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11,217 official + unofficial events during SXSW
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avatar for Nova Rockafeller

Nova Rockafeller

Attempting to define L.A.-based emcee Nova Rockafeller is not easy. Born in Canada and raised in Jamaica, Nova is brash and aggressive but almost offputtingly adorable. She’s an independent, hardworking stoner whose true love, besides her music, is the 90s. More than anything, though, she’s just distinctly Nova. Born in Edmonton, Ontario, Nova fell in love with music at an early age but troubles at home prevented her from pursuing her passion. “My family moved me to Jamaica, where I stood out so much I had to develop a thick skin and start getting aggressive.” This aggression followed Nova into adolescence, when she was placed in group homes back in Canada. “I was a pretty bad kid,” she says of that time in her life. “You know, stealing, running away, lots of drugs and stuff. But when I was sixteen, I started getting into freestyling with my friends and I knew I needed to keep doing it.” Nova dropped out of school and moved to Toronto where she made a name for herself in the typically male-dominated battle scene. With her self-produced debut album “Insufficient Funds” and eccentric music videos, Nova became an Internet sensation, attracting attention from fans and trolls alike. But Nova isn’t worried about criticism – she’s confident about her skills. “I haven't heard anything like this,” she says of her music. Neither had Island Records, who, in partnership with Multi-Platinum songwriter Evan “Kidd” Bogart’s Boardwalk Records, recently signed Nova. To inform the new sound Nova’s going for in her music, she grabbed influences from just about everywhere, including her troubled past. Nova loves the organic feel of Canadian hip-hop and the reggae she was surrounded by growing up in Jamaica. She cites her musical influences as ranging from Busta Rhymes to Green Day, so it’s no surprise that Nova is also extremely inspired by the decade she grew up in. 90s references are all over her music, from the Nirvana-informed guitar riffs in 1990s to the aggressive, “hood rat” battle rhymes in Call Me (Batman). Perhaps most notably, however, Nova is inspired by her own anger. “I have this need to succeed at everything,” she says. “I guess it’s because I got hardcore bullied, so now my driving force is proving them all wrong. Every time I accomplish something, it’s just a big screw you to them.” Nova’s vivid lyrics and constantly evolving sound prove that there’s a method to her madness. “I just need to go with how I feel,” she says. “In order to succeed, you have to be your own everything.”