Artist Nezi Momodu Shares her Love Connection with Hip-Hop
Nezi Momodu is a rising Nigerian-American social-media phenomenon. She is mostly-known for her Texas-Tech freestyle that went viral back in 2015 when she slaughtered Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear”. Since then, she’s been kicking down the different stereotypes about women in the music industry. Nezi sits down with us and shares how her life shaped her music career and where the future lies with female rap.
KAMSI Magazine: Tell us about yourself?
Nezi Momodu: I’m twenty-five. I’m Nigerian. I’m a Virgo. I enjoy long walks on the beach. Um, I’m pretty average and boring really. Everyone calls me a mom so really when I’m performing I’m nothing like how I come off to my friends. Of course, to strangers I seem very serious.
KM: Could you tell us a little about where you are from?
NM: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. I lived in Ijeka until my father passed away, then relocated to Surulere until my mother won the Visa lottery. I currently live in Texas now. Where I lived at in Lagos was Ijeka. Think of it like New York City, where there are different areas. So, Surulere is like a city but Lagos is like a state, like New York State, New York. So basically, there wasn’t much of a transition from Lagos to Surulere because my grandmother lived there and we would always go. We lost our house after my dad died so we lived in Surulere for a while. My mom won this thing called this Visa lottery where basically in Nigeria, I don’t know if they still have it, but you apply to it and if you win it you get a free ticket to the United States documentation wise. So it was like I was just in Surulere and all of a sudden it was like so, “We’re going to the United States”. When I first came here, I was really young so I didn’t understand that people were going to be really mean, and I didn’t really care either because I knew that I was going to go back to Nigeria. When I came back to the United States it was so different, everyone was so mean because I was African. I smelled different, my food was different, I talked differently, so it was like I really had to learn within that year how to get an American accent. It was terrible because I was bullied to the core because of it.
KM: So when did you fall in love with Hip-Hop?
NM: I feel like this is ‘Brown Sugar’. I had to say really young when I was six or seven, right after my dad died. At one point that was the only music that I listened to, and I grew up listening to a whole lot of different music. I am pretty eclectic when it comes to music. Afro juju music, Fela, Buju Banton, hardcore regard, hip-hop, funk, rock, I have an obsession with musicals. Really I listen and love music in general, but at that time I was only listening to it for like a year. It was nothing but like rap and hard beats that whole year. That was also when Lauryn Hill became like a big thing to me as well.
KM: What/ Who inspired you to rap?
NM: Every interview this answer changes. But, so many people and things, mostly my older Brother Bashir who introduced me to Hip-Hop. My brother would play like KSR-1, Busta Rhymes, The Pharcyde, and just a whole bunch of stuff and he would play instrumentals sometimes because he was a drummer. It would be times that I would sit in his room and listening to the instrumentals and I would be like, “Yo what’s this”. My brother liked fast rappers because he had a stuttering problem and so he could rap along. Whenever he would play slow songs or medium-tempo songs I would come in and rap along. He just played music around the house and after a while it just stuck.
KM: Who are your favorite rappers?
NM: Lauryn Hill, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Mos Def, Commn, Tupac, Wayne.. too many to name.
KM: How has your taste in music changed since you started rapping?
NM: Not one bit. I definitely don’t throw as much shade. I am more understanding of different spectrums of rap (trap) but what I still like is the same.
KM: How did you explain to your parents that you wanted to be a rapper?
NM: One does not simply explain to a Nigerian mother that they want to be an MC. My mom would be like “MC? Medical Chief or kini what’s MC, master of Clinics?” But, my family told my mom on an app. She then screenshotted it, but at that point she was just like do what you need to do that could help you pay off your school.
KM: As people we are often defined by our race, gender, religion, creed, etc. As A Nigerian woman, I am sure there are certain expectations that are in place for you. How do you battle this while trying to be an artist?
NM: Nigerian Muslim Woman. I don’t know how I battle, but I’ve been told I’, naturally combative (not as a compliment) but I first came to America post 9/11 era so being a Muslim woman here quickly changed my entire personality. I’m still secretly shy but I’m not timid anymore, and being any type of African woman you are constantly reminded that your highest goal, even about doctor is finding a husband. So yeah doing something that in a predominantly misogynistic (let’s call a spade a spade) industry is very hard, especially if you aren’t doing it the way they want you to, is very difficult. I have tons of support mostly from women and Muslim women at that. I was told that women wouldn’t support me. I think because everyone loves painting the idea that women aren't supportive of each other, but a vast majority of the people who really notice me and help me are women. So I don't combat it, they do. I just try not to let them down.
KM: “The Queen of Freestyles” is the name that Okay Africa gave you. How does it make you feel?
NM: They did too much. Any title that has Queen in it makes my stomach knot up because it's more expectations I have to live up to. I would actually really love it if people slept on me lol. Better to be underrated than overrated.
KM: Why would you prefer to be underrated than overrated?
NM: After the freestyle my fan-based double and everyone has this expectation even at school. Whenever it’s a party and they start playing instrumentals and everyone is freestyling, I could really be in the back not trying to talk to anyone, and then they’ll just call my name! It was a lot easier being able to create without having anyone else’s thought in my mind. Now when I write stuff it’s like, “What if people don’t like this,” that wasn’t an issue before, now it’s a serious issue.
KM: What’s your current opinion on the female rap game?
NM: So many underground female MCs that are so cold. Noname, Jean, Nokia. There's this rapper in Dallas named Taj that to me is like, the epitome of what attitude a female MC should have. I still love Tink. I really think they're under appreciated though.
KM: As a rapper, have you ever had to prove that you were good enough?
NM: Yeah. This is an everyday thing. I hate the term female rapper. When people say rapper they think male, and idk why that bothers me but it does. Like when people ask me who my favorite rapper is, they follow up with "who's your favorite female MC?" And I have the same answer for both, so.
KM: Are there any specific stereotypes that you want to break in terms of women in the music industry?
NM: Yes. The idea that we have to be put in an entirely different category. Rapping isn't physical, there's not a biological boundary. It's skill. I feel like skill is unisex. We can be judged equally, and I think a lot of females can hold their weight.
KM: You mentioned earlier that a large proportion of your support team is women. What is it about your music that you think empowers women?
NM: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s my music. It definitely helps that I don’t rap about stealing people’s men, because people have told me that. I think it’s more so the way society is now, because women are becoming more vocal. Kinda like the whole pro-black movement, and this kind of like realizing all the internalized things that have been embedded in us and trying to break away from those. Women in general are becoming more supportive of others. It doesn’t reflect my music more so; women are just tired. They’re like okay, we need more of us to be representative. We don’t need to be kept on the back-burner. Or not being noticed for the good that we are putting in the universe. I can only think of one time when I guy put me on to something, 99 percent of the time it was women.
KM: If you could give one piece of advice to a young woman out there who is trying to pursue her dreams, what would it be?
NM: Do it, we got you.
Below is the video that got us all in love with Nezi Momodu