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Ckay: Introducing Africa’s Boyfriend

By Chisom Njoku
05 December 2021   |   5:02 am
For a generation obsessed with showing minimal emotions in romantic relationships, you’d be surprised that majority of the population are infatuated with the idea of finding love and being somebody’s everything. The only problem is that most people aren’t witty enough to charm their way into the hearts of their love interests using words or…

For a generation obsessed with showing minimal emotions in romantic relationships, you’d be surprised that majority of the population are infatuated with the idea of finding love and being somebody’s everything.

The only problem is that most people aren’t witty enough to charm their way into the hearts of their love interests using words or lyrics unless, of course, you are Ckay who’s been able to achieve this on a global scale through his 2019 late bloomer “Love Nwantiti” which captured the ear and hearts of millions of listeners around the world thanks to its serenading melodies and the artiste’s soulful humming on the track.

At some point in the year, it was nearly impossible to navigate social media without hearing the signature intro “my baby, my valentine.. girl na you dey make my temperature dey rise” as it became the choice for both professional and amateur content creators around the world. TikTok, the Chinese video-focused social networking platform, played a crucial part in the spread of the Ckay bug as it was on the app that “Love Nwantiti’’ took off from obscurity before earning the artiste the highly coveted title of most views on the platform as Ckay had garnered over 15 billion streams as at November 2021.

Inception

His meteoric rise is quite admirable, but in order to properly understand this dexterous artiste, we need to follow his story from the beginning.

Ckay (birth name: Chuwkuka Ekweani), was born to high-handed parents and grew up in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, where he spent a majority of his early life. 

“I grew up in Kaduna and it was very uninteresting. My parents didn’t let me go out a lot because they were strict Christian parents. My life revolved around home, church, and school. My childhood was very regular and my parents were middle-class earners so it’s not like I had rich parents and I was balling, it was just very average but I had a deep curiosity for music that led me to learn how to play the piano, guitar and eventually producing and that’s kind of how everything started.”

Ckay recalls himself to be a musically talented child with enough know-how to play Beethoven’s symphonies as a child.

“My dad taught me how to play the piano and read musical notes, but after a few years, I felt like I wanted to start writing my own music not playing Beethoven’s stuff which was in a book I would easily read and okay”.

Other than his father, Ckay had a lot of other musical influences who shaped his taste in music at a young age and helped him to fine-tune his sound.

“Westlife, Backstreet Boys, Cisco, Usher, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo. I really listened to them a lot growing up so you can say that they influenced my taste in music.”

His music has travelled so far at this point, one can almost conclude that most, if not all, of his early influences have heard of him by now. 

The Struggle 

When the time came, Ckay had to leave home [Kaduna] in search of his own path and because of his interest in music, he naturally gravitated to Nigeria’s entertainment hotspot, Lagos.

“When I moved to Lagos, I had to make money somehow to take care of myself because I wasn’t depending on my parents, so I started producing in studios around to make a living while pursuing my own stuff.”

He didn’t have connections, so he had to utilise the internet in search of production jobs to earn a living.

“I didn’t have friends, and I was literally just walking up to studios I found online and I would introduce myself as a producer and tell them what I could do for them. 

I was working in three studios at the same time, one in Dolphin, Ikoyi; another in Surulere, and the last one around Alfred Riwane in the boys’ quarters of a house there. Then I started working in Chocolate City at some point, making it four. I did all this because I had to survive.”

Nigerian hip-hop label Chocolate City, to which Ckay was signed first as a producer and later as an artiste was a big part of his come-up story and that happened because;

“The A&R heard my music and liked it and M.I heard one of my beats and was intrigued, so he wanted to meet me and we did. The rest is history.”

Talking about history, in 2017, Osagie Alonge had M.I on the “Loose Talk” podcast and on that show, he berated Ckay in an attempt to get under M.I’s skin with the derogatory yet humbling remark “who the fuck is Ckay?”. This trended across social media and came at a time when Ckay was already putting in work. No one knows how he really felt about this apart from him.

“At the time I heard it, I felt bad, but I don’t feel bad anymore [smug smile]. When I came to Lagos to succeed, I didn’t know Osagie because he’s not my motivation to succeed and he never will be, he’s just a critic that was blabbing and saying things—even if he said things that made me feel bad, it doesn’t mean that after that he’ll become my motivation to succeed. I literally left home and made sacrifices to get here.”

Redemption 

Fast forward four years down the line, Ckay is one of the biggest young African artistes on the planet with a new record deal from Warner Music South Africa. With certifications in France, Canada, Portugal and the U.K, it’s clear that he’s a master of his craft and his best days are still in front of him.

He has tagged himself “Africa’s Boyfriend” and cemented the title with his last project, an EP named Boyfriend, released in February, which, of course, was full of ambient and soulful Afro-fusion. Ckay looks and dresses the way he wants to in order to project the uniqueness of self that he feels.

“I’m Africa’s boyfriend. I like to express myself through my style and my look isn’t just branding, it is an extension of me. I chose to dye my hair purple because I felt it was unique and I wanted something that would be original.”

Looking at how far the artiste has come, one can only imagine if there was a eureka moment when he knew that he had made an impression. According to him, that wasn’t the case, it was an organic and eventual process that happened right in front of everyone.

“It didn’t just magically happen. It is a product of consistency because I watched it [the music] spread from Lagos to the rest of Nigeria, then Ghana and West Africa, to East Africa, then South Africa and eventually the rest of the world.”

Of course, Africa’s boyfriend is big on sensitivity and much like British songstress, Adele, his music is inspired by his emotional headspace at the time. 

“My music is greatly inspired by how I’m feeling at the moment. If I’ve just broken up, that is what you’re going to hear, the vibe of someone that’s dealing with heartbreak; and if I’m in an emotional place, you’re going to hear it in the music.”

Some have made the mistake of writing Ckay off as a one-hit-wonder citing his global chart-topper “Love Nwantiti” as his peak but the artiste is determined to prove naysayers wrong not by addressing them or going on rants but through his music and accelerating his work rate. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his album. 

“My album is dropping early next year. I feel like I’ve given fans enough EPs, so it’s time to give them a proper body of work.

“I can’t tell you what it’s going to be called yet because it has to be a surprise but it’s going to be amazing.”

Ckay is quite eccentric and honest about how he feels and he pays a lot of attention to his sound and visuals for his music—of course, his background in music plays a part in his precision and it is truly admirable to see a young artiste so passionate about their craft. Time is on his side and all indications show that he’s going to make the most of it.

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