Nadia Rose has been taunting you – and has been for a while. She started sometime in June last year, posting a video captioned “Sugar Zaddy Freestyle” on Instagram. Fans were in raptures. Bouncing, boisterous and unquestionably Nadia, the embryonic track even prompted a Tweet in praise from Rihanna. “Everyone went crazy,” affirms the 26-year-old Croydon-born rapper, who proceeded to tease different verses throughout her summer tour. “It wasn’t meant to be a song, I was just vibin’ in my house, but people were losing their shit over it.” So now it’s settled, says Rose. In April, after ten months of yearning, her fans will hear “Sugar Zaddy” in its full form. “I’ve been teasing the hell out of it, I tell you,” she laughs. “I’m super happy to be getting it out there after all this time.” Finally free from her ties to Relentless Records, who had hindered her from releasing music between 2017 and 2019, Rose is something of a free woman.
The British rapper and songwriter is back with the wind in her sails, going full-speed ahead by forging her own musical empire.
The release of “Sugar Daddy” will solidify this. “I’m elated,” she says simply. “I feel like I’m now able to do what I’ve always wanted to do.” Wind it back five years and Rose was dividing her time between open mic nights, a degree and a job at her local betting shop. It was tiring. Still, she made it work. “It was all good really,” she says. “Everything was super organic, there just wasn’t much industry knowledge there.” A student of The BRIT School, writing music was something Rose had done “consciously” from the age of 12 and “unconsciously” from about five. “I didn’t really think anything of it,” she continues. “I wasn’t doing it because I thought that would be the career I’d end up falling into. I was doing it because it was just what I knew.” But this, somewhat inevitably, became Rose’s conundrum. Between 12 hour shifts at Coral and increasingly demanding university deadlines, the time she could dedicate to her music was limited. The solution was simple. “I put all my eggs in one basket,” she recalls. “Making that decision will always be a big thing for me, because I actually did what I said I was going to do.” Without question, it was a risk that paid off, and Station, her first official track, was released a year later. Rose is funny; that’s her “thing”. “I don’t know if it’s a defence mechanism,” she ponders. “But I’ve been like this since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh. I was the class clown in primary school, then in secondary school. Teachers found me to be disruptive at times, but I guess that’s just how I expressed myself.” It’s a trait that’s very much present in her music, which spins listeners through a sonic tunnel of scintillating rhymes and humorous bars mixed in with hip hop, pop and dancehall riffs. “Scuse me, Madam, how did you get on the premises?” she taunts in her breakout track “Skwod“, which has over 10 million views on YouTube. “Well, I came to kill off my nemesis.”
It is tempting to say that someone so effortlessly exuberant as Nadia Rose has probably always been that way. But in reality, she tells me, it hasn’t always been second nature. Getting to this point has been a learning curve. At 16, she went through a period of anxiety. “Growing up, I tried to give off this confidence that I don’t know if I really believed in,” she explains. “I guess it got to a point where I realised that I’d have to start believing in it myself in order for anybody else to see me that way.” What she needed was within her, she just hadn’t unlocked it yet. “Maybe it was just making the decision to focus completely on music that changed things,” she considers. “It’s a vulnerable thing to share what you’ve taken out of your brain. I had to learn how to share myself and understand what would come with that.”
And now, Nadia Rose is “unstoppable”. Her confidence has been put to rights. Rose’s music will always be fun; again, that’s her “thing”. But she’s also aware that the secret to being a good artist rests, at least in part, on something that goes a little deeper than humour. “I like to think that I’ve grown into my music, that I’m able to express myself a bit more,” she says. “I realised that I needed to delve into myself and allow listeners to get to know me, which is something I had to do as a person as well. People have always found me a bit hard to read. I didn’t really see how that made sense. As in, how could I be so closed off when music is such a personal and vulnerable thing?” Her conscientiousness is an echo of her mother, a nurse, who Rose cites as one of the hardest workers she knows. “My mum is super confident,” she says. “I’ve always tried to emulate that. She’s a hero to me.” And then there’s Lil’ Kim, who showed Rose that rap was by no means a man’s game. At a time when hip hop was dominated by the likes of Biggie and Tupac, Lil’ Kim, as Rose puts it, was “one of the only women repping.” “I loved how unapologetic she was,” she continues. “She said exactly what I’m trying to say now – that I’m equal, if not better.” Things are more level now; not perfect, but easier. Although, the issue in hand is just as important to Rose. “I just hate the inequality in the world,” she says. “I’m no different to the men in the game, and I want that to be something that every woman can see in what they do. It doesn’t have to be rap. It doesn’t have to be acting or dancing. It doesn’t even have to be creative. You’re a woman, and whatever field you’re in, you are an equal to the rest that are there. That’s what I try to push.”
Her video to “Big Woman” presents just this. It removes stereotypical beauty standards and showcases Rose’s appreciation for “real, clean-hearted people”: people dancing, people enjoying themselves without inhibition, people cheering other people on. At the centre of the video is Grace Victory, a body positivity advocate and blogger who takes to the dancefloor. “I wanted to show off people who, for whatever reason, society doesn’t want to show off,” Rose adds. This takes us back to where things are now. At present, Rose is suspended between two chapters. While the mess with Relentless is over, there’s still work to be done. From this point onwards, all of her music will be released via her own label. “I also want to put a spotlight on other acts,” she says. “I’ve already got a first signee in mind. I want to create an empire of superbeings.” And before that, Rose will appear in her debut acting role, which, at the time of our interview, is strictly under wraps. But the ball is rolling. It’s exciting to see firsthand. “I feel like they tried to slow down my train,” she says of her previous record label. “But now the engine is just revving 100%. It’s full steam ahead.”
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