Her generous afro, one that proudly and freely frames her face, perhaps offers the first hint that Nigerian-German beauty Nneka is not your average singer. Don’t let the soft voice or dimpled face fool you. Nneka is unabashed about her love of God, her African roots and bettering the world in general. The “warrior princess,” who also raps and plays the guitar, is working hard to share her knowledge and make her voice heard.
“I do it in a sweet way – but I sing to speak the truth,” Nneka says. The result of her efforts is true artistry, riddled with qualities that parallel the political conviction of Bob Marley, the finesse of Erykah Badu and the tone of fellow Afro-German singer Ayo.
Her influences and inspirations mostly come from personal experiences, but Nneka is well aware of how these experiences fit into the bigger picture. Her recording process simultaneously reflects all that she knows and all that she does not. “There’s so much that I myself have to learn in my life and there’s so much that I do not know. So basically, at the same time I’m sharing my music with people and learning from that sharing, learning from the words that come out of my mouth,” Nneka says.
This learning journey likely kicked into gear when Nneka moved out on her own from Nigeria to Hamburg, Germany at the age of 19. Music became her therapy in unfamiliar territory. Mass musical recognition however came a few years down the line.
Nneka first captivated the public in 2004 when she performed as the opening act for a concert headlined by reggae megastar Sean Paul. By 2005, she finished recording her first album. “Victim of Truth,” officially introduced the artist to a wider audience. Singing and rapping about love, life and the state of the world, Nneka captured listeners with effortlessly seductive quality: a unique blend of wisdom, vulnerability and conviction offered in a non-confrontational manner. By 2007, “Victim of Truth” was released in Germany, England, France, Netherlands and Japan to rave critical reviews.
Nneka released her second album, “No Longer At Ease,” in 2008. Described as “a record where brains, beauty and beats collide,” the album grabbed the attention of both Lauryn Hill and Lenny Kravitz who commissioned the singer to open up for their shows.
Nneka is now gearing up to release “Concrete Jungle,” in the US and this time around she’s ready to take over the world. “I’m trying to africanize America with my music” the artist says as she smiles. But this activist is dead serious. The cover of “Concrete Jungle” displays a close-up of the Nneka’s face with the outline of the African continent superimposed on top. Within Africa’s outline are some of America’s states.
“My main message is to wake people up,” Nneka says. She has the great potential to do just that. Nneka possesses all the qualities that could simply make her an ‘It’ girl if she wanted, but will more likely make her the voice of a generation.
Written by Shaira Brereton