“With it being so many other people trying to do the same thing as you, you have to differentiate yourself,” Nina Tech explains as she sits in a DIY home studio in Chicago’s south suburbs. It’s a sentiment that applies to anyone trying to get their name popping in hip-hop right now, but it’s one that rings true even more for someone in Nina’s position.
Since starting rap in her early teens, Nina’s never held back in her bars, letting her most outrageous side overdrive her rhymes in a way that feels 100% genuine. Drawing influence from local legends like Chief Keef along with the voices she’d hear played throughout her childhood like Left Eye or Slick Rick, Nina’s frame of reference includes a host of rap icons who thrived off of being bold. She comes through with that same boldness in her own music, whether she’s taking a moment to stunt or taking direct aim at anyone trying to diss her.
While being as bold and open as Nina is in her music can leave an artist susceptible to being boxed too quickly, she really couldn’t care less. Instead, she resists by staying true to herself and where she’s from with no hesitation. Watch and read our latest Q&A with Nina Tech below:
What music did you grow up listening to?
My mom is in love with music. We would listen to lots of old Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. She also played a lot of house music, which I like a lot now and I think that’s because I grew up listening to it. She played a lot of 90s rap too, so I like a lot of older rap sometimes more than current music. Also, a lot of Michael Jackson–like a lot of Michael Jackson.
Who are some of your favorite 90s or early rappers?
I think Slick Rick’s really cool. Left Eye was one of the people that made me want to start rapping, I just thought she was so cool. Lil Kim of course. NWA was really raw. I can’t forget about Missy Elliot… It’s a lot of people but those are a few.
Are there any more current rappers who have influenced you?
My favorite rappers: Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, BbyMutha (she’s raw as fuck), Killavessi, Adamn [Killa]. Chief Keef is my favorite rapper of all time. If I was influenced by anybody, it would be him. Something I don’t like about some rappers is that a lot of their songs sound the same. None of Keef’s songs sound the same to me. I also think his ad-libs are really raw, and ad-libs in a rap song really make it for me.
Would you say drill in general has influenced your sound?
I guess just being in Chicago, it’s always being played around me. I fuck with drill music hard. I wouldn’t say I set out to make drill, but I could see how it has a similar energy. That’s the kind of energy I want to invoke–t’d and having fun. I want people to hear my music and be like ‘shit this my song’ and start having a good night. That’s what makes me happy when I listen to music.
How did you get into making music?
I always liked making music. When I was younger, I used to write songs. But I can’t sing, so once I got older, me and some of my friends were just chilling and started rapping. I fell in love with it more and more.
What type of stuff would you rap about early on?
[Laughs] The type of rap I was doing when I first started was some crazy ass shit. Like we were just saying anything ‘cause we were young and hot shit. We were tweakin. But then, we got older and we started talking about better things–well, we still talk about fighting bitches but in a better way. It was so crazy that we had to delete all of it, and I just hope it never comes out [laughs].
Does some of that crazy still come through in your current stuff?
I definitely think my music still has some craziness to it. It’s packaged better, but I still think my music’s something else. People say all the time that they’re shocked when they hear me say some stuff. I just say shit that I feel.
What do you think people find shocking?
I think at first people are shocked that I’m a girl rapping about girls. My voice is also deeper, which is something people might not expect.
Do you ever feel like people try to put you into a box based on the things you rap about?
I think that the people who support me are more open-minded to even try to box me in. Honestly, I really don’t care at all. It doesn’t matter ‘cause imma like who I like and fuck with who I wanna fuck with. I don’t think anyone can put me in a box even if they wanted to.
Are there any misconceptions you think people have about your music?
I don’t think people have misconceptions about my music, but I think my music makes people have misconceptions about me. A lot of people think I’m really mean before they talk to me. [Laughs] I’m not really a mean person. I just be chilling. People think I’m real aggressive. It’s a specific part of me that you could bring out, but it’s not always there. It’s just me at full force.
Are you working on any projects right now?
I’m working on my first official tape. It’s gonna be Nina Tech at a better level. Still me on the same shit, but also I want to be a bit more conscious about the things that I say. I want to use the influence that I have to be a little more positive–not no bitch ass shit, though.
Do you feel like being a female in rap makes you more susceptible to being boxed in?
I feel like it definitely does. Female rappers get pitted against each other more. Also, male rappers and female rappers I feel aren’t even seen as on the same level sometimes. It takes a lot for females to be respected by their peers, especially when a lot of people will take advantage of someone trying to make it. I can come just as hard as whoever, and imma do me and be myself.