Twenty-six-year-old Jamaican dancehall artist Natalie Cole is hot right now. How hot? "I was only wearing my bra and undies during the interview," she reveals when asked about her outfit that day, adding coyly, "I swear, I’m not flirting!" The bubbly, fashionista MC known for colorful hairstyles is warming up the dancehall scene with her glamorous global club music. Now friends and fans have latched on to her new nickname: Hotalie. "I was voicing a song and in the intro I said, 'A Hotalie Storm, a nuh Natalie again!’ and people seemed to like it."
The new handle is apt. The last three years she’s been on fire, recording UK funky tracks with Sticky, electro-pop with Danish producers Enur, doing mixtapes and tours with fellow female artists Tifa and Timberlee as T.N.T., and issuing solo dancehall singles. She produces, sings, writes lyrics for other artists, and makes cameos in dancehall videos. And if you missed any of that, not to worry—Cole tweets her exploits almost hourly.
The self-described "shy girl" born in rural Trelawny but raised in Kingston is definitely looking "to di world," as the patois expression goes. Cole has toured Canada, Europe, and the Eastern US, and enthusiastically incorporates global bass genres into her dancehall repertoire. She’s even found symmetry between her earthy "Natalie" side, an Aquarian woman who likes to swim, dance, and write in her free time, and her alter-ego, "Storm," inspired by the X-Men character. "Natalie and Storm are two sides of me," she explains. "I like to wear jeans and t-shirts and kickback with a few brewskis or whatever, but the Storm side of me is the person who will be up in your face, telling you like it is," she says.
She’s been forward with the hits, too, recording with producers Jam 2, Seanizzle, Don Corleon, and Cordell "Skatta" Burrell. The turning point came in 2006 when she left the vocal group Make Boyz Cry and linked up with manager Dylan Powe, who promotes the weekly Passa Passa party. Cole recorded the Swatch (a.k.a. Swash) International produced track "Talk Di Ting Dem," which became a hit and the Natalie Storm era began.
Cole says her future collabos will span R&B, pop, one-drop, calypso, and electro, genres in which she’s already established her presence. She voiced five songs on Enur’s 2008 album, Raggatronic, recorded "Look Pon Mi" on the Sticky-produced Jumeirah Riddim, and has plans to keep experimenting. "No matter what style I work with—electro, R&B, pop—I will always be representing Natalie Storm vibes," she says, describing her approach as a mix of patois vocals, electro sounds, and hardcore garrison beats. "It’s a mashup, a bashment sound."
True to her inclement name, and exuberant fashions, Cole looks to stay on the move. "I love being busy. For 2010, I don’t want to limit myself; I’m just going to be breaking down doors, yo!"