CHIKA on why she dislikes being called a “female rapper,” getting a Cardi B cosign, new ‘Industry Games’ EP and more
For Women’s History Month, REVOLT caught up with CHIKA to talk female empowerment, her music and more. “I’m just here to annihilate the scene,” she said.
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CHIKA’s talents are endless. When describing herself, the Alabama-bred star states, “I’m just here to annihilate the scene.”
She’s gone viral multiple times for her strong stance on black culture, politics, body positivity, and self-love. In 2018, she released an incredible freestyle calling out Kanye West over his own “Jesus Walks” beat, which occurred when he was seen rocking a “Make America Great Again” hat. Her politically charged lyrics would catch the attention of elites such as Diddy, Erykah Badu, and even Jada Pinkett Smith.
Now, a few years later, CHIKA has turned those standout bars into her first project. The highly anticipated Industry Games has arrived, a testament to not conforming to what society or the music industry wants you to be. Off the rip on “Intro,” she states, “I hope this music makes you think…”
CHIKA’s other recent accomplishments include being the face of Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvin campaign, being featured in Lena Waithe’s Artists You Should Know campaign, performing “Richey vs. Alabama” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” becoming Teen Vogue’s December 2019 cover star, as well as being named 2020’s VEVO DSCVR Artist — all before the age of 23.
In honor of Women’s History Month, REVOLT caught up with the talent a few days before her 23rd birthday to discuss female empowerment, her new EP, getting a Cardi B cosign, and more. Read below.
Being from Alabama, what were you seeing growing up?
It was weird because the place I’m from is Montgomery, Alabama. It’s the home to the Civil Rights movement. There’s a lot of racial tension there, weird things like that. Other than that, it was a cool experience. I got to see life from a different perspective. People have their assumptions about Alabama, but I was actually immersed in it as someone who didn’t move until I was 18. Weird experience, but cool at the same time.
Atlanta was two hours away. How’d that influence you?
Georgia and Alabama, basically, we’re homies. We look the same, we sound the same. We have a little bit more of a country twang to them. We have a slower drawl. But, in terms of influences, our music sounds so similar. But, you can still tell regionally who’s from where. I can always tell an Atlanta rapper or a southern rapper from anywhere else, which is fun.
When did you realize this music thing was for real?
I’ve always known I wanted to do this since I was two. I’ve seen it pick up, of course, more recently in the last few years. So, that’s good. I’ve always had the feeling that I’d end up here, but the journey itself… because you almost think you’re almost there. “Oh wait, no I’m not.” Is it album time? “No, okay cool.” It’s been one of those, but I’ve always had the feeling I’d be doing this. Always.
How’d you build your social media presence? What was your secret?
There wasn’t one. I went viral in 2016 after the election because Trump won and we were all devastated. I made a video to make my friend laugh. I was putting concealer on my face like “African American, never felt that, never heard of that.” It went viral on Twitter, then my Twitter got deleted because, of course, the racists…
Really? Twitter did that?
They literally suspended my account for almost two weeks. Since the video had gone viral, I was missing out on followers. I remember I reposted it on Instagram just as a complaint. I didn’t have followers on Instagram yet. I thought, “Since Twitter took it down, I’ll put it here.”
It ended up going viral on Instagram. It gave me 17,000 followers overnight. It was wild. Immediately, I started posting music and never stopped for the next two years. I kept doing it every single day. I went viral six times in one year… Every couple months, I was going viral. It was a streak of manifestation and luck, really.
Did you think you’d be getting this much attention? Is it something you enjoy?
I don’t dislike it. When you want to do a certain job, you already know what the job comes with, but the stuff you notice more when you’re in it. It’s not that I didn’t ever think I’d have this much attention on me, it’s more so I didn’t know it’d come so early or all what it entailed. People hate you for the dumbest thing.
Safety-wise, you start thinking about that more because I’m a regular person. I just got out the car with my Lyft driver who knows who I am. Let’s say she hated me, that’d be dangerous. She’s real cool, we talked about the EP. It was real cute. I’ve always known these moments would happen. But, now that I’m here, I’m having to pace myself. Learn and look at it from a different perspective. It’s crazy in these streets honestly. It’s wild.
Who are some female figures you look up to?
