Tonight, at Downtown Music, 10 p.m., $10, Nina James
, the NLR rapper formerly known as XXzotic, makes her return to the stage. Suga City
open. Loads of people are coming. Below is some bonus Qs and As from a feature
on Nina and the show that's in this week's paper.
Where you been gone so long?
I wouldn't say gone. Just the two years that I was signed to Next Page, I completed an album. Since things didn't work out between us, I didn't release it. So that made me go back to the drawing board to make new music. Just to kind of keep peace. I copywrote it. So I have the rights, but at the same time, I don't want to step on any toes. So it's like damn, I gotta go back to the drawing board to make a whole new album when I had one completed.
So after all that work you put into it, you don't want to step on any toes?
Lord knows I wanted to release it. I was going to, but then I thought about it and said, Why not just make something new. So can't nobody get nothing from it. I don't have to worry about ifs and ands if I go to the right. But if I go to the left, I know there's a possibility, knowing that he [Naim Page of Next Page] did put money into it, with the features and all that. I just said, ‘Lemme just let it be.’ I was willing to release the album with Page, but if there was going to be a negative vibe in the mix, I didn't want to mess with it.
So why didn't it work out?
I didn't walk away. Just put it like that. I really don't like to talk about it.
Tell me about the name change.
Nina James. I said, Ok, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, even when you want to consider the new class, Alicia Keys—names that last forever. I need something that I can speak, when someone say what's your name, I can say Nina James without kind of shrugging my shoulders, like, XXzotic, knowing that there first thought gonna be, oh she's talking about some pussy or sex. You know what I'm saying. I'm tired of that. I'm another person. I've grown mentally. I'm someone else. I'll never deny or act like I'm bigger than who I was, but I am. I don't want that on me. I need a fresh clean slate, and I thought long and hard about the name. I love it, I like the way it rings, and I'm gonna run with it.
So does the name change come with a new musical direction?
Nina is a producer. I produce now. I'm pretty much in control of my whole sign. In terms of musical direction, I'm way more positive. I realize as an artist, I have a major impact. As far as what I'm putting out there, I want to feel good about it. I want to be able to help somebody, or if a young girl is listening to me, I don't want to lead her in the wrong direction. You know been there done that, but ok, this is where it took me to. Just way more positive. I found out, when I went and Googled myself, I said, ‘Wow, people look at me as pornographic, and that's not what I meant to be. That's not what I was going for. I was like, ‘OK, I want to be the bitch that somebody look at and say, "Hey, I could marry her, not "I just want to fuck her."’ If I want to change the whole outlook on how I want people to view me, I have to change what I'm putting out there. So does that mean you’re not doing you’re old hits?
Um, I can say what I will do. Don't get me wrong. It's still bumping, it's still raw. It ain't so vulgar. I had to find the balance between that girl and the new mindset. Try to find a fine line in between it without changing myself totally. Nobody really realizes on the other side of things — me, what I've been going through. What should people expect on Friday?
This show is going to be a lot more personal. Meaning, most of my shows, from beginning to end, I don't really talk. I don't really do a lot of interacting. It's gonna be a lot more of that. Even thought I'm a great performer, I used to be stuck in performance zone. I couldn't find a balance. And now I have a want to talk and interact. You know, just, it's more personal. I hate that over the years, I've deprived people from getting to know me.