Kelechief is a Nigerian-American Rapper, Singer, and Record Producer who loves to describe himself as “100% ATL, 100% Naija, 200% n*gga”. He is a multihyphenate rapper, singer, producer, engineer and graphic designer. We recently caught up with him to have conversations surrounding his life, his musical journey and his road to self-discovery.
Welcome home Kelechief, how are enjoying the Nigerian weather tonight?
Kelechief: Thank you. I feel so welcomed, seriously. The weather is something! It’s been hot and humid but not unbearably so. Atlanta is south east in the states so we’re notoriously humid too. Naija has taken it up a level though
This is surely a very humid country. So, tell us, with how far you’ve come in the music industry, how much can you say your music has evolved overtime?
I’ve been making music since I was 14 and it’s always been a reflection of where my mind and heart are. In the past I’ve done more traditional rap with RnB tendencies. I think that in the last two years I’ve been in a more African space mentally and it has reflected sonically.
While growing up, what was it about music that made you feel passionate; and inspired you to want to start playing and making music?
I’ve always been a poet since I could write words. I started to record songs for fun with my friends but when I listened to Common‘s album ‘Be‘, that was the first time that I heard a project from beginning to end and thought to myself, “wow! I wish I am from where that guy is from”. I would listen to ‘Be‘ from outside my older sister’s room. I loved that album so much. Having that feeling made me want to give it to other people. So I started making albums.
Your latest album “Going Home” encapsulates you embracing your Nigerian roots, telling your story in it’s raw form and finding freedom in this self-realization. How did this whole phase in your musical journey start or come about?
I’ve always sang about being Nigerian in America, all the way back to my song immigrant son in 2016. In 2019 I went on the #85toAfricaTour with Jidenna. That tour gave me an opportunity for my Nigerian culture to go from being my parent’s to being MINE.
Hmm… that last sentence is very profound. On ‘Get High‘, a track off the project, you spoke about rejecting major label deals to stay independent due to them trying to prevent you from embracing your African roots in your music. Can you tell us more about this? And how you’ve been able to move-on through it?
Oh? It’s interesting that you interpreted it that way. “Get High” is more about how sometimes ego can be a drug that people overdose on but it can also be a drug that is necessary to boost you to the next level. Drugs aren’t always bad, you may need to get high off your ego someday.
Hmm… weird but interesting how we relate and respond to art in our different individual ways. I remember that in one of your interviews with Big Home Kodaq, you spoke about the musical disconnect between Africans and African Americans. Do you think you’ve been able to bridge that gap with your music?
First off, shout out to Kodaq. Second, I’m only one man so I’m not sure I can totally bridge the gap but I can try. Because of my perspective it’s my responsibility to TRY. At least point out that we’re really more similar than not. We’re the same people in different places.
Over the months, you’ve done a plethora of covers to Nigerian hits which have gained a lot of limelight and media attention. How has these amazing covers helped you connect your Nigerian audience?
I think a lot of times, Africans on the continent assume the Africans in the diaspora lose touch with African pop-culture. The covers give me a chance to not only showcase my talent but also to show Africans across the globe that I’m tapped into what we are on right now. I’m also the best rapper over Afrobeats on the entire planet.
Who are your biggest influences in your music so far?
Every time someone asks me this I forget someone. I’ll just mention them till I run out of characters: Kanyewest, Common, Nelly, Burnaboy, J Cole, Wale, Drake, Jay Z, Phay Weather, Andre 3000, Amaarae, Young Thug, Michael Jackson.….
You’ve been on the the road these past couple of weeks, touring alongside top Nigerian acts Yemi Alade and Omah Lay. How has the whole experience been for you?
Touring with Nigerian acts in the states has been a lot of fun. Being able to see how they moved in America gave me a small glimpse into how I should be moving in Naija even before I came here.
Now you’re in Nigeria. Tell us what is your favourite Nigerian food so far?
So in the states, Suya is my fave but I haven’t had any in Nigeria yet. So I’m waiting to try the OG-OG. I’ve had egusi, akara, pap, yam porridge, original jollof, several meatpies, and spaghetti for breakfast so I chop well well ooo.
Loool! Final question before we let you go. You’re back home in Nigeria to host your Homecoming Concert in Lagos on the 4th of December, what should we expect?
EXPECT VIBES AND CRUISE!!! honestly I don’t know what to expect other than positivity, unity, excellent music and connection. I can’t wait to see folks there.
Kelechief’s ‘Going Home‘ Homecoming concert will hold at Hard Rock Cafe, Lagos on the 4th of December this year. You can get your tickets on Kelechishop.com
We hope to see you there.