Plenty of artists, from Cardi B to Justin Bieber, have used social media to boost their careers. Yet even by today’s standards, Queen Naija’s path to the top of the R&B charts is an unconventional one. In 2016, she and then-husband Chris Sails launched a YouTube channel on which they documented their lives as a couple and young parents, posting absurd pranks and viral challenges that often reached over 1 million views. When their marriage fell apart over Sails’ infidelity, Naija (born Queen Naija Bulls) channeled her heartbreak into the slinky single “Medicine,” which debuted at No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2018 and led to a deal with Capitol Records. Now the 23-year-old mother of two is up for top R&B female artist alongside Ella Mai and H.E.R. “I remember when I was working my 9-to-5 job and walking around, I used to be listening to Ella Mai in my headphones,” she says. “It’s crazy that now I get to be nominated with her.”
How did you attract a YouTube fan base loyal enough to follow your music career, too?