Bigg Kiaa makes a big splash in Minneapolis music scene

Woman in Blue Jersey with red dreadlocks 2
“Anything that I love, I love it. I really love it to the max,” said Kiaa. Music is one of those things.
Awa Mally for MPR

by Joely Kelzer | Carbon Sound

At just 20 years old, Nakia Neal is making a name for herself in the Minneapolis music scene as Bigg Kiaa. Bigg Kiaa earns her name with her energy and personality each time she performs. 

“I was three when I first rapped on the mic,” Bigg Kiaa said, “It was nothing special just blah blah blah, but that’s the first time I remember having an actual experience doing music myself.” “My dad, he had a studio in the house, he didn’t take music seriously, but he just loved music,”

She spoke fondly about her memories of him and her cousins sharing their love for music in the studio together. 

“I grew up in Arkansas, in a town called Marianna. That’s why I named the tape MARIANNA. My whole childhood was down there. I grew up on a farm — a whole bunch of acres, we had goats, chickens, cows, all that. The power went out one night, we were bored with nothing to do out there and I was like, ‘Dad I want to make a song.’ We sat there and I told him all the things I like, and he’d make lyrics out of that, it was a real teamwork process. That’s when I became Nakia Marie,” said Kiaa. 

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

From that moment, she began to take music more seriously.

“My dad just knew, this is a hit. He’s one of those people that will call out a person and say, ‘They gon be something’ and then they actually are something. He's done that for a few basketball players that I know of. We came back to Minnesota, shot a music video, and I started performing,” said Kiaa. 

Nakia Marie quickly became a big name in the Minnesota music scene, “From age seven to nine, I had this peak in my career as Nakia Marie. I opened for the OMG Girlz at the Armory at eight years old. I was at First Ave’s main room at age nine at the TC hip hop awards on my birthday, Jan. 18,” said Kiaa.

At her peak as Nakia Marie, she was almost in a Nickelodeon movie and set up for a record deal.

Then, at age nine, she stopped music altogether. “My dad ended up going to jail. He was my everything back then. I told you, he wrote my first song, he was my producer, my manager– my whole world just crashed when he went to jail. I didn’t want to do any of that without my dad,” said Kiaa. “He kinda f—— it up for me,” laughed Kiaa. 

“I feel like it all happened for a reason. If I would've gotten everything back then I would have been a child star. I would’ve been sitting here as Nakia Marie and not Bigg Kiaa, and I feel like Bigg Kiaa is who I am, my own person. I went through s— without my dad to become who I am right now. It was a sad time but everything happened for a reason, because you know, I love this guy!” said Kiaa pointing to herself. 

Woman in Blue Jersey with red dreadlocks 13
At just 20 years old, Nakia Neal is making a name for herself in the Minneapolis music scene as Bigg Kiaa.
Awa Mally for MPR

Becoming Bigg Kiaa

Kiaa took a long break, not making music at all but still listening avidly.

“Even with taking a break. I'm heavy on listening to music, my heart belongs to music. So, I was obsessed with Kehlani for years before I jumped back in. She's my everything,” said Kiaa. 

“Bigg Kiaa came in like 10th grade. I remember walking down the hallway going to science class and writing on notebook paper getting back into it. I wrote a song called ‘Chasing the Bag’. You can probably still find that on SoundCloud,” said Kiaa. “That was the first song I feel like I wrote on my own, my dad got out of jail that year. So I feel like once my dad stepped foot back in my life, it took off.”

She described becoming Bigg Kiaa through discovering her own identity, how she liked to dress, and how she liked to show up in the world.

“I'm a masculine gay woman. But then, I was still femme. I was bisexual at the time and I hadn't grown into myself yet. I wasn't comfortable in my own body,” expressed Kiaa. 

When she started to dress in a way that made her more comfortable and really show up as herself is when she felt herself starting to become Bigg Kiaa.

“Boom, 12th grade, I finally became masculine and I stepped into myself. I feel like a whole new confidence came over my body,” said Kiaa. “I came out. People knew I liked girls, but I feel like my real come out was when I stepped out and presented myself physically how I feel inside.”

Nicki Minaj, Yet and listening to her own music

“Music is everything to me. Somebody asked me the other day, ‘What do you see yourself doing if it wasn't for music? What would you do?’ I said, ‘music’. I would be a part of it in any way I could, even if I wasn’t making my own,” shared Kiaa. 

