For many females in the industry it’s quite hard to break in and remain a consistent threat. I spoke with Nina B., a New York native emcee who talked about being an independent artist, femcees and more for HitHipHop.com. Make sure to check the exclusive interview I did with her below!
I feel like a lot of DJs, a lot of bloggers, a lot of people in general who set the trends, the labels whoever they don’t want to take the chance. I just want to see another artist to put them up with another artist who might be more established. They’re afraid of the people who will say, “She or he is not on their level why are you putting them on their level?” I feel like more people need to take a chance and put people on this level. Why not break a new artist?
Nina B. the Bosstress
HitHipHop.com: How would you describe your flow and what sets you apart from other hip hop artists?
Nina B: I think I describe myself as somewhat versatile. ‘Cause I really haven’t developed my sound, I’m still developing my style everyday. So, I don’t know it’s still growing and that’s a good thing about me, my audience can grow with me. What separates myself from the other people in game, the males and the females, from a female standpoint I try to stand out. I don’t want to just compete against the women, I really look at it as empowerment. I look at it as everybody is my competition, the guys on the top, the girls on top, whoever you know, but I see myself on top. That’s just how things are done, but not necessarily the guys or the girls it can be either way. To separate myself, I try to stay honest and I try to keep it real for the most part. I think as a part of my writing technique I tend to go through topics I feel make me seem vulnerable. I talk about something bad that happened to me, I talk about a horrible experience that I went through or just because I knew somebody that gone through that experience and I feel like sharing that. My music has really got me sharing my experiences to begin with, that’s how I really started out with my music.
HHH: Well speaking on experiences, in “the intro” you share some insight of how you are surrounded by people who aren’t doing anything with themselves and how people think you got here overnight. What did it take for you to get at this point?
NB: Honestly, I’m still climbing the ladder. I feel like this is my eighth project that I’m working on right now. So, people who saw me when I was 15 or 16 years old, walking the streets selling my mixtapes, they’ve seen the progress. So, people who didn’t catch me at that age, you know what I’m saying at my second tape when I was 17 when I was over here when I was trying to push it. They’ve seen my progress, so I really try to cater to my fans. I want to make new fans everyday, but the process I really cater to my fans. On top of that it’s just like, it’s just grinding. The grind has just been very up and down for me. So, it took a lot, I can’t really summon out everything. It’s been a crazy road and I’ve learned a lot and I think that was the whole process, point of me going through everything I went through. So, to be where I’m at to know what I know now and I’m just taking it with stride. It took a lot for me to be where I’m at now, but I always had my situation right. From the jump I got my independent label and I’m happy that I found myself in that situation. I find that even the major artists are trying to get in that situation right now. For some of them it’s harder for them to fight out of the deal. I like being on my own because I can do my own thing so that’s part of it too.
HHH: Good move on being independent. I found out that you turned down a major record deal at 16 years old. That’s a great accomplishment but what made you go with Ravenel Records instead?
NB: Well, I met this girl name Amber Ravenel, she was kind of like me real flashy, she stood out. She actually approached me. I noticed that girls who are like me or similar like me they really don’t approach me and I don’t approach them, especially not at that time. I was real young and I met her at this Russell Simmons program I was going to called “The Hip Hop Project” and she just approached me, “Yo, I’m teaching class every Wednesday. I see you out here, you should come we’ll teach you how to run your own label.” Meanwhile, I’m looking at her like this is a girl she my age, what does she know about running a label? Even then I felt like I should give her a chance, I went out there and went to her class. I noticed that she just commanded respect. Everybody in that class was her age and I found that it’s hard for you to establish a dominance among people that are your age, your own peers. They respected her and I respected her too. I still respect her, but we grew into a nice friendship and I would come to her for advice. When I also had opportunities to do certain things, I would ask her what she thought about it or what she thought I should do with it. She would always be there for me, so it came to a point where I asked her to manage me. So, I said “yo you need to manage me” and she was like “Oh ok, let’s go to the studio let’s start banging out.” For the most part not a lot of labels establish, help you establish your own. When you come under Def Jam or you come under Atlantic it’s not a story that you’re gonna be the Vice President one day. It’s not even realistic to me, but over a matter of time I became the Vice President of my label. So, not only do I work under this label, I work for this label, I own this label. It makes sense to me that’s the biggest accomplishment to me, to say that I own a part of it, I’m putting out. I don’t know a lot of artists that can say that, but there’s nothing like that. So as far as me and Amber that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Being apart of Ravenel Records it’s like not even a decision, it just happened. At the time I didn’t have that stability, I wasn’t 16 years old spending my own money to go into the studio. I wasn’t fighting for my career, I was just out there acting like I was 16 years old which most people are. Where you have a handful of prodigies that do fight for their career. I needed that push and I will say Amber helped me out with that push.
