Written by Dorica Santos
We had the pleasure of interviewing rap artist Kelechi from Atlanta, who has recently released his debut album, Before The Quarter. Good hair, Nigerian households and alternative careers, we got together with Kelechi to talk more about his life and what we should expect from 2017. Check it all out below.
How would you describe your music in three words?
“I would say true, warm and good.”
Who are your biggest influences?
“J Cole, Kayne West and Nelly.”
Do you have any dream collaborations?
“I guess the three I’ve already mentioned, J Cole, Kanye and Nelly. Chance The Rapper, there’s a lot. I think a cool collaboration with anybody is fine. I think it’d be cool to make a song with Michael Jackson but like, there’s reasons why that can’t happen, mostly because he isn’t alive. I have been listening his biggest hits in my car, he is pretty awesome. You don’t even realise the stuff that’s getting done in hip hop right now, it’s like very influenced by what his done.”
So apart from Michael Jackson, who else are you listening to right now?
“I listened to J Cole’s new album last night. But outside of that, I pretty much listen to like my music? Well, my music, J Cole, Michael, Kanye, Chance. There’s so much music in the world, there’s no point in me trying to keep up. It’s like a job to find new music, it’s so overwhelming, I don’t even try anymore. Oh! I listen to 6lack too, he is from Atlanta.”
So your new album, Before The Quarter, is out. How has the response been to it?
“It’s been really good. It’s been phenomenal actually. It’s more than you asked for when you’ve kind of made it for yourself. Well, not yourself, because I did make it in hope that people would like it. I guess the songs are about what I like and what are true to me, so that fact that people like it is a bonus.”
Tell us about the album. Where did the concept come from?
“So I have an album I have been working on for the past three years, which is called Quarter Life Crisis, but this album is called Before The Quarter because it ended up being a prequel. Reason being, I won a contest and then ended up making this album in collaboration with, Mountain Dew’s Green Label, and we ended up putting together what we are doing right now. I was going to make that album, Quarter Life Crisis, but it changed. You just start collaborating with people and you compromise, figure what they wanna do, what you wanna do and meet in the middle. Yeah, the album changed but it was still dope. Basically, Before The Quarter is a prequel to get people acquainted with me and a way for people to get ready for what I want to do.”
Have you always been into rapping? How did you get into it?
“I started off writing poetry when I was in middle school and I was in a rap group in early high school. But everybody just quit or stopped; yet I kept going with it and I started making my own beats. I didn’t really make any music until I was like 14. But I started to understand the industry and getting it about two years ago. I feel like my career is two years long, but I’ve always been making music.”
So you’re Nigerian correct? Nigerians are known to be quite strict when it comes to education and career paths. How did your parents react when you said you want to be a rapper?
“I am Nigerian, you’ve been doing your research.”
“Initially, I remember dropping out of school and telling my mum. It was like the worst day of her life. I guess she always knew I’ve been making music, staying up late and going to school tired. But once she saw how hard I was working she was really supportive. Both of my parents know how much I loved it and how happy it made me. They are really supportive, which is not common in a Nigerian household. If it was something I just picked up, both of parents would’ve made me stay in school, they would be like “[in Nigerian accent] what are you doing eh? You want to be a rapper?””
Following the topic of being Nigerian, do you think you would work with any Afrobeat artists, like Wizkid or D’Banj?
“I definitely would, because you grow up listen with Afrobeats and dope Nigerian/African music. I wanna make a cool song like that, like I’ve tried but it hasn’t been fire and I don’t wanna drop anything that feels really forced. It would be cool to collaborate with someone rather than me doing it and it being like [rasps]. I’m definitely open to working with Afrobeat artists, it’d be dope.”
What was it like working with Kweku Collins on the track Redeye?
“It was dope, we weren’t in the studio together for that one. But we are really cool, that’s a buddy of mine. So that song was done for OddCouple who is signed to the same label as Kweku and I’ve known for years. So we were in Chicago and OddCouple had a record that he wanted me to get on, Kewku was already on it. We’re quite contrasting but it was cool to work with him. We have something on the way, it might on my next project or I might drop it as a single, but you know… we got something on the way.”
