nnena adigwe interview


photo: banvoa, model: nnena adigwe

Nnena Adigwe is an up-and-coming Nigerian American neo-soul artist who performed on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” and had her music featured on the hit HBO Max series “Insecure.” Adigwe lets A Magazine in on the story behind her music and her success.

How long have you been in the music industry and when did you really start hitting it off?

I’ve been in it for six years. Last year towards November or December I got recognized through Issa Rae. Yeah, Issa is so amazing she actually means it when she says that she’s all about Black people.

How did you meet Issa Rae [creator and star of HBO Max’s “Insecure”]?

It was a music camp with other creators and I was just happy to be there. After performing my music she took a liking to me. They called me back the second time around. I didn’t really think I did as much but I did enough and then they chose me to be featured on “Insecure.”

What is your school background and did you leave school to pursue music?

Bachelor in Science for Rehabilitation, at HBC Wilberforce University. Which was the first Black HBCU. I almost went to Kent, but I didn’t want to go to the same college as my sisters. Getting my degree was always the plan so I could kinda have a back-up.

How long were you thinking about pursuing this path before taking action?

Towards my junior year of my college year I was doing basketball and I had complications with someone that led me to drop basketball. At the time I was doing skits and I got an offer from Netflix to do skits. After writing out the play and script I had to add music. To get music rights is very expensive so I decided to record my own for the skit. The song I recorded was what I used as a reference for when I was calling in people and a lot of people were really loving it and I thought, “Man I can really do this.”

Were you worried about the perception of the Nigerian community, specifically how your parents would react?

I don’t give a fuck about the community. I cared a little, but I saw what it is like to see people living for others and I didn’t want that for myself. My degree was the last thing I did for my parents just so that they could see I had a back-up plan.

What did they say to you and how did the conversation go?

My mom was always supportive as long as I finished college. My dad never really understood it or cared. Even now that I’m on TV he still doesn’t get it, but they’re more on board with it.

Was there an experience you went through that made you think that you should do it?

There were a lot of experiences for me, but the two that made me realize I should do it and I could.

Realized I should – my sister bought me tickets to a SZA & Smino concert and watching ‘em perform was so magical. Seeing the way they moved the crowd and they were so natural about it. Even Smino had his leg in a cast, but he was still up there getting the crowd hype.

Realized I could – My senior year my friends made me hype the crowd and then my music was messed up but I made them restart everything. Once the show started going people were singing my song back to me and that really hit me that it was something I wanted to keep doing.

What was it like when you got signed?

I’m signed to RCA and Loud Robot. It was so surreal to realize they were trying to mess with me, especially seeing people in the industry for ten years and not get signed, but for me, it was so quick.

Now that you’re in the industry, what were the hardest things for you to face?

Maintaining my mental. No one ever tells you about things slowing down. After I got signed, no one seemed to be paying attention anymore and I wasn’t being talked about anymore. For me it was like I wasn’t doing enough.

Did you face any type of discrimination? If so, how do you continue after those situations?

Hell yeah! I’m a big girl that can sing, but I’m pretty. There’s no mold for me and that’s what I know the issue is. I’m not really the type that has been set up to be seen. The world is just going to have to get used to me.

Do you feel if you sexualized yourself more you would get more attention?

Fuck yeah, but I’m naturally sexual so it doesn’t matter. A lil ass and tittes get you somewhere, but it’s so sad cause some people don’t want to do that. I see people who want to be known for more, but they’re marketed off as sexual figures.

The thing is as a woman it is already hard because you’re labeled as crazy or angry. Men can lash out like crazy but it is OK. But I try to already let them know I don’t take disrespect.

Are there things that you feel that you can do better?

Not taking things hard so much, but you never who’s trying you. Sometimes, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I think that’s the Nigerian in me. I talk to myself a lot and I tell myself I should go harder. When it is quiet for a few days I just feel like I’m not doing enough.

What are your goals for the year?

  • Billboard entry, even if it’s the very bottom.
  • I want to tour. I want to perform a couple shows because that’s really my dream and what feels natural.
  • Shot this pilot I been recording
  • Launch my honey brand

Do you date?

No, after being hurt by this boy like four years ago I don’t really date anymore. I put a lot of my relationships on the side from not wanting to be hurt and work. Overall, it is not a necessity. I tried some dates, but I honestly couldn’t. So many people see men as providers, but now that I’m providing for myself I don’t see how it fits in.

What do you say to younger girls of color or Black girls who are thinking of entering spaces that are not known to welcome them?

Bust the damn door down! No one’s gonna welcome someone they don’t want. If you want it, you’re gonna have to make room for yourself and you don’t gotta be a bitch about it.

You shouldn’t care about others’ perception because it’ll be a dead end. Always follow your dreams even if it doesn’t make sense to others, especially your family.

Who are your inspirations in your music style?

Lauryn Hill, Bessie Smith, Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, Missy Elliot.

What would you say your music style is?

Neo-soul, but I rap too. I just do a lot, so sticking to a genre is weird too.

Who do you want to collaborate with one day and why?

Luck Daye, he is just the perfect counterpart to what I would say. I feel like he says what I would want to say if I were a guy. He’s just vulnerable and puts his heart out and that’s why women are drawn to him. 

Lauryn Hill. That wouldn’t just be for me but also for my late best friend and my inner child. We both really loved Lauryn so collaborating with her means I’m doing it for us.

 And J. Cole, ‘cause who don’t want to work with him? He’s also vulnerable like Daye.

If you were not doing this did you have a back-up plan?

Not really, maybe film but it would be harder to take off in the film, but they also link together since I direct my music video. Yeah, I don’t want to give others control of my art.

What do you want people to get from your music and you as a brand?

It’s OK to not be normal and fuck up. Be comfortable and don’t do anything like anybody else. I have my inspirations but I can’t mimic their styles. At the end of the day I’m still me.

What do you want to do with your music?

I want them to feel safe with me. That’s why I have music like my song “Tangerine Dream.” So people can be who they are truly.

As a first generation immigrant daughter, letting go of social pressure from my community is  never easy. Seeing women like Adigwe showing that it is okay to live your life the way you want brings me comfort. We are in a new era of being able to have community and being our own individual. You should not have to sacrifice one for the other.


Adigwe now is constantly in motion working on new projects. You can check in on her on Instagram @nija_gal. Go check out her music on all streaming platforms. She is truly an artist worth looking out for.


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Hi, I’m Grace Avery, the Editor In Chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.