It took a few months but Princess Vitarah's parents finally saw the video for her bouncy March single, "Nigerian P**sy." The visuals are tame and typically L.A. — highly saturated shots of palm trees and homies — in comparison to Vitarah's lyrics that describe, in detail, the various shades, textures, and hydration levels of the vagina. It's explicit, sure, and Vitarah said that her parents were displeased but not entirely discouraging. Taken another way, "Nigerian P**sy" is also how women of a certain age — delighting at coming into their sexuality — talk about their bodies with their friends. And, as Vitarah notes as we talk in the lobby of her Montreal hotel, it's certainly no different from how men mythologize their dicks. Think of it as, like, the soundtrack to Broad City 'Uncut' but with a Nigeria-raised rapper as one of the leads.
Vitarah was far from her home city of Los Angeles, to open for D.R.A.M. at POP Montreal — a festival that remains one of Canada's most delightfully weird musical experiences — with Shad Mueller and Retro is Human. She talked about finding inspiration in 50 Cent's tough-talk, changing the perceptions of women, and challenging Nigerian listening habits.
You were born in L.A. but moved to Nigeria when you were young. What was that like?
It was so different. I moved around a lot when I was younger just because of what my parents do. Sometimes it wasn’t fun having to always make new friends and give up [on friends] to start all over again. Making friends was easy or hard, depending on how late into the school year it was. Sometimes, everybody already had their cliques and were like, ‘Who’s this new girl?’ I think that’s where my confidence comes from though.
What was the first music you were drawn to?
Probably Kanye, he’s my favorite rapper. I was little when he came out, so I loved “Flashing Lights” and… oh, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” — that was my theme song growing up! I always wanted to perform. When I was little I used to take my teddy bears and line them up and perform to them and sing Rihanna songs and rap like Nicki Minaj. But, I’m also a big fan of 50 Cent and G Unit. I like what they do with music, and 50 Cent is so playful even though he does a lot on social media. He came for everyone in the game. That was his angle, which is smart.
That’s interesting that you named both of those rappers because they truly live by their own rules.
They don’t give a fuck, right? I’ve always been like that. I actually just wrote a song two days ago called “I Don’t Give a Fuck” and I’m gonna perform it tonight.
What was it like to have a song go viral in Nigeria, after you’re back living in L.A.?
It was good, but kind of weird because so many people wanted to book me for shows over there. It made waves in L.A. too, like Perez Hilton found it and put it on his blog. It’s pretty dope to have two different fan bases, because the more audiences you can reach the better. It’s cool to have your music be so huge in different countries and you’re not even there. We’ve seen that happen so many times. Azealia Banks, for example. “212” was huge in Europe but New York wasn’t bumping it as hard as Europeans were. I think artists shouldn’t just focus on America: there are so many markets out there. Take what comes to you. And if America is your end goal, keep that in mind, but don’t just say you only want to go for that one thing.
I want girls to be listening to the radio and hear five [love songs] and then at least one boss bitch track.
Were you thinking about Nigerian audiences when you made “Nigerian P**sy” though?
I actually didn’t have that in mind. I was just tired of songs that were so serious all the time and wanted to make music that was fun. Like with love songs there is so much heartbreak and deep stuff, and there’s a trend right now to be depressed in your music — like that kind of depressing rap music. It’s okay every now and then, but sometimes you just want to laugh!
Were you nervous about putting out a song with the word “pussy” in the title?
My producer, Michael, sent me the beat and I was like, ‘this is dope!’ It’s such an infectious beat, so I started freestyling on it. And I started really naughty and thought that might be a bit too much so let me tone it down. When I rapped Nigerian pussy is the tightest my friend who was with me was like, ‘You’re going to start a war! The Nigerians and the Ghanians are going to start a war.’ So, I was like: let’s do it.
I wasn’t really scared. If I try to be someone I’m not in my music, my real self will come out eventually, or else I won’t be enjoying my music. I don’t want to get on stage and sing songs that don’t really represent me, you know? I want to enjoy my own music because if I don’t enjoy it, then no one else will.
It’s cool that people in Nigeria love it, but there are also some people who aren’t fans, right?
I think if I had been fully raised there, I would be way more conservative because Nigeria is still very conservative. It was controversial: not everyone’s a fan of it and that’s okay because that’s art. People are supposed to be polarized. I don’t want to offend anyone but at the same time I’m not going to hold back.
It’s hard for girls. [Promoters don’t] book women because they always feel that they’re not going to bring out as big as a crowd, or that guys run everything. So that’s why, as a female, I don’t have time to play games: my stuff has to be on point. Davido says stuff like that girls won’t say. Wizkid is there singing things like, ‘I want your body sleeping in my bed.’ The women — not all of them, I like Cynthia Morgan because she takes risks — won’t do it, and it’s because of how Africa is. Women are supposed to be more quiet and modest, but if that’s not going to work then you gotta do what you gotta do.
It’s important for me to make songs like “Nigerian P**sy” and “Tell Your Husband” in order to balance out all the other music in Nigeria that’s just about, Oh, I love him and I want to spend the rest of my life with him and do anything he tells me to do kind of thing. That music is beautiful, but I want girls to be listening to the radio and hear five of those songs and then at least one boss bitch track. We need some independent women anthems! There’s not a lot of that in West Africa: it’s more like shake your bum bum.
Have you performed in Nigeria yet?
I’ve been invited to but it hasn’t worked out because we haven’t reached an agreement about flying out enough people for me. I’m not going out there to sing a song like that by myself, because some bad things could happen. The laws are different. Things are just different over there. I mean, the song was banned at a point. TV and radio is heavily censored in Nigeria. And I would just be nervous about performing because it’s not America; it’s a completely different country. Laws that apply here don’t apply there. There are people who don’t like what they feel my music is promoting who may try to interfere and I need to be prepared.
I read an interview where you said your parents don’t know your music. Has that changed?
They’ve heard it now. My mom was like, ‘Can you please delete the video? Is that the name you want to give yourself? Do you want to get married? Do you want to find a husband?’ But I’m not thinking about that right now! My dad was not happy with it, but what dad would be? But he’s around a lot of kids my age so they were telling him, ‘It’s okay. She’s doing what she has to do.’ He said, ‘I talked to your cousins and they said it’s okay, so I don’t have anything to say but you know you shouldn’t be singing these kind of songs.’ My parents would let my brother do whatever he wanted and they’d always say to me, ‘you’re a girl.’What the fuck does that mean? But that pushes me and makes me want to show that girls can do what they need to do and what they want to do.