Nneka is the daughter of an Anambra state- Igbo Nigerian father and a German mother. She was born and raised in Warri, in the Delta region of Nigeria, and went to the primary school of the Delta Steel Company, then the secondary school at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Nneka relished the experience of singing from an early age in her school and in the church choir. After relocating to Hamburg, Germany, at the age of 18, she pursued a career in singing alongside a degree in Anthropology. She now divides her time between Nigeria and Hamburg.
Since 2003 Nneka has been working closely with the hip hop beatmaker DJ Farhot, a producer living in Hamburg. As a young singer she first gained public attention in 2004 while performing as an opening act for dancehall reggae star Sean Paul at Hamburg Stadtpark. After much acclaim, Nneka was given a green light to record her first album.
After releasing her debut EP ‘The Uncomfortable Truth’ with the music label Yo Mama’s Recording Company, she performed on her first tour with Patrice Bart-Williams in April 2005, playing shows in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
She finished recording her first album in the autumn of 2005. Entitled ‘Victim of Truth’, it was released not only in Germany but also in England, France, Netherlands, Nigeria and Japan. Garnering rave reviews from the media, the UK’s Sunday Times later declared it “the year’s most criminally overlooked album”, comparing it favourably to ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’.
Following the release of the album, Nneka enjoyed a sustained and successful period of touring, performing at festivals such as Chiemsee Reggae Summer, Haarlem (BevrijdingsPop), Den Haag (Park Pop) and Saint-Brieuc (Art Rock Festival) as well as in respected venues like La Maroquinerie and New Morning in Paris, Tivoli in Utrecht, Paradiso in Amsterdam and Cargo and ULU in London. She has also supported artists such as Femi Kuti, Bilal, Seeed, and Gnarls Barkley.
In February 2008 she released her second album, ‘No Longer at Ease’. The title of the album is taken from a novel of the same name by Chinua Achebe and reflects the lyrical content of the record. Most of the songs are political, talking about the plight of the Niger Delta and the corruption in Nneka’s homeland. “No Longer at Ease” combines the political and the personal in “a winning mix of soul, hip-hop an reggae”. The lead single from it, ‘Heartbeat’, became her first song to break into the German Top 50. In September 2009, the song entered the UK Singles Chart at number twenty.
The following months saw tours in France, Italy and Portugal, while she also supported Lenny Kravitz on his French tour in April 2009.
Nneka has been nominated in three categories for the 2009 Channel O Music Video Awards, and won an award for Best African Act at the 2009 MOBO Awards.
In late 2009, she was chosen as of one Beyond Race Magazine’s “50 Emerging Artists,” resulting in a spot in the publication’s #11 issue (with Bodega Girls and J. Cole on the cover), as well as an exclusive Q&A for the magazine’s site.
In November 2009, Nneka staged her first concert tour of the United States where she performed shows in New York City, Vienna (Washington DC), Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Furthermore she was a special guest on The Roots Jam session. Her first US release Concrete Jungle is set for 2 February 2010.
Her track ‘Kangpe’ is also featured as a soundtrack on the EA Sports FIFA 2010 video game.
In January 2010, Nneka appeared in Late Show with David Letterman in New York before getting her US tour underway.
In June 2010, she won the reggae category of the Museke Online Africa Music Award 2010 with her hit song, Africans.
She agreed to go on tour with Nas and Damian Marley to help them promote their ‘distant relatives’ album. She has done a remix of her highly rated track, ‘heartbeat’ with Nas which is expected to be made public soon.
She has also agreed to participate in this year’s Lilith Fair Concert (2010) where the likes of Tegan & Sara, Sarah McLachlan, Kelly Clarkson, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Corinne Bailey Rae, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna and others will be performing. She will be performing in Washington, Raleigh and Charlotte (United States). She recorded a song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa called “Viva Africa”. It is a tribute to the premier mundial on African soil.
She won the award for best indigenous artist in Nigeria at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards 2010 which was held in New York, U.S.A.
Even though Nneka sings more than raps, she names hip hop as her primary musical root and most important source of inspiration, while citing artists such as Fela Kuti and Bob Marley as well as contemporary rappers Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Lauryn Hill as key influences in her own pursuit of musical recognition.
Her lyrics reflect much of her history and life in Nigeria as well as her time spent in Western Europe. Her songs stress the issues of capitalism, poverty and war and are often loaded with moral and biblical messages and references, with some music commentators comparing her to Erykah Badu, Neneh Cherry and Floetry.