One of the purest yardsticks of a Nigerian pop hit (at least for me) is the ability to cross the line of secularity, into religious boundaries. A classic example would be Korede Bello’s Godwin. It didn’t matter if you were a Christian, Muslim, traditionalist, scholar, prostitute, or drug dealer. As long as it had to do with alerts and positive progression, Na God win.
A more recent example and probably still the current record holder of this category of hits is definitely Chinko Ekun’s star-studded Able God (or Ebuka, according to Toke Makinwa): A banger by all rights. In these dire times of economic hardship, Able God summarizes the divine hope that the average Nigerian gets by. To be drenched in showers of blessings and to never be embarrassed by insufficient funds. Even better, this hope comes with a song that we can gbese and gbe body to.
Able God currently circles the 5 million mark on Youtube, 8 months after release. Hours before this draft, I heard it twice on the radio, once by self-volition and twice at a music festival. Imagine rationalizing these numbers across digital and traditional streaming platforms during its peak and its current off-peak season… This awareness helps me understand what Chinko Ekun really means when he says Shayo (featuring Falz and Dremo) changed the game for him but Able God changed his life.
Chinko Ekun’s art is set apart by various distinct qualities that include wit, tact and of course intelligence. Marrying these to his goofy and fun personality, it is no surprise that he was one of the first set of rappers signed by Olamide to YBNL. Joining the team in 2014 meant splitting his attention between a music career and a Law degree but he managed to sail through these two extremities while keeping his sanity. “Be ready to understand one is going to lag behind” he advises, giving his 2 cents from his hectic experience.
“The fact that one would lag doesn’t mean you should neglect it. Keep doing your best and sometimes expect the worst. Number three, keep praying…Don’t be lazy. If you are you won’t make it in any of those fields. Lastly, drink water and mind your business.”
“I don’t talk too much, but if you bite me, I’ll swallow you. That’s why they say the gentility of a tiger shouldn’t be taken for stupidity.”
Oladipo Olamide Emmanuel was raised in the hood of Igando (in the Alimosho local government area of Lagos State) and only began to be addressed by the name Chinko in secondary school. This stemmed from the mixture of his light skin, a bald haircut and slant eyes which gave him a Chinese look at the time. Ekun, on the other hand, means tiger in the Yoruba lingo and was adopted after Chinko made a song with the same title. He also believes that he shares certain characteristics with the striped cat, making the name even more befitting. “I don’t talk too much, but if you bite me, I’d swallow you. That’s why they say the gentility of a tiger shouldn’t be taken for stupidity. To some extent I’m fierce, but I’m a nice guy.”
Despite coming from a music inclined home, Chinko’s folks saw to it that he studied law; a decision which his career is now thankful for. Months ago, Chinko Ekun represented musicians at Freeme Digital’s quarterly Music Business and Drinks panel session and his views were seasoned with broader perspectives. He acknowledged the flaws of the Nigerian musician as it relates to enabling piracy, whilst understanding what could be if intellectual property is properly protected and correctly exploited.
The most recent edition of Music Business and Drinks saw a heated debate about independent artistes versus record labels and from Chinko Ekun’s point of view, there are 2 sides to a coin.
“Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It depends on the one that’s cool for you. The mistake we make is that we don’t really see music as a business. Rather music is seen as an avenue to blow and make money.”
As a signed artiste, Chinko believes record labels are misunderstood.
“Record labels are beyond what people think. There are structures and formalities. As an artist, there are some things I can’t do which my label manager would do. If I must perform at a show and I must sign an MOU, my label manager and lawyer have to go through it, and sign. In this world that we’re in, most contracts have hidden clauses most people don’t understand, then you find yourself under binding contracts with contents you don’t understand.”
Creative freedom is the independent artiste’s sweetest high but from Chinko’s observation, this liberty still needs control. He mentions the names of some top playing global stars, highlighting the fact that they all belong to organized teams.
“Record labels are meant to be structured by professionals, so you don’t find yourself doing things you don’t know. Most artists that own themselves feel like they are the Messiah of the record. Nicki Minaj and Drake are still signed to Young Money. It’s just that here in Nigeria, all we want is freedom and liberty. There’s also greed from both parties. When you’re the CEO of your record label, it’s hard for you to be corrected or to take to correction, except you’re level headed. Being a single artist is good for you if you have the money to push yourself. I’m in a record label because I know I cannot fund my music for now. The little I make is for me to fend for myself and my little family, so how do you expect me to get 4 or 5 million Naira to shoot a video and use that same amount to promote that music? I’m just thankful for my record label.”
“Indigenous rap is gaining more popularity because Afrobeat is getting stronger.”
As it concerns Nigeria, the independent artiste and their signed counterparts will continue to suffer greatly until a certain level of standardization is achieved in the industry. I probe Chinko on the patterns that hurt him most in the Nigerian music community and he gives me his top 5.
“I hate the fact that I have to use millions to push my music before it blows.
I hate the fact that I have to pay radios to play my song when it’s supposed to be the other way around.
I also hate the fact that there’s a lot of hate, we don’t love each other.
I hate when you feature artists and they find it hard to post it. Why start something you can’t finish? Sometimes artists record a song with you and say they are unavailable to shoot the video, even if they are.
I want a well-structured industry. I want an industry whereby we appreciate rap music and upcoming artists are not treated like trash. There should be laws guiding our intellectual properties. A lot of people are really ripping us off.”
He also feels the industry is very unfair to women and prays for a world of equal opportunities. Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade and a few others are painstakingly changing this narrative but statistics show there’s a lot more to be done.
“I cannot be intimate with someone I don’t know without condoms.”
