Nigerian singer, songwriter, and actor, Chike-Ezekpeazu Osebuka who is popularly known by his stage name, Chike, shot to fame in 2015 after a memorable stint on ‘Project Fame’ and ‘The Voice Nigeria’.
Since he released his critically acclaimed debut album, ‘‘Boo of the Booless’’ in 2020, the 28-year-old singer has enjoyed a steady rise in his career.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the singer, who currently has some of the hottest songs in the country, speaks about the challenges of independent artistes in Nigeria.
PT: How do you describe the music that you typically create?
Chike: I would break it into stages; I’d say that my music always has soul and it always has some level of storytelling.
So, is it on a pop record? On soul? On Jazz? I mean I have not made Jazz music before, but I know it is something I can do. So, for me, what you’ll always find is that my music is storytelling, and you’ll always find traces of my soul in it.
PT: What inspired you to go into music?
Chike: I don’t think I needed to be inspired, to be honest. It is just one of those things you do that is naturally fun to you. I mean, you still have to brush up your skills, learn a few things, you know, survive in it as a business. However, it is something I do naturally; it is something I enjoy doing.
PT: Do you think your music has mainstream/commercial appeal?
Chike: What makes music commercial is – are people buying? That’s my understanding of ‘commercial’ here. So, are people buying? Yes! I believe that is the answer, and that makes it commercial.
PT: Are you considering delving into Afro-Party jams any time in the future?
Chike: I make music based on how I feel. If tomorrow, I feel party-like. I mean, one of the first songs I ever released was “Fancy You” and by all means, that’s how I felt at that time and coincidentally, it falls under the category you just mentioned. For me, as a creative, it is about where you are, with your head.
PT: A lot of artistes complain about the Nigerian music industry not having a structure. What are your thoughts?
Chike: I cannot attest to what their experiences have been. All I know is that the music industry is definitely better than it was a couple of years ago, in terms of having things done in order or having some sense of order in place.
But you know, experiences are different. A lot of people (artistes) don’t find it easy. I have not found it easy. But I just believe we are not where we were ten years ago. We were not even where we were five years ago. No matter how slow, you know, that’s some growth we have to appreciate and work with.
PT: After leaving your former record label, how has it been handling things on your own?
Chike: It was tough oh! It is not for the light-hearted. But we did it, and we are still doing it now. So, it was tough – a lot of trying to make the right decisions and all. But I mean, we had dedication; we had a couple of great people around us to help, and we had God.
PT: What are some of the challenges you face as an independent artiste?
Chike: Them plenty oh! Should I go from contacts? But you know, to be honest, one advantage Lagos has is that they’ve built contacts over time. And trust me, you need contacts. It is almost like the currency of the industry.
You know, people have been at it for this long; they know people in so many places; they can get things done faster. So, I can tell you that speed was part of the problem because you know, you have to learn how to get those contacts, so I had to gather those contacts myself.
There is, of course, the money issue, then the perception issue. You know, we are in a country where once you’re signed to a big label, your respect goes up. So, even before the music comes out, people are already expecting the music. Everybody go just dey expect say, ahhh you don blow! Do you know? I didn’t have that pedestal.
But you know, I am even downplaying what I had, I had a couple of things going for me. I had the zeal; I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of good people in the industry who have the experience; and I had God’s favour, to be honest. Because there are a lot of things that I was able to do, not just because I knew how to do them, but it just happened for me. So, I will call that God’s favour. I had God’s favour.
PT: Does being an independent artiste make it more difficult to gain acceptance into the music industry?
Chike: There’s a perception when you’re with a label. The perception that this one is already a superstar, you know! He has all the machinery behind him, and all that, which to an extent it is not false, you know! A lot of people have huge machinery, they are able to jump a lot of queues and go through a lot of difficulties faster. But see eh, we, we nor dey taya! We nor dey fear! We’ll keep moving!
PT: If you could change just one thing about the Nigerian music industry, what would that be?
Chike: If I could change anything about the Nigerian music industry, it would still boil down to structure. I mean, I wouldn’t say much because I’m not a structure expert – in terms of putting things together, but knowing where we are and knowing what could be done, I know I’d probably do as much research, get the best hands – people that can facilitate things. As an artiste, I’ll try and give fans the best value for their money.
PT: Career-wise, what is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Chike: The best advice I’ve ever been given is “The people are not going to help you. It is your people that are going to help you”. So, you see all those things, you’re looking for the biggest label to sign you; you’re looking for the biggest promoter to start promoting your song. No! They are already dealing with the big people of the time. And if you’re honest to yourself, you’re not one of the biggest people of the time, as it were. So, the strongest advice I’ve ever received is “use your people, not the people”.
