If you haven’t heard of CHIKA, this article is your sign to dive into the fresh, biting rhythms and flows of her latest EP, INDUSTRY GAMES, immediately. Having first gone viral for her satirical video post–the 2016 US Presidential Election, the Nigerian–American poet/rapper CHIKA has grown in bounds since the meme first brought her in the public stratosphere.
Which brings us to her show–stopping 2020 EP INDUSTRY GAMES. From start to finish, CHIKA claims her power. Opening the EP, her humble “INTRO” serves as a preview to her honest music ambitions opening with “Call it intuition, but I’m about to change the world, it’s been my only mission” and repeating calls to the listener: “I hope my music makes you think.” And think it does. Throughout her entire EP, CHIKA takes us through her entire journey from humble, ambitious beginnings to securing a name for herself as “best of the new school” in the words of Diddy.
Each song adds something new to her story, not only literally detailing her musical journey but her emotional one. “INTRO” introduces us to the optimistic, wide–eyed CHIKA through a cascade of piano chords and sentimental violin notes interlaced through an almost monologue wherein she openly shares her dreams. This is a sharp contrast to the tinny, warped opening notes that act as a haunting musical box of the following track, "INDUSTRY GAMES," where her bars come in through hushed interludes in tandem with the ominous minor key, booming bass, and crunchy hi–hats. CHIKA lets you know from the start that she “can hear the snakes, they hissin', tryna break my mission” and that she “[is] the antithesis” to these industry games she directly names and critiques.
The rest of the EP discusses CHIKA's struggle with fame. She confesses “the pressure fuckin' stacked, at the weight of a gravel backpack” amidst a soulful chorus in “SONGS ABOUT YOU” as this track takes on a more triumphant success despite the challenges narrative. Again, her tracks add more depth and complexity to her experiences. On “BALENCIES,” she details the judgement that’s come with her success from “and the whole world is conversating ‘bout your waist line / And mental health days make you guilty, ‘cause you waste time” to growing self–doubt and self–dissatisfaction with “how I'm uplifting your whole life but still I hate mine." While all people with newfound fame find themselves with new pressures, CHIKA’s pressures are multifold and intensified by her representation of so many communities, as a queer Black Alabaman from a Nigerian immigrant family openly talking about mental health and body positivity.
On top of simply having killer bars and songs bursting with hi–hats, a rocking bass, playful synths, and choral vocals that compliment her hypnotic voice, CHIKA is an unapologetic force in her politics as a bisexual, body–positive, Black woman. From creating the body positivity #EgoChallenge and a Pride–themed remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” in 2017, to her 2018 freestyle addressing Kanye West over his support of Trump, to her Jimmy Kimmel performance advocating against Alabama’s abortion bill and going onto NowThis News to urge against abortion bans in 2019, it’s clear CHIKA has never let her ascent to popularity compromise her values and outspoken social conscience.
Beyond the challenges she has faced, CHIKA spends the last tracks of her EP reminding us “I feel like a better me / Girl, I can't even complain” in spite of these obstacles. She celebrates how far she’s come with “Thinking 'bout who I'd be if I listened to doubt / Said I'd never do it, well look at me now.” The triumphant joy is palpable in her last track, “CROWN.” Packed with energy, the soul in the chorus’ harmonies and interlaced synths with CHIKA’s grounding voice at the center, CHIKA makes her resilience and empowerment. In the words of CHIKA herself, “Ain't nobody gonna take my crown." I don’t think anyone could, even if they wanted to.