HHH: That’s great to hear, definitely shows female empowerment. There’s been a gap in award show categories regarding females and are hardly recognized. What will you be doing to get in that spot?
NB: I think the female artists got to work a little harder than men in general and we know that. That’s partially because we’re females and they don’t necessarily take us seriously all the time. It’s also because of the label or business owner, even the manager. You find out females are high maintenance, like a guy you don’t have to worry about getting his nails done every week. Most guys it’s difficult too, because they have to maintain the same image, maybe they got to have a shiny chain or maybe they got to have a nice car. With females you have certain maintenance issues, where I find that a lot of labels don’t know how to deal with or have the patience for. Aside from that, our personalities a lot of times people assume we don’t get along with each other or that we normally don’t like each other, but when you put a bunch of female rappers together it’s not a cat fight. I know a lot of these chicks, they real good for the most part it’s cordial. I try to be a little bit more open minded as far as that, I can see the future bright, I can see the network of female MCs growing as we speak right now. I can see the demand for us on these shows growing and I try to encourage that in everything I do. For the longest when I was little, I have been practicing my Grammy speech. I continue to write songs, I continue to fight for it and I always will. Even though it hasn’t been looking hopeful because there wasn’t, for a long time there was no category in any award show for the females. I feel bad for the one or two females who was doing their thing because they deserve to have somebody for competition. The girls who are out there on their grind who are not signed, they are not getting that acknowledgement. I feel like a lot of DJs, a lot of bloggers, a lot of people in general who set the trends, the labels whoever they don’t want to take the chance. I just want to see another artist to put them up with another artist who might be more established. They’re afraid of the people who will say, “She or he is not on their level why are you putting them on their level?” I feel like more people need to take a chance and put people on this level. Why not break a new artist? So, I think a lot of people just fear because these labels are closing everyday and they don’t want to lose their jobs. So, I’m mad at these A&Rs, the number of A&Rs have shrunk immensely since I started. There’s like two A&Rs in the game right now, so who’s looking for artists, I don’t know. Honestly I think the people need to demand, so the people are going to have to express that these females be heard. These females they do deserve recognition and we want to give them that recognition because obviously these labels, awards shows I don’t know who controls the award shows, but their whole staff is not getting the bigger picture. A part of me putting out my project is to be seen and heard. So I think I’m going to make a little wave with this one.
HHH: Who are your top five MC’s and why?
NB: I wouldn’t want to put it in any order because I’m mad sporadic and besides after certain points in my life it changes. Like the top 5 last year might not be the same top 5 this year, but I would like to give it to Jay-Z because he’s an entrepreneur and I respect his hustle. It’s inspiring to me that somebody from Brooklyn can establish everything that he’s established. So I look up to him and I admire him, not just his music, but just his swagga and how he carries himself, I respect it. I also respect Queen Latifah because she’s another artist who is an entrepreneur, she’s somebody that is so versatile. She can sing, she rap, she can act, I feel like she can do anything. She makes me feel like I can do anything, so I definitely respect Queen Latifah, I always have. I listen to her music, mostly her early stuff I have to be honest. She definitely is one of them people that enforces and always has some of my deepest thoughts. Like respect women, respect me and just talking about the hustle and the grind, the every day lifestyle of her people. That was her whole lane right there and I respect her. I respect Wiz Khalifa and not just him, but in particular artists like him. Not being signed and you had to do your own thing, but you did it well. You can’t knock that on top of that the music is good, so I rock out with him. I love B.I.G., I don’t know if I love him more than Pac, I respect them in their own lane. For a bonus I pick Kanye West. I got to have a bonus, he’s an ill MC he’s a great performer. He brought something to the table.
HHH: To wrap things up what can we expect from you in 2011?
NB: Wow, I don’t know they say the world is over in 2012, but I’m going out with a bang. I doubt that it would, but I would hope everybody knows just from my past and how diligent I’ve been that I’m not going to put out a whack project. I got a lot of special features, I just like to call on people that I know, I did a lot of collaborations on this tape. I also did many original joints, so it’s not so much of a mixtape as I thought it would be, but I don’t know I just wanted to give the people what thought they needed right now. Especially since it’s been two years since I put out a project, I think they needed some original music, you know I’m not just mooching off everybody else’s sound. I’m trying to follow up this tape or project that I’ve been working on with DJ Jazzy Joyce who is producing now so she can do solo records and shot a lot of videos for it.
Interviewed by: Shiyana Bellamy
Conducted on April 26, 2011