Stormzy fans: do you know the grimestar himself has a cousin who’s also blowing up? The answer is likely yes, because by now, if you’re in London/don’t sleep on good music/don’t live under a rock, you’ve heard of Nadia Rose, the young rapper whose viral videos, assured persona, and instant bangers have already earned her thousands of followers, tours with grime guy Giggs and afrobeat artist J Hus, and a BBC Sound of 2017 cosign. Here’s why we can’t stop talking about her video Skwod and what it says about a young artist already on her way to icon status.
First things first - Rose makes a damn good visual. Her video “Boom” rightly garnered hundreds of thousands of views when the internet went crazy for it in 2015. The concept is lo-fi and brilliant - a GoPro style camera tracks Rose as she strolls through London, cutting between a house party we’d rather be at and street scenes where onlookers glance at Rose, looking alternately bewildered and supremely aware that they can’t sit with her. Speaking to the Guardian about the video for Station, which sees Rose playing on train tracks, the rapper reveals that she follows her ideas to the finish without hesitation or training wheels: “We literally had one shot to do that clip otherwise they’d have called the operators, but the videographer knew when the train was coming and timed it perfectly.” Watch Rose keep it cool in the thrill-seeking one-take here.
The rapper’s latest video, for the irresistible “Skwod,” sees Rose win again with her signature seamless visuals. She strolls into the frame wearing what looks like a custom-made tie-dye sweat suit and her trademark twin buns. She seems to moonwalk down the street, quickly joined by a whole flock of fabulous black girls sporting the spectrum of natural hair, with diverse body types and skin tones. Such representation is rare outside of this visual paradigm; it’s powerful to see a black woman artist championing the range of possibilities of black femaleness. And Rose’s vision feels unforced - indicative of a generation that rejects reductive ideas of black womanhood in an embodied, not rigidly political, way.
Throughout the video, Rose’s “skwod” performs moves from all corners of the black Atlantic - wining, twerking, two-stepping, shoki-ing, nae nae-ing, and straight jamming, occupying the street without a care in the world for the forces that might try to hem them in. At one point, a little boy dressed as a policeman approaches the crew, but they come together and kick him out of their party. This is about women, the particular bonds between them, and the freedom to take up space.
Though Skwod marks Rose’s slickest production to date, promising only bigger and better things in the future, the rapper seems unfazed by her genius. In the video, she deliberately ceases to lip-sync certain lyrics, as if she can’t be bothered to perform right now - or maybe she just refuses to be formulaic, preferring to use every moment to serve you the unexpected. She never stops moving: the 24 year-old already has the posturing of a seasoned hip hop performer, and her fluid, playful, swaggering style is distinctive. Her flow is relentless. We’re not afraid to say her mind-tickling wordplay reminds us of hard-hitting rap queen (and Rose’s visionary video ancestor) Missy Elliot.
We cannot wait to experience the freshness, the footwork, and the foul and fluent mouth of Nadia Rose at next month's Afropunk London, which Globetrotter will be covering via Instagram. Watch that space, and watch this young rapper take over.
Header photo c/o Nadia Rose. Body photo c/o the Evening Standard.