As told to Sionne Neely, Ph.D.
growing up in ghana / london town is calling
My name is Lady Nancy Jay. I was born in Tema [just outside Accra]. My father’s a seaman. Since he was always at sea, I grew up with my mum who was an artist and teacher.
My parents have their own ideas about what a child should grow up to be. Those are normally that you be a doctor or an engineer. But I love singing. I sing every chance I get. My sisters are not rebellious like me. My second older sister can sing way better than me. She’s a nurse now. She wasn’t interested in doing the singing thing.
I’ve known Jane [@EFYA_Nokturnal] since I was 6. She was in Class Three and I was in Class One. Me and Jane, we used to sing at Assemblies of God.
I was back and forth between London from late ’99. My father was living there. I remember going to Aburi Girls and they cut all my hair off. My hair was long and I would do these different styles. It was traumatizing. Man, Aburi Girls…they didn’t understand that I had a British accent. It just pissed them off. That a Black girl just like them would have this accent. Here, they don’t even know what being Ghanaian is. The girls think it’s weaves.
In 2006, right before we graduated secondary school in London, my friends got murdered. We were about twelve in a group – Turkish, Kurdish, Jamaican, Ghanaian and Nigerian. It was cool cool. Then Jamie and Voko were pushed in front of a train. Yemmasi killed himself. Ikey got stabbed. Henry got beaten to death. My parents were scared so I came back to Ghana.
boston public / states of sneaker freak
In 2007, my British secondary school GEC was not good enough for American colleges. So they asked me to do junior and senior year again [at a Boston high school]. It was different because I was pure London. When I walked down the street they could tell I wasn’t from there. I wasn’t one of them. The first day of high school I was in a tracksuit and matching hoodie. Yes, I was a tomboy. Hardcore. Think about any Nike trainers. Think of it! Me, I’m a sneaker freak.
$98 rent in idaho / “i was swagging“
In 2009, the Latterday Saints Church [where I was a member] helped me to pay for college [full scholarship] in Idaho. Rugsburg is very small – you can walk from one end of the town to the other. I was the most modest, the coolest girl you’d ever meet. I’d cook for my friends every Sunday after church and I would do some fancy stuff. Me, I’m a good cook. I love to cook. I like to create things that people have not even imagined. That is what I used to do.
I love Idaho. It’s peaceful. There are no skyscrapers destroying the environment. It is so natural – the mountains, sand dunes, waterfalls. I started doing cool things I said I’d never do – lawnboarding, rockclimbing, wall grafting. I want to go back because I felt so connected to God and I felt I was living a life that was true. I want to live in Idaho one day.
love + death
I used to be very attracted to only light-skinned guys. All my life. If you’re not mixed race, I won’t even look your way! I just thought they were more beautiful. Honestly. That was before now.
Two years after I go to Boston, my boyfriend in Ghana starts bugging out. I hear he’s been misbehaving. I’m like, “Baby, why you doing this to me now?!” He scrambled his way [back] into my life. Now the pressurizing started. “You have to come to Ghana, come soon.” So I had to put a stop to everything I was doing – put everything on park. I move back to Ghana for him. I came to Ghana when I wasn’t supposed to for him. Now we had this little dispute cuz he likes to flirt a lot. And he has this group of girlfriends around him all the time. But he felt happy around them. And me, if you’re happy I’m not gonna stress you.
But I knew my boy oh. I had loved him and I had loved him for that long…five years. So, I knew my boy and my boy was changing. I knew my boy and my boy was changed. When I found out, I tried to act hardcore. No matter how hard you are, just one boy can mess you up! It hit me like a train…
By this time, I was so bitter and hurt and betrayed by everything. Even the leaves. I felt the leaves had betrayed me. I hit rock bottom. I wanted to die.
But I didn’t die. I lived. Can you imagine, all of that turmoil over some stupid idiot? My father bore and kicked me out because I wasn’t supposed to come to Ghana yet. I went to live with my aunt in Kumasi who said, “What do you want to do?” Me, I like to sing. She said, “Well, start using your voice for something.”
just like music
Bra Kevin was the first person who recorded me in my life! Back then I used to rap. With rap, you’re always thinking here [points to head] but two times faster. Me, I’m lazy. I don’t like too much of a process.
I live and breathe music. I turned to music when I felt I had nobody. Me, I take things differently. I’m trying to see things from a lot of corners. With writing – [the inspiration] is a moment’s notice – it comes and goes. BOOM! It’s here and it blends with whatever memories are popping up in my head.
We are not underground artists. Me, I was on TV3 and they don’t know oh! That is how they describe we. Just because we are different. But Ghana, be afraid…
stretching the now
I didn’t have a place to stay. I was homeless. Physically but also emotionally. I had been hurt so badly and felt I was alone. I cried so much all the time. I’d find someone to unleash some anger on. Panji saved me. But I would still carry myself outside like I was having fun. But I was dying. I even died. The Lady I knew died. She was gone and something else came.
Sometimes, I wish I was the old me. I’m in a stage in my life where I am struggling very hard. But I’ve come a long way and I’m not going to give up. I’ve been to Nigeria more than ten times! I’ve been to South Africa, Mali – Timbuktu, how many of you have been to Timbuktu?! Right now, the way I see life is mind-blowing. How are we even living? How are we breathing, how are we talking? Why are we in existence? It’s amazing! There must be something.
@ladyjaywah / www.facebook.com/LadyNancyJay
*Please note the name of the song is “Interlude” not “Can’t Believe” as indicated in the video.