one dude who had his eyes closed and feeling it throughout the performance! My ideal one would be where I am able to leave a strong impact, even if there are thousands of people. I don’t know how to describe it really, although I want to be in the position where I want to interact with the crowd. Nicki Minaj is a great example as she interacts with her fans on such a genuine level, offering them food and even inviting them to other events.
MCBN: In the song ‘Welcome to My Mind’, the opener of Purification EP you kept mentioning that you are “so far gone”… So far gone from what?
Nyota: In terms of just being conscious, literally. I’m just too deep haha. I can’t just get into surface level things.
MCBN: I feel as if everybody just knows you as that girl that raps, although what do you do outside of music?
Nyota: I am a Hill Song intern within the worship department. I’m very involved in the church and the youth. I also do the usually 17-year-old things: hanging out with friends, going to the beach. The beach is definitely my favourite place to be, especially at night. Oh, and Jazz bars. Have you ever been to The Crypt? I do enjoy that place.
MCBN: If you could collaborate with any artist –dead or alive – who would you collab with and why?
Nyota: I would definitely collaborate with my inspirations; Nicki Minaj, Tom Misch, Oshun, J Cole, Mick Jenkins and many more. Why? Because all of these artists add to my musical journey and my sound in their own unique way. They are people I want to be able to influence as well. I don’t want to only receive inspiration and motivation from these artists but I was to sow back into their lives and inspire them too.
MCBN: Will you be doing anything different in your future releases, and if so what sort of elements can we expect?
Nyota: So you can definitely expect follow up projects and singles! Think of my projects as a sequel, my first one being my “Age of Enlightenment” mixtape and then my recently released EP “Purification Project”, then I would like to release another tape where it’s all about taking action. See it’s not about expecting something different because my music altogether is already unorthodox and different but you can expect a development of my music, for sure… More like a storyline. First comes enlightenment, then comes purification of the mindset, then comes taking action in society to influence individuals. Then everything will develop onwards!
All links to her social media and projects available below:
“Purification Project” EP link:
“Age of Enlightenment” mixtape link:
“Free Us” music video link:
Facebook Page: Nyota
iTunes & all online stores: Nyota