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C Blaq talks career highlight, struggle and upcoming debut EP

By Soltesh Iyere
20 March 2022   |   6:51 am
C Blaq born Charles Ebiemi is a Nigeria born—South African based rapper, songwriter, producer, businessman and philanthropist. Since the release of his debut “Waff City Boi” in 2012, the rapper-producer has not stopped exiting music lovers worldwide from which he has built up a loyal base for his impactful hip-hop style, cementing himself as one…

C Blaq born Charles Ebiemi is a Nigeria born—South African based rapper, songwriter, producer, businessman and philanthropist. Since the release of his debut “Waff City Boi” in 2012, the rapper-producer has not stopped exiting music lovers worldwide from which he has built up a loyal base for his impactful hip-hop style, cementing himself as one of the genre top stars on the rise to watch.

In this chat with Soltesh Iyere, Blaq talks about the struggle of being an independent artist, his planned extended play, and what we should look forward to this year.

Who is C Blaq, where are you from? How did the name C Blaq come about?
My name is Charles Ebiemi Itoko, but most people know me by my stage name. C Blaq is the embodiment of my life’s struggle and determination to succeed against all odds.

The C originates from my first name CHARLES and BLAQ from the colour of my skin which was used to taunt me by my peers as a kid, although I spell black with a Q as a sign of quality. So Black Charles became C BLAQ and that was the beginning of my journey to be one of the greatest of my generation and prove that anything is achievable with self-belief.

C Blaq is in his own lane, trying to birth new sounds and create his own style. You are hardly involved in the usual drama like other artists, is this a strategy?
I have had early lessons to know what is real and what is not, what is for me and what would improve me as an artist and a person in general. Being the head of my family is also another factor that affects my choices and decision making. I am creating a legacy that would define our purpose and guide us to achieving our full potential. My journey and vision is deeper than rap music, this is my life, my passion, my escape from being just another black man who has to struggle to fit into a system that was created to keep us down.

I understand my purpose and with that comes enlightenment and guidance towards having a successful career and leaving a legacy of greatness.

You have come a long way in the industry since your first single was released. What makes C Blaq tick? How do you handle the pressure?
From my first release ‘WAFF CITY BOI’ in 2012, it has been an amazing journey so far.
My life without music is like a deep hole filled with darkness and absolute quietness. The chills I get when I see what my life will be without music is terrifying to the point that I have done everything and anything to keep growing from one stage to another despite the pace at which I have been moving. I believe in being slow and steady instead of rushing to failure.

The most important thing is to keep pushing forward towards the light and avoid as many obstacles along the way as possible. Distractions and peer pressure will test your resolve and determination to keep going, it will take something special for you to become successful as a rap artist especially here in Africa.

Having this awareness meant I have to always move differently and avoid the crowded road on my journey to greatness.

We all know there are a lot of artists in Nigeria, and it is a constant struggle for them in the industry. What are the challenges you face as an upcoming act in the music industry?
One of the greatest obstacles I have faced so far is understanding that seeking validation from family and friends as an upcoming act might be an impossible task and should be avoided. The times I have received good compliments for my work were mostly from strangers I have never met in places I have never been. I realised then that my fanbase was not around me but in places I am yet to discover.

That propelled me to always push my music as far and wide as possible and never rely on my friends or family to post or show interest in my career. From Myspace to Reverbnation, Soundcloud and local blogs, I have pushed for my sound to be heard worldwide and build a fanbase of multiple nationalities across the world. That is why I am able to maintain my close relationships with family and friends and still connect with my fans. I learned how to balance the people in my life and understand their different purposes.

Being an upcoming act in the music game can be overwhelming most times when you are independent and cannot afford to sponsor your own career. Most record labels want to sign a viral sensation rather than create one so you have to be your first investor to get noticed and seen as a valuable investment.

Looking at how far you have come and the successes you have recorded so far, what motivates you?
When you come from where I come from and see what I have seen, then you would know that I have no other option but to keep moving forward. You do not want to go back down there, there is no coming back from that. For those of us that made it out this far, we have no other choice than to go all the way up.

You have released several singles and now you are working on releasing an EP and a full-length album. What makes you think this is the best time to release a body of work?
Back in 2002 when 50cent just dropped ‘ Get Rich Or Die Trying’, I was completely blown away. I studied everything about him from interviews, shows and his group G Unit.