I look up to Eartha Kitt, she’s hysterical. She says she doesn’t need a man and neither do I. I’d be mean if I didn’t say my mom. So, my mom, she’s great. Honestly, I have a lot of people I look up to. Rihanna, she’s my Pisces queen. Beyonce’s my other mom, so I might as well throw her out there. The women in my life for real. My whole team for the most part are women. Everyone around me: my management, my publicist, everybody. We’re all women. We do the damn thing and get it done. I genuinely look up to them, they work harder than I do.
Being a female in the music industry, have you experienced any hardships?
Not really hardships, just annoyances. People bring up you being a female rapper. I’m just a rapper, I so happen to be a girl. It’s a weird qualifier that always comes before your name. That in and of itself can make certain issues. People don’t judge you the same way they judge other people.
If any man said the things I say in my music or make the music I make, they’d be losing their minds right now. We have the recipe to make them go crazy, so we’re not really worried about that. In terms of how easy it is for a guy to get on versus a woman, I’ve seen that for sure. I’ve seen so many people who are not — not to say worse than me, but not on my level lyrically — surpass me over the past three years that I’ve been building my profile and platform. It gets weird, but it’s not an overall detractor.
Who are your top female artists?
I like Beyonce, of course. Tierra Whack is great. I like H.E.R. Alicia Keys. Raveena [Aurora] is really dope. I’m trying to think of people I listen to daily, there’s a lot of women. Ari Lennox, that’s the homie. I saw her the other day, her dog attacked me. Her dog’s amazing (chuckles).
Where do you see the future of female rap?
We’re moving in a great direction. I think “female rapper,” those titles are going to fade away. It’ll just be “rap” because a lot of the women who are in music right now, in hip hop specifically, are doing it harder than the men are. That qualifier eventually is going to become obsolete and no one’s going to be thinking if they’re women or not. You’ll just say “Oh, this is what a dope rapper is.” You’ll start judging the men more harshly, so we’ll be saying “male rapper” if anything. We’ll be able to actually exist in a world where we’re not a novelty.
How’s it feel to have a cosign from Cardi B?
It was really sweet. Aw damn, I left out Cardi. I love Cardi! It feels great. Cardi’s been supporting since day one. She followed me around the time of the Trump video, she was there very early. The cosign to everyone else publicly seemed like a huge thing, but she’s been a supporter who’d like pics here and there. Then, she mentioned me, I’m like, “That’s sick, she’s actually paying attention.” I got to meet her in New York for Fashion Week.
How was that encounter?
It was real cute. It was one of those moments like that Spiderman meme where they’re pointing at each other. We saw each other like, “Ah, you! Ah, you!” We’re pointing at each other, then people started to mob her. Someone was taking our picture, so they thought she was taking pictures with fans. I’m like, “Okay, we’ll talk later.” She had to let go, but it was really cool. Sweet interaction.
With almost a million followers on IG, how do you plan on being a role model for the youth?
By being honest. By actually being genuine with the things I feel… Being able to come at them in a healthy manner, rather than basking in horrible coping mechanisms. Even if I’m sad — I’m sad, don’t get it twisted — I’m not going to bask in that and glorify it. If anything, I’ll talk about the real shit. Eventually when it gets down to needing to know how to get through those things, I’ll provide answers. Try to persuade people with my music to go about it the right way.
What inspired “Industry Games”?
I just got out to L.A., it was last January. It’s the first song I wrote when I got out here. At that point, I was realizing, “I’m so different from most of the people who are rapping right now. The women and the men.” [I] know that in order to be successful, I might have to conform. In that thought, I’m like “No, I’m not going do it.” I’m not going to play the games that everyone else wants me to. I’m going to be myself and whatever happens, happens. I started writing it and it came out as this cocky ass song you hear now.
How was linking with Charlie Wilson on “Can’t Explain It”?
Oh gang. Uncle Charlie! We love him, he’s so sweet. I gave him permission to slap me. It was really cute. He’s like, “You’re so good, I just want slap you.” I said, “You know what, Charlie? We don’t even have to tell nobody about this, but you can do it.” He gave me a little two-finger tap on the cheek. He’s like, “I’m sorry!” I said, “It’s okay Uncle Charlie.” He’s great. He’s so funny and sweet.
What can we expect from the Industry Games EP?
Honestly, a snapshot of me as a person. We’ve gotten so much social media content. You can get me through that aspect and those memes. But, in terms of musically, this is my first actual statement as to who I am. Posturing myself in the position that I’m in. For my fans in this moment, for the ones that’s been here since 2016 from that stupid video and the ones that I’ve accumulated along the way, this is their first moment of feeling actually connected to the person they support.
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