Nia Kay has come a long way since her appearance on The Rap Game, the same music competition show that got Latto on and poppin’. Proudly hailing from Chicago, songwriter, rapper, actress, and social media personality is best known for her lyricism and freestyle ability, boasting 1.5 million followers on Instagram alone.

Nia Kay describes herself as a “black powerful woman, someone who’s true to themselves.” She adds, “Me and my music stand for empowerment and staying true to who you are. Because the type of music I make is not as accepted with so many bars and so many punchlines, people have to think so much. But when it comes to me, I follow my heart and do what God made me to do.”

And on the heels of her standout appearance at Essence Festival, Nia Kay returns with her newest single “Yeah Hoe,” inspired directly by the legendary Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia. Directed by Nicky Films (Kevin Gates), the cinematic visual sees Nia in her purest form, boasting bright, radiant looks while talking her shit. Her confidence is an inspiration to females all around the world that they too can achieve their wildest dreams.

First question for those of you who don’t know, who is Nia Kay? 

Someone who’s true to themselves. Me and my music stand for empowerment and staying true to who you are. Because the type of music I make is not as accepted with so many bars and so many punchlines, people have to think so much. But when it comes to me, I follow my heart and do what God made for me to do. So if I could describe me, I’d describe a black powerful woman.  

Talk about your roots in Chicago. What does the city mean to you? 

Growing up in Chicago is definitely different. It definitely builds us to be different because I’ve traveled to different cities and so many different places, a lot of the people are different from how we are in Chicago. It’ll automatically turn me off because in Chicago, it’s such a hard city. Everyone’s in it for themselves. People usually have their friends from when they were little because we don’t trust, we’re not really easy-going. Even with my music, it’s in your face. It’s direct because that’s how you have to be to get out of Chicago.

Who are your biggest influences? Who made you want to do music? 

My parents, because my dad always did music and my uncles. My mom when she had me, she was pregnant up until she was 9 months performing and singing. I was always surrounded in the environment where I felt it was always something that was meant for me. 

How did you grow your following? 

I basically was doing Instagram freestyles. I’d do the local artists in Chicago, then I’d build up to the higher artists in Chicago, then everywhere. Everybody was posting me. Before I got on the show, a lot of people were already reposting my freestyles because I was doing it so consistently. After I got off the show, the consistency turned into something great. I was still being so consistent and I was getting so many mainstream artists to repost me, so every challenge going on Instagram I was doing.

How was your time on the show The Rap Game? 

It was super dope. Before my season, me and my daddy went out to Atlanta. Latto was the only person who had given us the inside scoop on what’s going on. Me and Latto were the closest before my season had started, she was the only one I knew. Shout out to Latto, we’re still cool till this day. The Rap Game was definitely a challenge in real life. Because the music was easy, but they tried to bring so much drama. We were so young back then. It was so much political stuff, that was the only thing I was not prepared for. I’ve never done any TV things so I’m going in there thinking we’re just strictly talent, but there was a lot that played into it.

What inspired you to sample such an iconic song to create ‘Yeah Hoe’?

Really, it was my dad. I’m not going to lie. He heard the beat first and said “Nia, you have to do something to this beat.” I’m like “what’s so special about it?” At first, I didn’t know. Then he played the song for me and showed me where the sample came from, I’m like “omg, that’s so dope.” It’s actually my dad on the song saying “Yeah Hoe.” We just recreated it, had him say it, and put it in a different voice. [laughs] It was a great moment for sure.

What’s your love for the West Coast?

I’ve always said since I was young that Cali was my dream to move. Anytime they say “we are about to go to Cali for a video or anything,” come on! We gone. The videographer I was shooting with, he has a lot of things based in LA too where it’d be easy to make the video come together. With the type of song, how fun and uptempo it is, it needed a bright scenery, something beautiful to make everything match. 

I love your looks in the video, do you do your own styling? 

No I don’t. I never do my own styling. People always say “I style myself. I don’t want other people to do it because they don’t know how I want to look.” I’m easy-going with everything. Hair, makeup, nails, clothes: as long as it looks nice, I’ma do it. People who work for me, they love that because a lot of people are scared to do new hairstyles or looks. I’m not scared to do anything, I’ll do everything. 

How would you describe your fashion sense?

My fashion is really both sexy and covered. I’m the type that I’ll show a little bit, but I don’t go all out. On a regular everyday, I’m a real chill person. I don’t like to do too much, and dress up everyday. You know how some girls go out of the house, they got their face and eyebrows and everything put on? I’m a real chill person. If you see me in public, you’ll feel comfortable to come up to me. When it comes to online and how I portray myself with my fans, I just go off the mood, the day. I always stay true to myself. 

How was the Essence Festival? 

The Essence Festival was lit. That was my first time going and they had Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj. They had everybody this year. This is the first year they started back. They took a two year break, so it was super packed out. I was there for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes), I’m a brand ambassador for them. I’ve had type 1 diabetes since I was two, now I’m partnered with them. We went to Essence Festival with them to really give awareness. They had posters, gift bags, all that to bring awareness so that people can get tested for diabetes. It was super fun, I was working while having fun. 

How was it being on The Chi? What was your reaction? 

It was so dope, that was so fun. I wish I can do it again and again. The Chi was so fun, the cast was so dope. I was there all day. All the producers, the people who wrote the show kept coming up to me asking where they found me. “Omg, you did so good.” I left feeling so good, because I know I snapped. So many people on Instagram and TikTok flooded my comments asking if it was me on The Chi. I got to write my own lyrics, so that was the best part to me. 

How did it feel to have your own menu in the city too? 

Having my own item on the menu at Chicken & Waffles is a huge accomplishment. I’m a pescatarian, so the items that we have are Buffalo Catfish Strips. I’ve never seen this anywhere, this is my first time ever tasting since I’ve been a pescatarian. They are so good, it reminds me of buffalo wings. Since I can’t have that anymore, to be able to have an item under me that’s pescatarian is great. Because people who are pescatarians, now they can have something that’s still very good. 

Best encounter you had with a fan?

When I was about 14, I was at a show. I filmed a video, I gotta find it somewhere. The girl was balling out. She almost had a panic attack. It was bad, but it was sweet too. She was going really hard and I didn’t know what to do. Omg, don’t cry! It was so awkward. You’re crying because I’m here, but you’re overworking yourself. I didn’t know what to do. [laughs] That’s probably the craziest, when fans go crazy and they have access to you. You can hug them, you’re like “what do I do?”

What can we expect next? What are you most excited for? 

My music career in general. I haven’t been doing as many freestyle videos because I’m trying to perfect my craft with the music, so more of my songs can be more global. Because all of my freestyles have gone viral. Now, I’m looking to translate that into my songs and get people to hear what I’m talking about and accept it more. That’s really it, because I don’t want to be underrated. I want to be able to be to my full potential, which I know that I can be. I’m ready to keep putting it in their faces, keep dropping, and showing them what I’m made of.

Photo Credits: Briahna Gatlin