Top Image courtesy: Lorraine O’Conner
For anyone who's been lucky enough to see the 20-year old Soca star, Nailah Blackman on stage, it's undeniable that she's heading for greater heights. The Trinidadian singer, songwriter and musician has had a phenomenal couple of years, with a string of hits including: "Sokah", "Baila Mami" and "Workout" a collaboration with Kes, that became a massive hit and propelled her into the finals of the 2017 International Soca Monarch competition. Tireless in her innovation and experimentation with the art form, she came out strong in 2018 with "O' Lawd Oye" and "Badishh", featuring the Jamaican dancehall singer, Shenseea, making her a crowd favourite on the Carnival fête circuit. Then came the BET International nomination for Viewer's Choice Best New Artist Award.
"The BET nomination came out of nowhere for me. I didn’t see it coming and I was most honoured because I had battled and I am still battling with the direction of my music, but my career is so much bigger than me. It’s Grand Shorty I’s legacy that he has unknowingly placed in my hands."
Nailah comes from a line of renowned musicians, songwriters, entertainers, starting with her grandfather, Garfield Blackman, also known as Ras Shorty I, who has been credited with developing the Soca and Chutney Soca genre. She praises her mother, Calypsonian Abbi Blackman for being a "mentor and spiritual mother", a crucial guide in a tough industry who taught her about "performance, work ethic, perseverance, commitment and sincerity". Classically trained in voice, Nailah enjoys composing music and writing lyrics, she also plays the guitar and keyboards. But it's not always been an easy road for the new artist.
"Some of the challenges of growing up in the music industry as a member of the Blackman family would have to be people's expectations of me," she explained during a break from touring. "They expect me to be exactly like my family members...Some of the advantages would have to be the immediate status I received coming out as a new artist, the support and opportunities that were opened for me with the combination of my name and hard work."
With over 25 million combined views on You Tube, she has become one of the top five most viewed artists in Trinidad and Tobago and has gained several awards throughout the Caribbean over the past year.
With her signature voice and style, Nailah's also been offered several sponsorship opportunities. Recently she's been brought on board as a 'White Oak' ambassador.
"It’s a contrasting experience to how I usually am. I get to express a lot more of my youthful side, carefree and fun. Whereas, I’m usually a lot more serious and in work mode. So I love to have that outlet to just be 20! It’s dope, LOL."