Also, what was it like working with BJ The Chicago Kid?
“It was really cool. So when we were working on Before The Quarter, erm I had written the hook and recorded the choir already and I think originally we wanted to work with Anthony Hamilton and his people were like “yo, this is cool,” but then it turned out we didn’t have the budget. So we talked to BJ cause I felt like it would be perfect for him. I’m really glad he ended up working on it together because he took it super serious. He was on tour with Big KRIT and we worked on the record in the hotel room.”
“There’s actually a really cool video of us working, I should send it to you, and it’s a really cool video of us working on that. So we cut his vocals in the hotel room, he did a whole bunch of extra stuff and you then took it back to Atlanta, got it mixed, fixed it up and we dropped that. So yeah, that was really cool.”
So did you learn a lot from each other?
“Yeah, well BJ is cool because he has a personality of a cool church friend that you’ve always known. Like, that was our first time meeting, when we worked on the record. I felt like I knew him already, he is really dope, he has really gives off really good energy.”
Word on the street is that you have meet J Cole. Could you summarise the most important time?
“So Chance was opening for J Cole in Chicago, we’ve been cool with Chance and his band for a while so, we met them down there, hung out with the for a while. Then Cole got there, I was like super nervous by the way, I’m probably gonna make it sound a lot cooler than it actually was.”
“So I chose a song I wanted him to hear and played it for him. He was doing the J Cole thing and being like “aye manyeee” and started giving me a bunch of advice. He told me that it was dope and that was the best part of it. But that’s pretty much it, that’s like the summary. It’s all the important stuff. But I could even make like a 30 minutes story but I just made it 30 seconds long.”
Do you think you’ll work with J Cole in the future?
“I dunno. I’m super open minded, like it could happen. I think it will happen one day but there no concrete evidence that it will.”
Immigrant Child was a song that stood out because of the listener’s ability to relate to your message. Do you feel music has helped you faced challenges due your cultural background?
“I guess yes and no. It helps because it’s kind of like a place to go. My friend and I were discussing this actually. We don’t really learn from music, most people want to be entertained and comforted. It’s more about allowing people to feel empathy for you and to make people feel like they have someone feeling empathy for them, if that makes sense?”
“So when people listen to my songs they can be like “yo, somebody feels me.” That’s the coolest thing. Someone might be like “I feel alone, but I feel less alone cause I know someone else feels alone.” I guess that’s how I view it, but everyone is different.”
Do you have any advice for people who want make music their career?
“I would say make a business plan. Figure where you want to go, like exactly where you want to get to. Map them out and you’ll probably see things happening soon. A lot of people don’t have plans and it doesn’t work out.”
If you weren’t a rapper what would you be?
“I have no idea; people ask me that all the time. I think would be, ahh I don’t know man. I would still be in the music industry, I’d just be an engineer. Which is kind of cheating.”
Choose a career that has nothing to do with music.
“If I wasn’t in the music industry? I don’t know man, that’s so tough. I’d probably do a regular job, with regular stuff and chill out on the weekend I guess. I’d so lame. I’d be lame cause I don’t think I’d be happy, music makes me the most happiest so it’s hard to think of anything else.”
Do you have any plans for 2017?
“I do have plans for 2017…. But they are secret plans.”
How about any live performances in 2017?
“We will most definitely be touring probably the middle or end of 2017. We’ll see what happens. I do want to come to Europe, it’s one of my core goals. If I don’t go to Europe in 2017, I’ll be out there in 2018 definitely.”
Last but not least, if you could a cocktail what would you be?
“I feel like I’d be something dark like dark liquor cause I’m mad chocolate. I don’t know, that’s a good question. See you shouldn’t ask someone like me, because I will try to get the answer right and I’ll think about it too much. Maybe a mule with Ginger Beer and Hennessey, with a little bit of lime.”
Kelechi’s musical career so far has been one of inspiration and hard work, his progression is immense and we tip Kelechi to go on and do amazing things in 2017, maybe even a show in the UK (hint, hint).
In the meantime, listen to Kelechi’s latest single, Play With My Hair below.