Natia The God is the best rapper you’ve never heard.
Natia the God is the kind of artist that you’re mad no one told you about. Though his social following only just scrapes into the thousands, he possesses bars rawer than some of the finest nineties MCs. The first time I heard him was in August 2015, two weeks after the visuals were released for his sing-songy anthem to living badly, ‘The Wrong Way’. I wasn’t just mad I was two weeks late, I was furious because the song itself was released in 2014.
An instantly recognisable character, Natia’s attire is likely to be the first thing about him that catches your eye. The 23 year old rapper is always freshly dressed in vintage labels that even the most dedicated collectors struggle to find. His social networks and music videos show him rocking monogram Louis Vuitton jackets, reversible DKNY coats and spray painted Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirts. Beyond the impressive garms, it’s also his boyish good looks and gently sung melodies that make him stand out from a sea of MCs.
The skateboarding, gang-banging lyricist was raised in Inglewood, California, home to several rappers but none that he cares for, besides best friends and collaborators Crunch aka Escobar Rich and Love. Both appear on his EP, ‘Newport Diaries’, which features his biggest song so far, ‘The Wrong Way’. The video opens with Escobar Rich dressed in eye-catching Tommy Hilfiger, rapping his verse from another track on the EP, ‘Stop Calling’.
In addition to ‘Newport Diaries’, previous projects include the mixtape, ‘Worthless Treasure’, released when he was 19 and ‘Lost Tapes: Concrete Pillows’, a collection of songs recorded between the ages of 17 and 21. ‘The Lost Tapes’ acts as a musical diary of his experiences falling out with his family and being kicked out of his mother’s house. Detailing episodes of sleeping rough, he loves the metaphor within the title, “Concrete Pillows, damn that shit is tight.” Though this is his latest release, the tape contains some of his earliest recordings and the songs on this project in particular are very special to him. “They’re all personal and I selectively picked every song to be like, ‘OK this can come out’. I got a bunch of them in my arsenal still, too many songs, but people are gonna have to wait for that shit.”
He reveals plans to avoid releasing more projects for free, saying, “I don’t think I’m gonna put another mixtape out, I don’t wanna give anything out for free anymore unless it’s gonna be something ridiculously big. But these three projects are cool, I like the second one, Newport Diaries.” Since ‘Newport Diaries’, he’s released a couple of loose tracks including ‘Brain Damagers’ and ‘The Greatest’. On his latest release, ‘Meth’, he spits, “Asking Morpheus for more morphine to morph into some form of fresh,” with the ferocity that is usually followed by a chant of “oooohs” during rap battles.
Natia, christened Natia Happy Maluia, was born to an African American mother and Samoan father. I ask why he chose to rap by his real, incredibly unique, name. “Because that’s the only time I can use my real name [laughs]. In any aspect of life that’s the only time I can use my real name.” When I joke it’s lucky nobody else had taken the name he replies, “Yeah, what other nigga is gonna be called Natia? A nigga?” as he goes on to explain that Natia is a girl’s name in Samoa.
His middle name, ‘Happy’, one that you’re not likely to see on another rapper’s birth certificate, he shares with his father. “Yeah this shit is funny, that’s my dad’s first name. He’s happy that Happy is my middle name like, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’. My mum’s black, my dad’s Samoan.” Los Angeles’ Samoan culture runs deep, with rap group Boo Yaa Tribe releasing music decades before Natia. When I mention them, it turns out they’re not that far removed from his life, “Yeah the Boo Yaa Tribe, my dad knows some of them! They’re hard.”
Growing up, a young Natia began writing rhymes after being inspired by Eminem. The influence can be seen in how intricate his lyrics are. “Yeah, I read this book called Angry Blonde that has all his written [lyrics] in there and then he talks about them. I was like ‘This shit hard’, but you can’t find it in bookstores no more, you can look at it online. I read that shit when it came out in fucking 2003 or something, I was like sixth grade.” When I ask when he started rapping he replies, “Sixth grade [laughs]. That shit inspired me, like ‘Damn this shit easy’! Like he’s basically talking to you but it happen to rhyme. It’s a trip.”
Many of Natia’s early releases sound reminiscent of Marshall Mathers’ impressive run from 1999-2001. By bringing back that classic sound, he embodies the last good years of hip hop before the era of ringtone rap and tweef. Eminem isn’t the only legend that’s inspired him, as he reveals he’s trying to do what 2Pac did, not musically but as a public figure. It’s interesting 2Pac comes up, as the rapper, poet and actor claimed the West Coast despite his bicoastal, gypsy upbringing. In a similar way, Natia is West Coast raised but at times sounds East Coast in flow.
The East Coast inspiration in his flow comes from the rap artists he listened to growing up, who were predominantly from New York. “I listened to a lot of Wu Tang, Big L and Afu-Ra and all this East Coast shit. So that’s probably why everything came from that shit, when I was a kid. Wu Tang period, like Raekwon, Ghostface and Method Man, even Redman, all them niggas. Redman not even in the WuTang but he sound hard though.”