• Ashley Raymond

NCognita Unveiled: The New Voice of Raedio

Stepping into this industry requires a few things: tough skin, a strong intuition, and a solid team. Most importantly, it requires a willingness to play. Everything listed here is interconnected and affects the ways we perceive and consume Hip Hop as a genre and as a culture. During her NewsOne Now interview in 2017, Issa Rae recounted an extremely vital lesson she learned during her journey creating Insecure—network across—aka put the homies on with you. Rae encouraged us to stay open in the spaces we occupy and see “who’s in the trenches with you…who’s as hungry as you”. She put this lesson into practice and planted her own seeds which grew to bear a plethora of fruit. Rae intentionally amplified Black creators throughout Insecure and continued to do so after the season finale inking deals with media and music conglomerates alike.

She moved forward onto Raedio, a label she founded in 2019 with Atlantic Records to provide a space for artists to truly develop their works and to provide opportunities for growth. Rae started at home in California to scout for artists bubbling up in the underground and independent scene. Staying true to networking across, her latest signee is NCognita. The 21 year old is from South Central LA and is currently finishing up school at Loyola University in New Orleans. We took a visit to campus and spoke with her about her start in music and her experiences navigating this new level of artistry.

NCognita integrating into Hip Hop and embodying what it means to be a rapper appears destined. She recalls being deeply involved in her community, performing, and becoming a resource to those around her. Her roots started in church, as with many Black artists, and expanded into poetry, spoken word, and theater. Experience shapes creation and NCognita’s presence in her craft and in her community are present in her sound and her performance as a rapper. In the thoroughly documented and historically disappointing politics of Hip Hop, female artists are left with minimal support and development. Often, there are swarms of predatory men and enabling women who do their best to reduce women down to their bodies and to uproot their artists’ uniqueness. These labels eventually grind their female artists to dust by projecting a persona onto them and prioritizing their power over advocating for the best interest of their artist.

Again, we’re witnessing networking across in real time and that intentionality is not lost on NCognita. Her upbringing and artistic trajectory kept her aligned with her vision and swiftly placed her on Rae’s radar. She recognizes the importance of having authentic support where your humanity is acknowledged and where your work is respected and developed. For her, it simply isn’t about the optics of representation but the actual embodiment of it. Signing to a Black woman-ran label that was started with the mission to curate and provide opportunities and space for artists who look like her is the ideal space to occupy.

For NCognita, it’s truly up from here. She understands who she is presently as an artist but she also doesn’t restrict herself from transformation and growth. As overwhelming as it is to be a full time student on the cusp of two life changing events, she is prepared. The energy she exudes is confident yet sanguine as she preps for this new avenue on her journey with excitement. Her optimism is refreshing and it’s quite clear that she has incredible faith in herself and in her team. Make sure to check out NCognita’s full interview and freestyle here at Bars On I-95.