I related instantly to his story and I knew that I would also be able to do this. I knew who I wanted to be and I was patient enough to wait my turn. I never felt pressured to compete with my peers and move up too soon because others were going up. I have been waiting for the right moment when my ideas of who I want to be would match the reality of who I truly am. I feel that my reality now matches with the idea of who I had always hoped to become. I am at my most powerful time ever and completely in charge of my destiny.

That is why I know this is the best time to put out a body of work and re-introduce myself to the world.

Everyone knows it’s an uphill task for upcoming acts in the music industry, especially in Nigeria. How do you cope with the attention, both wanted and unwanted?
I used to battle rappers bars for bars back in Festac during my formative years as a rap artist, we would have a rap battle in the club with people cheering and spraying money and the winner gets cash and bragging rights. It is an adventure that would blow your mind if you take time and grow through each stage in the game. There is no need to hurry because once you get to the top there is no way left to go.

Make a plan, have a strategy and never leave anything to chance and enjoy every step of the way. I welcome all the attention because It is part of the plan to get noticed although I tend to shy away from negative attention and lean towards a positive one.

Anyone who listens to your music will definitely hear the trap influence in your sound. Where did that come from? What are your influences? Which African/Western artiste(s) have influenced your career?
I am glad to have that effect through my sound because I strive to have an identity in a game filled with artists who would rather replicate a successful template rather than be original, no pun intended.

I became a part of the hip hop culture in high school, my friends and I would freestyle for hours after school and get home late. We always bought music magazines just to read the lyrics and it became an obsession. To get the message behind each line and every bar, you have to understand the artiste’s personality, know who he is beefing with and who he is loyal to. All these little details will give every single bar meaning and it feels very personal when you have that much insight about an artist. I shared that kind of bond with 50 Cent and the G-unit crew. My teenage years and lifestyle choices from drinks to fashion to lingoes were influenced by 50 Cent and the G-unit group of the early 2000s.

What is your greatest motivation as an artist and philanthropist?
To achieve success in a career that has not produced lots of greats until other genres. To finally be able to break that jinx that rap artists cannot make in Africa without switching their sounds.

To inspire a generation to believe in chasing their dreams and never give up or settle for less no matter how hard it gets along the way.

To provide an opportunity for those coming behind and create a channel to support them in their journey

That is my greatest motivation.

You are from the Niger–Delta, Warri to be exact. Who are the Niger–Delta artists who inspire you and who you will love to work with?
I was there right from the start and I would say that I have a hand in the growth of music back home where this all started. I was there when Erigga jumped on Don Jazzy’s Enigma beat and killed it, when Yung6ix jumped on Oleku and killed it when Yunghanz dropped Display and it spread like a virus.
I am part of the foundation and I am inspired by all my brothers because we might be fighting different battles but we are all in the same war.

2021 was a tough year for many in the music industry because of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. How did you handle the lockdown and how did it affect you as both an independent artist and businessman?
That was a very depressing time as I recall, and after witnessing so many deaths from the virus, I was mostly thankful for being alive.

I did spend most of my time during the lockdowns reassessing my life and restructuring my goals to be more realistic and achievable. I realised that time was not promised and that whatever way I can add more meaning and purpose to my life, I would.

We are here for a short period of time to inspire and motivate with the talents that God has given us.

What’s next for C Blaq? Do you have a release date for your EP yet? What should your fans expect from you this year?
I just signed a management deal that I will disclose in due time. I am currently working on building my brand to make it more visible and attuned to a global audience. I am also expanding my fanbase while gaining a better understanding of the music business. My plan is to run the biggest record label in Africa someday so I am working with consultants, speaking with label owners to get their ideas and opinions about the music business.

My team and I are working to put out a project that would be critically acclaimed and worthy of a Grammy nomination due to its qualitative content and distinctive sound. A cross over project that will captivate music lovers across borders. We will keep the public updated on a release date when we feel it’s the right time and everything is in place.

Do you have any upcoming shows or concerts planned? What advice do you have for other young upcoming artists like yourself?
My management and I have put everything that has to do with appearance or performance on hold while working on my forthcoming project. The public will be notified through a press release when we have secured dates and venues for the premiere and launch of my EP project coming up within the year.

My advice to upcoming acts looking to make a name for themselves is to stick to your passion and learn to employ professionals in every aspect of your career. They should also take time to study the music business and never underestimate the power of networking.