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Nappy Girl: ‘Relationship Be Like’ was a big turnaround for me
While she loved music since she was a child, Daniella Napoleon, 23, never thought she’d make it a career. But a chance studio session in 2015 changed that. Currently out with her debut EP, BBL808, Nappy Girl as Daniella is now known prides herself as a rapper, singer and songwriter, and has featured the likes of Larry Gaga, Magnito and others. She tells JOE AGBRO JR. about growing up, her entry into music and approach to life.
She made fame when she began starring as Nappy Girl in an online rap series with Magnito. But Daniella Napoleon’s story started in Warri, Delta State where she was born and spent her childhood years as the third born in a family of eight children. Her dad died when she was one year old, leaving her mother to cater for the whole family. And aside maintaining a regular job, her mother did supplies and also offered catering services and ensured the children got the best of education.
Attending Seat of Wisdom College, one of the best secondary schools in Warri, Nappy Girl proceeded to University of Port Harcourt to study Linguistics and Communication Studies but eventually switched to the University of Benin where she was primed to study Law but ended up studying International Studies and Diplomacy.
Her mum had thought she would study music because of her love for music as a child.
In 2015, while in her final year in University of Benin, she visited a friend in Lagos. On the urging of her friend to check out a studio in the friend’s house, she met a producer, Baller Tosh, and an artiste in a session. The producer asked her to do a freestyle and she dropped a hook. Baller Tosh was impressed and told her to come back later to sing on a beat. The next day, she dropped by the studio again and got to work on her first cover, ‘B*tvch Better Have My Money’ by Rihanna.
“It was good and he (producer) liked it,” she said.
She recorded other songs and went back to school, playing the new music she recorded all the time. Already working on her final year project, Nappy Girl was wondering what next to do. In school, she had dabbled into odd jobs like catering and buying and selling to make ends meet.
“When I was in school, I made sure I wasn’t asking my mother for money because she had plenty other people to take care of.”
Life after school
After university, she took a one-month break and came to Lagos where she got her first gig with comedian Ushbebe whom she had met two years earlier. She worked with Ushbebe in Port Harcourt, Rivers, covering a red carpet of a show. She was into logistic and planning for shows as well as working as a creative director for content. That job provided a door into the showbiz world. The office also had a studio and Nappy Girl had access to it.
In November 2015, she settled fully into the Lagos life but was clueless on how to further her music career. However, she believed that if she could find Baller Tosh, the producer that she first worked with, she’d be alright. It would take over a year before they met again in December 2016.
In 2017, she set up Lumberjack Entertainment, a record label to push her music and got herself a studio.
“Most of the people I met while I was working in the studio were not even the slightest bit interested in my music,” she said.
“They were all trying to convince me to do pop music. The moment I’m signed to a label that is funding everything for me, it means they control what I put out and I feel like I might end up losing myself”
She is aware of the limitations but she’s “not shying from any contract” yet.
Berthing the bad B*tvch
In February 2017, Nappy Girl also started her business, Delphine Beauty, selling hair and eye lashes. It was a scheme to be able to fund her music. Presently, the business, located in Lekki, Lagos, has transformed to include a beauty parlour, spa and barber shop.
However, balancing her business and art was tough but she trudged on and continued both.
In June 2018, she met fellow artiste Larry Gaga, who advised her on the way to go.
“He told me, don’t just put out songs,” she said of Larry Gaga.
“Put out songs that in 10 years’ time, you can be proud of. There’s no formula to blowing. Just put out songs and let people hear and let the people be the ones to decide what is good for them.”
She listened to his advice and her debut EP, ‘BBL808’ (Bad Bitches Love 808) which has eight tracks (Envy, Rain on You, Hustler, Gang Gang, Bless You, Yeba, Boss B*tvch and Paper) was eventually released in December 2019. The EP was produced by Wizzypro, Dwillsharmony, Beatsbykarma and Baller Tosh.
According to Nappy Girl, she has an alter ego “which is in control of everything around her. That person is a bad b*tvch. And most of the songs on the project, aside from ‘Envy’, show this bad b*tvch personality.”
This persona goes beyond just her music as she interprets bad b*tvches to be women that are good at anything they do.
“I’m a bad b*tvch,” she said, just as she lists other successful women as the same.
“It may not be the appropriate word for society to categorise the personality behind them but to me, it makes them a bad b*tvch.”
While the word bitch might not augur well with many in conservative Nigeria, Nappy Girl is not bothered.
“Music is never to make anybody comfortable,” she said.
“As an artiste, I make my music. All my songs that you see there, they come from a place, a mood, or are triggered by a sound. So, I don’t control what comes out. I’m trying to build a global brand for myself. I have people in South Africa, I have people in Dubai, I have people in the US that message me because of my music. I’m not promoting it. I don’t know how they get it but it’s travelling.
“My music, I’m not doing it for people that don’t like it. I’m doing it for people that like it, that want to hear this kind of music. So, the audience for this is there. In this society, there is hypocrisy.”
And she says: “808 is a kick. Any producer that hears this title knows what it means. But the project is for everybody. All the songs on the project have 808 kick in them. So, 808 is that drop in a beat that makes you want to move.”
Asked for her favourite song on the EP and she promptly replies ‘Hustler’. Perhaps, given her challenging upbringing, this is not surprising.
“Yes, I’m a hustler. I wake up every day and I hustle and I count my pennies and I’m stacking them. I grew up with a mother who is a hustler.”
From Dani to Nappy Girl
Prior to being known as Nappy Girl, she went by the stage Dani and released ‘Disiko’ and ‘On Me’. However, meeting and partnering with Magnito on an online rap series titled ‘Relationship Be Like’ changed all that.
“That project for me was like compensation for not bringing my project the in 2018,” said Nappy Girl, who played the scandalous and troublesome wife of Magnito.
She revealed that when they started recording in 2018, she was just recovering from a surgery. And after putting out the first episode, people loved it.
“It (Relationship Be Like) symbolised a major turnaround for my career,”said Nappy Girl.
“That’s even how my brand name changed from Dani to Nappy Girl. Magnito calls me Nappy Girl. He’s never called me Dani. So, anytime he’s writing in the conversation, he refers to me as Nappy Girl in the series. So, people started to recognise me more as Nappy Girl than they ever did as Dani. I was now in a conflict of identity. My music was getting airplay but my fans didn’t know it was me.”
The series was a hit and featured big wigs like Don Jazzy, Basket Mouth, Don Jazzy, Richard Mofe Damijo, Larry Gaga, Falz the Bahd guy, Lasisi Elenu, Alex Unusual, Ice Prince Zamani, Josh 2 funny and Dj Neptune.
Hence, with everyone calling her Nappy Girl, she felt a name-change was wise.
“It kind of encouraged me to put out this project. I saw how receptive Nigerians were about the whole rap thing on that platform.”
Though the online rap series is still on, Nappy Girl on the series in currently in jail.
And while she trusts her acting skills, Nappy Girl will only consider acting if it pushes her music.
“For now, if there is another musical series, even if it’s not rap, I will be interested in it. If it’s just a small role in a movie that depicts me to something that is still close to my personality, I will opt for it. But I don’t want to be an actress. I’m very okay with my music. I want to be on the music scene.”
Nappy Girl: ‘Relationship Be Like’ was a big turnaround for me