Nadia Nakai: Breaking Boundaries in African Hip Hop

Nadia Nakai: Breaking Boundaries in African Hip Hop

Nadia Nakai Kandava, born on May 18, 1990, in South Africa, hails from a diverse heritage with a South African father and Zimbabwean mother. Raised in a culturally rich environment, she underwent a pivotal moment at 16 when she adopted her mother’s surname, Dlamini.

Nadia Nakai

Birth name Nadia Nakai Dlamini
Born 18 May 1990 (age 33)
South Africa
Origin Johannesburg
  • South Africa (birth right citizenship)
  • Zimbabwe
Genres Hip hop
  • TV personality
  • rapper
Years active 2011–present
AKA (died 2023)
  • Def Jam Africa (current)
  • Bragga Records (current)
  • Family Tree Records (former)
  • Sid Records (former)

Nakai’s educational journey led her from Fourways High School in Johannesburg to Kenya, where she completed her schooling. She furthered her studies at Monash University in Johannesburg, focusing on marketing, communication, and media studies, laying the groundwork for her multifaceted career.


Nakai’s ascent in the music industry began with a landmark victory on the hip hop show, Shiz Niz, where she clinched the Mixtape 101 competition, becoming the first female to achieve this feat. Her debut single, “Like Me,” catapulted her into the spotlight in September 2013, signaling the start of a promising career.

Throughout the following years, Nakai continued to make waves, collaborating with notable artists such as Cassper Nyovest and releasing chart-topping singles like “Saka Wena” and “Naaa Meaan.” Her EP “Bragga” garnered widespread acclaim upon its release in 2016, solidifying her status as a rising star in the industry.

Nadia Naked and Def Jam Africa (2017–2020): In 2019, Nakai’s highly anticipated debut album, “Nadia Naked,” hit the airwaves, showcasing her versatility and artistic prowess. The album’s success was further underscored by her signing with Def Jam Africa in May 2020, marking a significant milestone in her career.

Amidst accolades and recognition, including winning the Best Female Artist award at AFRIMA and earning the title of most stylish performing artist at the SA Style Awards, Nakai continued to push boundaries, cementing her position as a trailblazer in African hip hop.

TV Shows and Ventures (2021–present): Beyond music, Nakai has ventured into television, hosting Channel O’s Gen-Z South Africa show in 2021 and making appearances on platforms like Netflix’s “Young, Famous & African.” Her entrepreneurial spirit shone through as she departed Family Tree Records to establish her own label, showcasing her determination to carve her path in the industry.

Nakai’s journey has been shaped by influential figures such as Kenyan rapper Nazizi, whose impact inspired her to pursue a career in rap. Additionally, her personal life garnered attention, notably her relationship with the late South African rapper AKA, further highlighting her presence in the public eye.

Nadia Nakai’s trajectory in the music and entertainment industry embodies resilience, creativity, and unwavering dedication, setting her apart as a force to be reckoned with in African hip hop.


Studio Albums:

  1. Nadia Naked
    • Released: 28 June 2019
    • Label: Family Tree Records
    • Format: Digital download

Extended Plays:

  1. Bragga
    • Released: 15 September 2016
    • Label: Family Tree Records
    • Format: Digital download

Singles (Lead Artist):

  • “Like Me” (2013)
  • “Whatever” (featuring DotCom and Psyfo) (2014)
  • “Saka Wena” (featuring Ice Prince) (2015)
  • “Money Back” (2016)
  • “The Man” (featuring Cassper Nyovest) (Bragga)
  • “Don’t Cut It”
  • “Sqwaa” (featuring Gemini Major and Tshego)
  • “Naaa Meaan” (featuring Cassper Nyovest) (2017)
  • “Money Calling” (with Frank Casino) (2018)
  • “Yass Bitch”
  • “Imma Boss” (2019)
  • “Kreatures” (featuring Kwesta & Sio)
  • “40 Bars” (featuring Emtee & DJ Capital) (2020)

Singles (Featured Artist):

  • “Amantombazane Remix” (Riky Rick featuring Okmalumkoolkat, Maggz, Kwesta, Ginger Breadman, Kid X, Nadia Nakai and DJ Dimplez) (2014)
  • “Do Like I Do Remix” (DJ Sliqe featuring Riky Rick, L-Tido, Kwesta, Reason, Flabba and Nadia Nakai) (2015)
  • “Sugar Free” (Tumi featuring Nadia Nakai)
  • “Ragga Ragga” (Gemini Major featuring Cassper Nyovest, Nadia Nakai, Riky Rick and Major League) (2016)
  • “Savage” (DJ Milkshake featuring Da L.E.S, Maggz and Nadia Nakai)
  • “Crazy” (Spectacular and DJ Naves featuring Floda, Nadia Nakai and DJ Tira) (2017)
  • “Isaga Lam” (Miss Pru DJ featuring LaSauce, Gigi LaMayne, Nadia Nakai and Londie London)
  • “Uh Huh” (Priddy Ugly featuring Nadia Nakai) (2017)
  • “Zonke” (Phantom Steeze featuring Sjava, AKA, Nadia Nakai, Robot Boii, Buzzi Lee and Mustbedubz) (2022)

Awards and Nominations

Zimbabwe Achievers Awards:

  • 2016: Music Artist of the Year – Won

Metro FM Music Awards:

  • 2016:
    • Baddest (Remix) (with AKA, Fifi Cooper, Rouge & Gigi LaMayne) – Best Remix – Nominated
    • Do I Like I Do (Remix) (with DJ Sliqe, Riky Rick, Reason, L-Tido, Kwesta & Flabba) – Nominated

South African Music Awards:

  • 2018:
    • Naa Meaan (feat. Cassper Nyovest) (Directed by Family Tree) – Music Video of the Year – Nominated
  • 2021:
    • Nadia Naked – Best Hip Hop Album – Nominated

South African Hip Hop Awards:

  • 2019:
    • Album of the Year – Nominated
    • Best Female – Won
    • MVP/Hustler of the Year – Nominated
  • 2020:
    • 40 Bars (featuring Emtee & DJ Capital) Directed by Kaykayribane – Best Video – Nominated
    • More Drugs (featuring Tshego) Directed Allesio Bettocchi & Jilten Ramlal – Won
  • 2021:
    • Artist of the Decade – Nominated

All Africa Music Awards:

  • 2019:
    • Nadia Naked – Album of the Year in Southern Africa – Nominated
    • Best Female Artiste in Southern Africa – Won
    • Best Artiste, Duo or Group in African Hip Hop – Won

SA Style Awards:

  • 2021: Most Stylish Performing Artist – Won

Basadi in Music Awards:

  • 2023: Hip Hop Artist of the Year – Won

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