ESSENCE.com’s “New and Next” column spotlights the brightest new talents from around the world we think you should know. This week we highlight Nigerian hip-hop soul singer, Nneka.
Who is Nneka? Dubbed a “hip hop revolutionary,” the Nigerian-German singer draws equally from hip-hop beats as she does African pop and reggae. Born to a Nigerian father and German mother, Nneka grew up in both Warri, Nigeria and Hamburg, Germany, where she would later release two critically acclaimed albums. Her latest album Soul is Heavy was recently released in the U.S.
Who she’ll remind you of: Her raspy voice and socially conscious songs have earned Nneka comparisons to Lauryn Hill. She names Hill, legendary Afrobeat singer and activist Fela Kuti and Bob Marley as her greatest influences. The singer’s varied influences and hip hop-inflected sound makes it difficult to place her only in the “world music” category. “In America I’m considered a world music artist,” she tells ESSENCE.com. “In Europe they say it’s neo-soul. People hear Africa and they’ll put you in some sort of corner as third world music — it’s irrelevant where you put me. It’s more about what I have to say, and the depths of the music.” The singer’s knack for bending the rules can be heard on songs like “God Knows Why” where she collaborates with Black Thought of the Roots.
Where you’ll see her next: Nneka is currently on a U.S. tour to promote Soul is Heavy, and recently made her American debut with a performance on BET’s “106 & Park.”
Watch Nneka’s video, “Soul is Heavy,” and let us know what you think.