The backbone of hip-hop music today is all about owning a unique voice, where the artists who have enjoyed the most staying power are those who have been most consistently authentic in their sound and message. For Atlanta-based artist Chike’, it is a voice influenced by African American struggles of the Civil Rights Era, formal music training, and lessons learned through life in the South.
Born to parents who were involved in the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960’s and early ’70’s, Ncosi Chike’ says he “wasn’t raised on TV and Christmas,” but rather on a diet of funk and jazz music. He started his first band in his early elementary school years, playing the drums, and would go on to a successful educational career with the instrument. While in college in Florida, he was the first African American male to be inducted into the Psychology Honor Society. His opportunities with the school band allowed him to start his own group, as well as to run a circle of student DJs, thus allowing all of their music to be heard within the Daytona Beach club scene. However, he laments, college “took the fun out of [music], and overall you enjoy yourself.”
Chike’ describes his music as “an educated person’s view of a world gone wrong,” exploring not only his story – an “awesome” one, as he puts it – but that of all sorts of people he has met. “I’d be an a**hole to think I have the only story that needs to be told,” he says. “I need to draw inspiration from every experience I have.”
When asked to name some of the artists who have influenced his work, he names Kanye West as a favorite, noting that hip-hop artists “have to realize that our words hold weight. I think [Kanye has] always had his mind on that, as well as being entertaining and fun.” He names reggae progeny Damien Marley as an artist he hopes to have the chance to work with, as well as fellow Atlanta rapper Wale, known for his singles “600 Benz” and “Lotus Flower Bomb,” saying he “has a very poetic feel,” which he admires.
After being featured on MTV2’s Sucker Free Sunday, Chike’ is now preparing release of his mixtape New Kid on the Block. The 26-year-old explains that it is named such because, simply, “that’s what they’re going to call you.” As a “new kid” in the hip-hop world, he feels he has the freedom to be himself, as the pressures of the industry’s perceptions have not yet been pushed upon him.
“Rappers are vexed between doing what we want to do and what people want us to do,” he says, but without expectations from major record labels pushing for ringtone sales and the like, he feels he can be most honest to who he is as an artist. “When [a new kid] shows up, you might call him the new kid, but he might have an older soul than you.”