A few weeks ago, I visited Chicago for my Young People For Regional Training. The experience allowed me to meet some amazing young folks involved in an array of progressive movements, one of which was Brittany Smith. The Columbus, Ohio native, now Chicagoan, has had a love for music and the arts for as long as she could remember. New to the music scene, the 22 year old songtress in making a name for herself in the Windy City through both her music and advocacy. I was able to sit down with Brittany to get a glimpse into her musical world and hear why people are digging this new school Queen of Soul.
How did you get your name?
My stage name is Brittany Nacocain and my real name is Brittany Nacole Smith. Since my Nacole is spelled with an A, I took that “Le” off and added “Cain”. Reason being, it’s an attention grabber. When people see my name they’re going to think I’m talking about some crazy stuff (or other things that people talk about nowadays) and want to listen. But when they play my music, they’ll be like, “Dang, she actually talking about some real stuff.” So it’s just an attention grabber.
What got you into music?
I just love to sing. I’ve been doing music forever. I come from an artistic background and I used to want to be a painter since my granddad paints and does music. Growing up around my granddad and seeing him do all of his art and music, it just grew on me. When I was little, my favorite CD was Destiny’s Child Writing on the Wall (laughs) and I used to sing along with that in the mirror and make up my own music videos up and stuff. Since then, it just grew and grew and into a deeper passion and I started listening to better artists. Well, nothing against Destiny’s Child, but I discovered a lot more artists.
My favorite artist of all time is Erykah Badu. I love that woman. I saw her last year in concert, and she crowd surfed. Yo, I touched her freaking waist! The feeling I left with after the concert just made me want to go home and write. And that lasted for weeks! I was like, “Dang, Erykah Badu really left something on me.” But another favorite of mine is Corrine Bailey Rae. I’m also feeling SZA right now. She’s such an awesome person. I actually met her last week at Pitchfork, which is like a small music festival here in Chicago. I also met Isaiah Rashad there too.
What?! You met all of them in one setting?! You’re so cultured! How would you describe Chicago’s music scene?
You know what; Chicago has such a dope music scene. I’m originally from Lima, Ohio which is like a small town where everyone knows everyone, then I moved with my mom to Columbus when I was a teenager. Ohio has a decent music scene, but no one hardly pays attention to Ohio. I moved to Chicago for college, and stayed here after I realized I wanted to focus on my music. Since then, I’ve met so many amazing artists.
That’s great. I feel it’s so important to have a base. Especially with you being so far away from home. It’s good to hear that even though you don’t have family here, you still have people around you that share the same passions and that’s close enough.
Yes, exactly. I can’t really explain it, but the support is overwhelming. Like I told you, I had a show last night, which was only my second show since I started dropping my music. I was doing background vocals for artists that I knew for a while, so this was my first time doing my own music by myself. Last night when I performed, I wasn’t even nervous; I just did it. And all the love that I received afterwards was crazy. People were trying to connect with me, collaborate, and network; I just thought it was so awesome how everyone was accepting my music. It really means a lot when you love something and you’ve put so much work into it and people show love. It really means a lot.
I definitely agree. If you could, how would you describe your sound?
I think my sound is a mix of everything. It’s a blend of old school, 90’s hip-hop with neo-soul, and a bit of futuristic soul as well. I get compared to Erykah Badu sometimes which is a huge compliment.
What’s that general theme or feeling that you want people to get from your music?
Realness. I want people to listen to my music and be like, “This is some real stuff’,” so they can relate to it. Realness and honesty is all I want them to get.
I know you do work with Art and Advocacy. Could you go more into detail about what you’ve done and how you got involved?
I got really involved when I moved to Chicago. I did a lot of work with the “Fight For 15” campaign to help raise minimum wage and was able to meet a lot of families and people in the communities. I want to work with black and brown kids to present a more positive message, to show them that they don’t have to live out the images that are portrayed in the media; because that’s not us, we’re more than that. I want to help open doors for kids of color and to lower that violence rate, especially in Chicago because it’s terrible.
When I was young, I had my own insecurities. The kids used to call me “Dark Vader” and I used to buy lightening creams. I’m just now starting to embrace my hair, since I used to want to straighten my hair all the time. But now that I’m older, I realize that I am beautiful and I want to be able to tell young girls of color that they are too; just the way they are and that they don’t have to have straight hair or be super light-skinned, or walk around objectifying themselves.
If you could give advice to someone who is getting a start into music, art, or advocacy, what would that be?
Whatever you love, just do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Don’t get caught up in what people tell you that you need to do. Do what you want to do. Live your life, and learn new things. I always like to say, “Live, Learn, and Create.” Live, learn something, and create from the thing that you’ve learned.
Stay connected with Brittany’s music on her Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/brittany-nacocain and Instagram: @brittany_nacocain. feel free to tell me what you think and if you dig it, which I’m sure you will, comment below and share it!
You’ve just been served.