Our NEXT UP series is a music discovery initiative that showcases the next big things in Afro-influenced music from across Africa and beyond! In this edition, we speak to UK-born Nigerian rapper/singer.
Ike Chuks (pronounced IYKE CHOOKS) is a UK-born Nigerian rapper/singer with a selection of previously released singles and a project. With a career birthed in London, the rapper has carved a niche for himself with a unique style of storytelling in Pidgin English, his native Igbo as well as proper English, that is targeted at a young listener base of African youth living in the UK, and Nigeria.
How did you get started in music and what gave you the motivation to stay with it?
I feel like I could write a book on how I got started but i’ll try to give you the short version. I listen to a lot of rap music (Jay-Z, Nas, Dipset, Lil wayne, Juelz Santana, Kano, Sway, just to name a few) and one day whilst at work I just picked up a pen and just started writing. I didn’t think it was something I’d enjoy doing but wordplay really brought me joy, and when I got home and started rapping to my family and friends, they liked it so I stuck at it. My stage name then was “Ike The Kidd”, however, my style and sound has evolved over time. I started out rapping purely in English, but I went on a journey of self discovery and realised that wasn’t being my true self. I took some time off to really tune into who I was and what I was about, and then it finally came to me. I realised i was suppressing my Nigerian side and almost trying to be solely British. So I switched it up, and started infusing my Nigerian influences into my music and thus, Ike Chuks was born and I haven’t looked back since.
Walk us through your creative process. How are you inspired? How do you compose most of your music?
I get inspiration from my environment, real life experiences and sometimes other artists. My creative process always starts off from the beat. Sometimes I co-produce in the sense that I sit with a producer and we create something from scratch or I get sent a beat. Either way I listen to it over and over again and completely submerge myself into it to feel what direction I would be going into in terms of subject matter. Next phase is working on the chorus, which for me is the foundation of the track, and then the verses roll off that. I like to take people on a journey with my music, so to kick off my verses I always start off with the flow, I try to merge the flow of my lyrics to the flow of the beat. Once I can melodically hum the flow, I start adding words to it to bring it to life.
Which musical genre is your stronghold and if you could dabble in another genre of music, what would it be?
Hip-hop/Afropop but Rock is another genre of music I would love to dabble in. I really like the rock bands “Fall Out Boy” and “Linkin Park”.
What is the most difficult thing you have had to endure in your music career?
I think one of the most difficult things I’ve had to endure is patience. I’m usually not a patient person in life at all but I’ve had to really practise exercising patience.
Is the global coronavirus pandemic having any effect on your music/career? How exactly?
The coronavirus pandemic is most definitely having an effect on my career. For instance, I’m currently supposed to be on a media tour in Nigeria traveling to different states but with the lockdown in place that has been put on hold until further notice. I was also supposed to be shooting a music video for my lead single “What Happened To Kate” off my EP “Igbotic” but that has also been put on hold until further notice. However, I always try to look at the positive in every situation and so this current pandemic has created the opportunity to connect with more people via social media at any point. I guess its time to get really creative whilst confined at home.
Which artists do you consider your biggest musical inspirations?
My biggest musical inspiration has to be Jay-Z. I don’t even consider him an artist anymore. He’s a teacher to me and his verses are packed full of jewels and knowledge, you just have to pay attention to grasp them.
If you can have your fans remember one thing about you, what would it be?
The perfect blend of cultures.
What would make you want to collaborate with another artist?
Vibe, connection and respect.
What are your dream collaborations?
Just put me in the studio with Jay-Z, Drake and Rihanna… Phew!!!
What is the unique element about yourself as an artiste that sets you apart from others?
What sets me apart is the unique mix and flow of language in my work. The switch between English, Pidgin English and Igbo is something I do particularly very well in my own unique way.
What new age “Afro” artists are you currently listening to?
I really like what Rema is doing in the scene right now.
What inspired your recent body of work – “Igbotic” EP? What statement were you trying to make with it?
My current project “Igbotic” was inspired by my cultural heritage, my environment and life experiences. For this project I had to fly back to the motherland because I was seriously lacking inspiration whilst in London. I made the decision to spend three months in Lagos and see what happens. Within the first week everything fell back in place for me creatively and the “Igbotic” series was born. I pretty much locked myself in and kept creating and took time to really fine tune my art and my uniqueness in a way that has never been heard before, only stepping out to rejuvenate and seek outside inspiration. I got to research more about Igbo culture, which also served as inspiration for me.
With this project, I wanted demystify a popular stereotype about people from the Igbo tribe by making resonating music in my own unique style. The term Igbotic has been used as slander towards Igbo people in the past, so I wanted to use this EP as a medium to turn the word on its head by owning it and hopefully, in-turn, make a statement that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being Igbotic and the Igbo language and culture should be celebrated proudly.
How many albums do you have under your belt in all? How are the other projects different from “Igbotic” EP?
I have two EP’s under my belt, “Son Of The Soil” and “Igbotic”. With “Son Of The Soil” I was actually in an emotional rollercoaster during the period. I had just left “Diversity” (a British dance group) and signed a partnership deal with an investor and this project was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. After releasing the lead single “Do Proper” my music career was really starting to take off. But out of nowhere tragedy struck, I lost someone close to me and that really hit me hard. I also lost my partnership deal due to another unfortunate situation and my mental health was starting to deteriorate. But I never stopped recording, I really wanted to finish the project by any means possible and luckily I had some God sent close friends around me during that time to help lift me up. I also had my first headline show in London that year. During all of this I was probably operating at 50% of my potential because I was having a mental breakdown every other day, I lost a tonne of weight but I poured all that into the project and I believe I created some amazing music with it.
What are you currently working on?
Pushing “Igbotic” is still my main focus but i’m also working on “Igbotic 2.0”. It’s pretty much done but I’m using this lockdown period to create more music so when its time to put the project together i have more music to select from.
What is next for you?
Global domination… dun dun dunnnnnn! *wink*