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Nova, winner of the 2020 Scottish Album of the Year Award: Glasgow Walking Tour Blog

Leith-based musician Shaheeda Sinckler is the creative force behind an unholy trinity of incarnations – she operates seamlessly as Nova the rapper, DJ Scotia and producer Nova Scotia the Truth. Like many outside of the Scottish hip-hop scene, we at Glasgow Music City Tours were unfamiliar with Sinckler’s music before she was nominated for – and subsequently won – the 2020 Scottish Album of the Year Award for Re-Up, her debut album as rapper Nova.

a person sitting on a bed

Photographer Drew Barnes

The youngest winner of the SAY to date, she grew up in London before moving to Edinburgh at the age of eight. Both her parents and her step-dad have musical backgrounds but it wasn’t until Sinckler moved to Glasgow that she began pursuing her own musical career.

She is now back in Edinburgh studying an HND in sound production, toying with the idea of singing lessons and adding some dance moves to her already considerable portfolio of talents.

In the bag for 2021, she has a new video for her self-produced track Got to Go, a UK drill-inspired track, Feathers, recorded in collaboration with Aberdeen-based producer Louis Sievwright and is working on a melodic project with Glasgow producer $1000 Wallet. Once that is completed, she will begin the follow-up to Re-Up, working with Scottish-based producers and guest vocalists.

Somewhere in this flurry of activity, we managed to bag some time via Zoom to look back and forward with this rising star. Here is the super Nova…

…on winning the SAY Award

I found out I was on the longlist in September and that was a nice surprise but after that I was a bit of a wreck because I didn’t know if I was going to make it through to the shortlist. The pressure of it all was a lot to take in but then I got the email to say I’d made it and after that I thought ‘wow, I could really win this’. Winning was very surreal. The week before I tested positive for Covid and couldn’t attend. I had the ceremony on my screen but it was a big official set-up on stage and it was just me in my bedroom on the other side.

On her musical background

My parents were involved in the hip-hop scene in London in the 80s and 90s when it first came from across the pond, so they were friends with breakdancers and MCs and artists and DJs. There’s always been music in my house, apart from when I was very little because my parents and my stepdad are Muslims so sometimes when I was little they were stricter with their faith and they were more closed off from music with vulgar lyrics, but as I grew up it became more open.

On getting her start in Glasgow

When I moved to Glasgow I became more involved in the visual arts scene. I moved there to go to uni but it wasn’t right for me. I got distracted by the creative scene so I started doing that, and through Glasgow creative culture I became closer to music because we were doing music events to raise money and I was getting opportunities through that.

Within a few months of uploading my first song I’d been given a paid gig by the person who is now my manager. I was unemployed at the time and didn’t have a lot of money coming in apart from benefits, so getting a paid gig was like ‘yeah, we’re doing this’ even though I was a complete novice and didn’t know what I was doing.

On producing herself

I want to have the option to work myself, and it’s good to have more knowledge about the process of making and recording music. Before I went to college, I thought the producer was just the person who made the beat but now I’m learning that a producer makes a lot of creative decisions about the way vocals are layered and the effects that are put on them, so I’ve been making a lot more decisions in terms of arrangement, effects and mixing directly through knowledge that I’ve gained at college.

On female MCs

It’s a bit harder for women coming up because we are coming up against that idea that we are trophies, pretty faces and stuff like that. But there’s been a number of artists I’ve found inspiring from Nicki Minaj to smaller artists I’ve found on the internet so the climate is becoming more open to female MCs in hip-hop which is something I just love. In some cases I prefer it because it’s more relatable isn’t it? But there’s still definitely a culture of casting much more doubt on a woman that’s rapping than a man. A lot of the audience has to be really convinced that it’s good before they will openly support it.

On lockdown

I’m struggling with it. The first lockdown was okay for me. I live with my family so I don’t feel too isolated, it just slowed things down a bit which is okay. But going into the second lockdown and winning the award and not being able to do gigs, it’s tough. Because the end is not in sight – we don’t know when gigs are gonna come back. I’m just really hoping that gigs will return in some shape or form because that’s a serious source of income for most musicians.