PT: You have the looks and the voice. How do you handle your fans? Female fans, specifically.
Chike: I feel blessed to have male and female fans alike. I try to keep it as much as possible about the music. I try. I do my very best!
PT: What would you be doing by now, if not music?
Chike: I guess I’d probably be somewhere in Canada. With a master’s degree, because that was the path I was on already. I’m a 9-5 kind of guy. I can still fit very well into the corporate sector. I’d probably be working for somebody, hopefully!
PT: Who are the artistes you are most likely to collaborate within the shortest possible time?
Chike: I can’t even mention it. The way I think of collaborations is, I make songs, and luckily for me, I am able to hear certain people on it. For me, it is always about doing it for the music. I mean, I’m not saying I don’t want the money oh! Don’t get me wrong. I create the music, then we look at it together as a team – it is never a unanimous decision, it is a single decision. You have people coming together to make good decisions, so I can’t just state it now, not by myself.
PT: Tell us about the album, “Boo of the Booless”. Why did you make it?
Chike: I make music nah! Ah! Is there a way to it? Well, I didn’t make “Boo of the Booless” with a strategy, because you know, at that time, one good thing I had was that there couldn’t be a lower point. The only way was up. So, I just decided, you know what? I’m just gonna relax and make my music and yeah! That was it!
PT: Listening to your music, one can easily tell that you are a lover boy.
Chike: It is okay to liken people to what they produce, I understand that. But I’ll still prefer to remind you that I make music based on how I feel. So, if you say based on my current work out there, if that is what people derive, then, sure! But I mean, it is still a long career.
PT: How do you think the internet has affected your music?
Chike: The internet is powerful oh! If not, for people like us, we wouldn’t have gotten a chance without the internet. It is just the truth! You know, before my album dropped I used to do this program on the internet I named “One Minute Chike” because I just thought it was funny.
So, I needed to sing within one minute, but if you look at the other side of one minute; there’s a sexual funniness to that. So, I tried different things with music and then the internet kept me afloat.
PT: What is the worst trouble music has gotten you into?
Chike: I can tell you that I have made some financial mistakes, I don’t regret putting my money into my music but know, sometimes, as an artiste, when you invest, you do that emotionally rather than investing business-wise. It is an emotional investment if you take all your money, and even the one you borrowed, and invest in your music. It is an emotional investment, and that is a bad investment.
PT: You also act. Where does your real interest lie?
Chike: I am an artiste. My interest lies in arts and that involves music and acting. For me, the only criteria I check for acting is, at least I need to believe the script is a great script and that it is being handled by a good production team, and it needs to be something that’s worth my time, I’d jump on it. So, there’s no preference here, it is just doing good work.
PT: Music can be a good tool to effect good governance. How have you been able to influence your society with your music?
Chike: When I hear questions like this, I imagine back then on Twitter when you’re talking about something and a lot of people tweeting at you saying “Oh, Chike talk about what’s going on”.
You know, I think we should treat each other as human beings. What I mean by this is, there are people who are activists; there are people who are naturally outspoken, and there are people who are not. It doesn’t make them bad people, it doesn’t mean those who are naturally outspoken are good people too or bad people. So, we all have a choice of will, which is – to do or not to do.
In terms of influencing my society positively, I make art, depending on how I feel. I think to effect societal change; you need to work it from the inside; you need to start from your immediate environment, from family to friends etc.
So, when I see things that I don’t like about the government, I don’t need to do it through my music. I owe it to do it as a person, as a human being, as a citizen of Nigeria. So, would there come a time when I’d have to do it through my music? Yea! Sure! But these are two worlds apart. It is just me doing what’s right as a citizen and looking for a better country for myself and other people.
PT: What do you think about the role Nigerian musicians played during the #ENDSARS protests?
Chike: We all saw what was going on in Nigeria, anybody who was not happy with what was going on -musicians and non-musicians; the fact that you do not like what’s going on, you speak up! To me, it has nothing to do with your profession. I mean, we had a lot of musicians and actors protesting, I don’t see that. What I see is a lot of Nigerians who were unhappy with governance and decided to speak up.
PT: “Boo of the Booless’’ was a successful album. Should we expect anything similar or different?
Chike: You know, I’ve told you I do music based on how I feel, and right now I have been feeling a whole lot of different ways. Happy, sad, emotional, inspired. I can tell you there will be another album this year, hopefully. And when it does come out, I assure you that I will maintain the basics of my music which is storytelling, and I’d do it with as many souls as possible.
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