Vibe: Was it tough picking (Samena featuring Perruzi) as the follow up for a smash hit?
Chinko Ekun: It took me 4-5 months. I had a pool of songs, different arguments, but we just had to pick one.
Vibe: Are you one of those who think albums are a waste of resources?
Chinko Ekun: No. Having an album is good as long as you have a team and fans who crave for it. Proper credits should be given and necessary analysis should be made in album production to prevent financial problems from arising in the future. I think money should be pumped into album production so the artist can be able to seek what he wants, from the producers to the directors. It’s not a waste of resources and in this digital world, you would make a lot if your album is booming.
Vibe: What would you consider as the most important process of making music for you?
Chinko Ekun: I feel it’s the dedication and inspiration. Music is my 9-5, even if I’m going to invest in other things. It’s hard for me to do any other job. This fact means I have to give it my all, hence the dedication. If I listen to a beat, I’m ready to finish the song immediately. Once I finish, I re-listen, correct what needs to be corrected, add what I need to add, but I have to finish it.
Vibe: Do you think indigenous rap can be exported easily as global pop music?
Chinko Ekun: I think it’s getting a lot of popularity because the veterans have done a lot for us. We are like the new school pushers. There were people like Olamide, Reminisce, Nigga Raw that did most of the work for us. There was a time 3 indigenous rappers were listed for the best rap song in a popular award show, and they were representing all the zones in Nigeria. It’s a lot of ginger for people out there to see. Even the western rappers are even trying to tap into the indigenous world. The indigenous flavor in Afrobeat has given us a yardstick to tap into the popularity associated with it. When I dropped Able God, I got videos from different people from different parts of the world, and the fact that Nigerians are in the diaspora is wonderful as everyone is looking for greener pasture. Indigenous rap is gaining more popularity because Afro beat is getting stronger.
I’m educated, yet I’m street.
Vibe: Why don’t you want to be with any woman in the spotlight?
Chinko Ekun: I’m quite a jealous person. More so I don’t womanize. When I try, I get into trouble and I’m trying to be scandal free. I can’t date any woman in the spotlight. In fact, if I’m dating anyone, I feel she should be private because I don’t want my woman going through the stress of being in the spotlight. I want my woman to be able to go to the market, work freely, chill, without anyone knowing she’s the one.
Vibe: What if there’s an exception?
Chinko Ekun: I’m an introvert. I don’t want to date someone that isn’t low-key. It might happen though. Love breaks some unexpected boundaries.
Vibe: Do you think it’s easy to control not having a baby mama?
Chinko Ekun: Of course, it is. There’s something called condoms you know. I cannot be intimate with someone I don’t know without condoms. I’m a virgin though. Most of the baby mama P is not a mistake or something that happens at a show as most people misconceive. There is no standard to what is right or wrong. Having a baby mama might be good to you but wrong to me. It might be good for you if you feel marriage is a stereotype.
Vibe: If you could wake up in any super hero’s body, whose would it be and what would be the first thing you do?
Chinko Ekun: I would like to be Ifa. Ifa is like an oracle, a messenger of God. Ifa has words of wisdom for every situation. I would also like to be Nightcrawler. I want to to be able to teleport.
Vibe: If you could eat off any female artist’s body, local or internationally, whose would it be?
Chinko Ekun: Internationally it would be Nicki Minaj…I like breasts o. locally, it would be Yemi Alade.
Vibe: Are you comfortable with the term ‘street’?
Chinko Ekun: I love the street. Na street dey give us food. It is wonderful when you’re a street rapper and you can appeal to different facets of life, even the educated ones want to key into your craft. That is what I call accomplishment, success. To some extent, it can be undermining. Some people feel segregation is the order of the day. Once you say you’re street, some ‘posh’ people don’t want to relate with you. There’s a stereotype attached to street, but it’s beyond being perceived as haggard. It involves your orientation. I’m not from a poor family background, nor am I from a rich one. I’m educated, yet I’m street. I have the street orientation.
Vibe: How do you give back?
Chinko Ekun: I try my best. I keep staying true to the culture. The streets are not supposed to be condemned. Not everyone was born with a silver spoon. The fact that you are stuck in a certain place does not stop you from achieving your dreams. It’s not all about money or violence, sometimes they just want to show love and respect which you should show back. Then it’s necessary to give them hope. Many have made it out of the street, controlling the so-called elites. Some feel they are elite because they went to school, or live in very serene areas, yet they are under the wings of an artist that made it out of the street.
Vibe: What would you say your fans love the most about you?
Chinko Ekun: I feel they love my way of rap. I don’t sound like anybody and my delivery is different as well. I believe they would always have that one line that would bust their head. People just want to grab one or two lines, so I feel what they like is my wittiness.
Vibe: If you could make 10 musicians live forever, who would make your list?
Chinko Ekun: I would pray for Craig David to live forever because I grew up listening to him. I’m a fan of his life. I would also like Olamide to live forever. He pushed me out there. 3 would be Reminisce, 4 would be Ola Dips, he’s a protégé of Reminisce. I’m a big fan of his works. He tells stories with his raps. I like when people see music as a work of art and can paint pictures into people’s subconscious. 5 would be Vector. 6 is Wande Coal and 7 is Kizz Daniel. I love Kizz Daniel. I have been his fan since I was young. He knows how to throw what he wants to his audience in a way that they would understand. When I listen to his album, I’m always happy. I would have loved if Tupac and Biggy lived forever. Michael Jackson and Dagrin too.
Cover Story: Black Petal
Photography: Benson Ibeabuchi
MakeUp Artist: Carina_SFX
Cover Design: Slimkiss