Kiaa told me her regular listening rotation includes a lot of R&B and pop, “I'm big on Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, that era of Usher.” When I asked her who her favorite pop artist was she said, “Katy Perry. It does not change for me. I just love her.” 

Kiaa didn’t hesitate to name her favorite rapper, “Yeat. I actually f—— hated him at first. When he first came out, I hated him. I did not like it. But, then my friend Kumari Cloud was like, ‘bro, you can't listen to Yeat, you gotta feel it, he's a feeling.’ As a person who loves music, I can understand that,” said Kiaa. 

I later talked with Kumari Cloud about Kiaa and he described her as “Versatile and hungry.” He went on, “She’s high energy and has a big heart. She’s hungry, that goes for music and her personality. Her tenacity, it’s like a beast on a song.”

Woman in Blue Jersey with red dreadlocks 7
"In 12th grade, I finally became masculine and I stepped into myself. I feel like a whole new confidence came over my body," Kiaa said.
Awa Mally for MPR

Music process 

“I feel like my music process is what really lets me know that I have undiagnosed ADHD. If you told me right now, write me a song, I’d have it for you in the next 15 minutes. So, if I know I'm about to go make music, I can make music,” explained Kiaa.

She shared that she currently has 489 unreleased songs on her phone, “I make music all the time,” said Kiaa.

“Most of the time, when I know I'm about to go to the studio and don't got anything written, I'm just listening to beats or I hear some s— that inspires me,” said Kiaa.

When she goes into the studio she has her producer Beats by Stix with her, “You know, 21 Savage and Metro Boomin. When they have a track, it's a hit. I have my Metro Boomin,” expressed Kiaa.

Their collaboration can be seen on Kiaa’s rage tape, MARIANNA.  “Some songs that I find myself listening to the most would be my rage tape honestly, which contains eight songs. I'm really proud of that tape because it came together over years, like some songs on that tape are two years old,” said Kiaa. 

Bigg Kiaa listens to her own music all the time, “Why would anybody else like your music if you don't like your music?”

Opening for Lizzo and finding her purpose

“A few years ago, my whole management situation fell apart and I just didn’t feel like I wanted to do music anymore, I was really about to quit,” said Kiaa. 

She described a phone call she got from Sophia Eris (Lizzo’s DJ), five days before Lizzo’s show at the Xcel Energy Center, “She calls me and she's like, ‘Are you free Tuesday?’ and I'm like ‘Yeah’, she's like, ‘Well I want you to come open up the Xcel Energy Center for Lizzo,’ and  fireworks are going off in my head,” said Kiaa. 

“That was like the universe telling me like bro you're made for this, be f—— patient, calm down. I know that wasn't gonna change my life overnight, I wasn't going to be this global sensation just because I did that, but it did change my life spiritually. I can not be more grateful for that. Like I said, it made me realize this is my purpose.”

Bigg Kiaa’s performances only continued to keep up energy from this performance. During her performance at Essjay The AfrocentricRatchet’s show at 7th St Entry, I saw first-hand that she brought the same energy she describes. She has also performed at the Twin Cities Pride Festival and countless other legendary local venues. 

“Anything that I love, I love it. I really love it to the max,” professed Kiaa. Music is one of those things. 

Woman in Blue Jersey with red dreadlocks 5
Bigg Kiaa listens to her own music all the time, “Why would anybody else like your music if you don't like your music?”
Awa Mally for MPR

Bigg Kia fun facts

Favorite show: “I'm a real TV watcher, see this tattoo on my face, that’s the bad girls club logo. it’s my favorite reality show in the f—— world. Or American Idol.”

Favorite game: “I really enjoy playing games. I love video games. I'm not really good at them. I just play them because they're fun. But I am really good at Fortnite, I’m the s— at Fortnite.”

Favorite color: “My favorite color is red. I love the color red. My second favorite color would be black.”

Favorite food: “My favorite food is crab legs. Seafood period, but crab legs.”

Favorite animal: “Cats. I love cats. I'm a cat lady. I have two of my own. My cats have Instagrams, my first cat's name is Zeke. And then my other cat's name is Peaches.

Favorite artist of all time:  “I am a fiend for punchlines. I love them. I love a good lyricist. So, if we said my favorite artist of all time, Lil Wayne.” She went on, “As far as female rappers go it’s Nicki Minaj all the way, even through all the controversy, the barbs cannot hear you, they're so powerful, bro.”