Nitty Scott, MC, was a Disney Princess. Before transforming into a talented rapper, she was a 16-year-old character performer at Disney World in Florida. Scott’s diminutive height determined her roles: She would climb inside a fur costume to become Chip (or Dale) or Winnie the Pooh or doll herself up as Princess Jasmine or Pocahontas.
“It was just the cutest job ever,” the 23-year-old Scott says now, having since settled into a different kind of fantasy kingdom at Coney Island, where she has lived for the last three years and where she wrote her new album, The Art of Chill. Stepping into character at Disney gave Scott an early glimpse at the inspirational power performers hold over their fans: She recalls little girls crying with excitement when they saw her as Pocahontas, and a grandmother who was moved to tears after her granddaughter, who had been mute for a year after her family died in an accident, spoke again after she met who, on the surface, looked to be her idol.
A teenage Scott helped push Disney’s happy façade to the world — “We were told to always maintain that happy place for everyone!” — but she was also privy to the Magic Kingdom’s literal underground. A secret tunnel directly below Cinderella Castle was full of workers scurrying around to change into character and, most importantly, get paid. “It’s a whole other world down there,” she says now.
Straddling the worlds above and below ground is a constant in Scott’s life. She left Florida because she was “living a dysfunctional life with my family and other stuff,” and decamped to New York City to follow her musical dreams after being encouraged by the response her first mixtape received from those around her. So at 17 years old she became “the Nitty Scott, MC, character.”
Of course, Scott’s dreams of instantly cracking the industry were dashed as the bright lights of imagined fame were soon tempered by the gray gloom of everyday New York City survival. “I was very naïve in the way I thought I could just come to this big city, meet the right people, and it would just happen,” Scott says now. “It’s obviously not that simple — the city is filled with transplants trying to make their dreams come true. The reality of the situation hit me once I got here, and I became distracted by survival, fending for myself, keeping a roof over my head, staying fed, even getting from A to B.”
Once more dwelling in an emotional and social underground, Scott recalls thinking, while working a regular job and living with six roommates “What is my life?” Music hopped to the backseat and depression took control. Slowly, though, she emerged from a two-year period with a less intense take on the interplay between life and art, expression and ambition, and eventually began to surround herself with what she calls “the right people,” including her manager, Jules Giuliano. Spots at open mic nights became Scott’s playground; she opened for Kendrick Lamar’s first New York City show. Then came an EP in 2012, The Boombox Diaries Vol. 1.
The project was acclaimed for its rugged, steely style by the New York underground, but Scott now says the timbre of the project wasn’t her natural voice. “When you first come out, acceptance is your priority before expression,” she reasons. Lines bragging about “this combination of 808s and estrogen” were designed to appeal to what she terms “hardcore rap heads.” She adds, “I didn’t think there was room for me to be everything that I am and be received as an intelligent and spiritual woman that is still sexual and can have fun and be laid-back.”
Musing on the reception to The Boombox Diaries saw Scott engaging on another shifting journey between contrasting tones. The taut and hardcore-leaning nature of that project — in both its production and Scott’s flow — mellowed and blossomed into the style found on The Art of Chill. Parts of it could be called “hippie-leaning”: Yoga, incense, and crystals abound in Scott’s new words and image; the lush first single, “Feng Shui,” opens with the ad lib, “A-yo, put my lucky bamboo in the corner.”
Inside the crystal-hued aura, though, Scott’s voice resonates most endearingly on The Art of Chill. She pairs a breezy flow with emotional openness and says she wrote the album as if a series of diary entries — intimate, unhindered, and honest.
“Still I Rise” is the song Scott hopes will affect people the most. In it, she raps a personal cycle of abuse, stolen innocence, and familial estrangement. “I’m baring all and I think it’s going to speak to so many young women out there,” she says. “I hope it changes peoples’ lives for the better.”
Her audience might have grown up, but Nitty Scott, MC, is still performing Disney Princess miracles.