Whether you know her better as Bella Gotti, or under her former moniker Nolay, there can be no denying that Miss Gotti is one of the scene’s most enduring and best lyricists. Since bursting on to the Grime scene and catching attention on Unorthodox Family’s classic anthem “No Help, No Hand Outs” ten years ago, Ms. Gotti has shown continual progression on every mixtape and album she’s dropped. This achievement has allowed her to maintain both her original Grime fan base, whilst continually gaining fans from outside the genre as her sound has evolved to include more heartfelt and introspective lyrics; a feat that only a handful of rappers achieve.
Bella is currently touring Europe and her next release – the eagerly anticipated “The Queens Speech” – is ready to go. Bella took time out of her hectic schedule to answer my questions on music, acting, and … erm, Eastenders.
Me: Hi, Bella. Thanks for finding the time to do this. You’ve been around for a while now, but how did you first start out?
Bella Gotti (BG): I first started out writing poetry in school. English literature along with drama and music were my favourite lessons and they made a great combination for putting me on the path to lyricism. Poetry helped me develop a skill for wordplay and weaving words that create an in depth yet short story. Drama developed my confidence to perform in front of others and even those I disliked, like my teachers. My father was also a very skilled pianist, guitar player, and break dancer at an earlier stage of his life. He used to train with Bonnie Langford at PineApple studios and had thousands of trophies for break dancing tournaments, so music is in my veins.
Me: I first heard you on ‘No Help, No Handouts’ with Unorthodox Family. How come you set out alone, and what happened to the rest of Unorthodox Family?
BG: I just think that people sometimes want different things, and some people want some things more than others. I am still very much on good terms with the other two members of Unorthodox and, although I don’t see Silver, I know G Kid is a fitness instructor/personal trainer and doing very well. Respect and love to them both.
Gotti’s lyrical style and content have always intrigued me, and I was eager to find out how she approaches writing her lyrics. How does she switch between writing the harder bars displayed on tracks like “Dirt” with the more emotive lyrics found in “We Will Die“?. “I write in all different states of mind”, she reveals. “I think this is a great idea as it will determine the material and kind of song that I come up with. I don’t think it’s good to wait until you’re only in a good mood to write, neither should you write only when in a bad mood. Write in all frames of mind. That is when you will create your greatest pieces of work – with diverse content and emotion. Also, as life changes so does your state of mind, and a real honest artist expresses themselves honestly and openly through their music. I guess as I’ve grown up I’ve become more in touch with my emotions too,” she continues with a laugh, “and I’m not afraid to express myself as an experienced person with nothing to hide. You see I don’t care what people think of me and my music is a way of channeling my thoughts and feelings along with my energies”.
Grime fans will surely remember Gotti’s – although she was still called Nolay at the time – infamous Lord of the Mics 3 hype session where, in under 90 seconds, Gotti proceeded to tear prospective opponent OG Niki apart so severely that the main clash never actually happened. The video, and full track “No Show Niki” remains one of the most savage war dubs in Grime, but Gotti rules out any return to clashing .”I respect those that do it but I don’t want to go down in history as a clash rapper,” she states. “I want to go down in history as an artist with credible masterpiece albums under her belt. One that made classic and legendary music. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it should be done,” she laughs, “I can clash until the cows come home, the challenge is to make music that resonates with people”.
Bella Gotti fans would have heard her sing on a fair few of her songs down the years, but anyone hoping that she could take the Lauryn Hill route & take that side of her music more seriously will be disappointed – “I doubt you’ll hear a full track of me singing but never say never!” She admits to enjoying that side of her talent and says, “I’m a very musical person with many dimensions and I was actually singing before rapping as I used to sing in church, but in order to create an appealing balance, you have to study these arts and pace yourself”.
However, news is better on the acting front, and when asked about acting possibilities, Gotti laughs again and reveals, “Yes, you will 100% see me acting more but I cannot disclose any more information on that!”
Talk then turns to her current tour and the forthcoming release ‘The Queens Speech’.
Me:So, what’s in store with with The Queens Speech and when is that dropping?
BG: I have new management and I’m currently in and out of the UK touring, so ‘The Queens Speech’ isn’t set to be released until later this year, but I will have a string of singles leading up to it.
Me: Speaking of the tour, how is your music being received abroad?
BG: My music is being received better abroad than in the UK, to be honest. I know I have great supporters here, and a healthy fan base and I love them here for that, but on a major scale, Europe and USA are where it’s at.
I ask Gotti if she ever gets pissed off with questions about being a female MC, or how her gender is used to pigeon hole her. “Not really because opinions aren’t facts and everybody knows, whether they voice it or not, that a lot of male emcees are no match for me. I deal with facts not opinions”, she laughs confidently.
Me: You’ve collaborated with so many people down the years. Money no object, which MCs, singers, and/or producers would you like to work with?
BG: There are just to many to list but, off the top of my head, Johnny Rain, Kat Dahlia, Kendrick Lemar, Styles P, Beyoncé and Lana Del Rey …If we list producers I’ll be here all day!
Me: What plans do you have for the future and where do you hope to be in 10 years time?
BG: I take each day as it comes [she chuckled] after the tour is finished and Queens Speech is released I’ll know what’s next! Plans constantly change when you’re an artist, but the goal stays the same. I am working on a lot of merchandise ventures currently and hope in ten years time to be wealthy enough to perhaps open a chain of stores, or just retire… NOT!
Me: And that leaves me with just one question to ask: any views on Lucy Beale getting bumped off in Eastenders, Bella?
BG: Her character was a bit shit! It’s Ian I feel sorry for, so no loss there for me haha. I think it was Kirsty Branning, she’s always been obsessed with Max, or it could also be the Queen Vic owner’s son, Lee! These are the two I suspect.
Bella Gotti is on tour again soon across Europe. Click here for more details and merchandise.