this is the female rapper who went viral for calling out kanye west
Chika Oranika’s poetic rhymes call out rappers for forgetting about their black roots and catering to white listeners.
Since originating in the 70s, rap music has accomplished its own form of manifest destiny — expanding from the projects of Bronx, New York to the suburban homes of Thousand Oaks, California. The mainstream success has been a double-edged sword: the reign of socially-conscious verses from rappers like Grandmaster Flash and Tupac have slowly devolved into mumble rap about strip clubs and Rolex watches from, well, we won’t name names. However, one up-and-coming rapper isn’t scared to call out these "turn up" artists. Enter: Chika Oranika.
Chika has a way of harnessing the soft, poetic vibes of 90s rappers like Q-Tip and Ice Cube to address the persistent problems afflicting contemporary hip hop. “Niggas only wanna make some heat to get clout/rhyme a couple words and hella girls will give mouth,” she raps on top the beat of J.Cole’s moody 1985. Chika is perfectly positioned to provide these kinds of scathing, but well-meaning critiques. Who better to call out the toxic black masculinity overflowing in hip hop than a black women hoping to break through the misogyny?
Earlier this month, Chika eloquently employed her spoken word-leaning approach to call out Kanye for his controversial statements about slavery being a “choice” and his support for Donald Trump. “When your check clears don’t forget that your children is still black/ and your music has been wack and your views are moving back,” the 21-year-old spits, her unrelenting cadence steadily moving in tandem with the military beat of Jesus Walks. Chika’s powerful callout has racked up almost 300,000 views on Instagram and earned her follows from Naomi Campbell, Troye Sivan and Leslie Jones.
Don’t get it twisted: Chika (whose birth name is Jane) isn’t content with viral social media fame. “People are going to love you for a minute and then it’s back to square one of figuring things out for yourself,” she tells me over the phone. She wants to “change the world” with her lyricism. Chika is so intent on making rap a little bit less male-dominated, in fact, she turned down an acceptance to the prestigious Berkeley School of Music, dropped out of college (“My parents are African, so you know they did not like that”) and moved from her home state of Alabama to Brooklyn to pursue her rap dreams. When we speak, Chika is in the process of recording her first EP and gearing up to drop her first official single. “I’m gonna be here for a long time,” Chika says, insistent on not being another flash-in-the-pan social media star. “I’m gonna make sure the stories that need to be told, get told.”
How did you first get into rapping?
Around seventh grade, but I’ve been writing music since I could speak. I was singing and taught myself how to play guitar in elementary school. Then I started writing poetry in seventh grade. That’s the year Michael Jackson died. His death threw me, he was my favourite entertainer of all time. I wanted to pay homage to him through poetry. I thought ‘How can I put poetry into my music, besides writing songs?’ It just became rap — I began incorporating little blurbs and the undertones.
I didn’t tell anyone I rapped, because it was kind of weird. I kept it a secret probably up until my tenth grade year. Grew up in Alabama — so there’s not hella rap artists around, let alone black female rappers. It happened on its own. I can’t even put a point in my mind of when I knew I wanted to be a rapper. I just know that it happened and I never stopped.
What were some of your first middle school raps about?
I would write a song about a relationship. I remember in ninth grade I was bullied a lot and I had a group of people who hated me and I would do diss records for me and my friend. We’d sing them to ourselves. My first songs didn’t have much substance. They weren’t dumb, but they weren’t me taking things that seriously.
What is your approach and relationship to rap like now?
It’s very pointed. I’m only 21, but I know what I want out of rap. It’s something that I’m truly passionate about. I want to change how people think and truly change the world — and if not the entire world, at least my world. I feel like music is one of the best ways to get universal messages across and create a floor for conversation. Hip hop hasn’t had that in so long. There are the big names who do it, like Cole and Kendrick and Wale, but the face of hip hop right now is just turn up music. That’s not how I grew up. I was listening to songs and being in my feelings for days [laughs]. Trying to figure out how I could change the world based off one Wale song. That feeling evoked from the music is something I want to bring back.
What rappers did you grow up listening to?
Definitely Wale. I keep saying his name — but he was one of the biggest rappers I listened to: he’s Nigerian and I’m Nigerian and we have a similar story. We’re actually good friends now, which is really ironic.
Wait, how did you manage to become friends with your favourite rapper?!
When I was a senior in high school, I took a painting of him to one of his shows. I do too much [laughs]. There was a meet-and-greet afterwards and he said, ‘Did you paint me?’ He didn’t believe me at first, and then he eventually did. He followed me and it just formed into a friendship. He didn’t know I did music for a while, and when he found out he was like, ‘Oh my God why didn’t I know, what the hell?’ Now he’s like my big brother. I genuinely care about him. You can tell that I listened to him growing up through my writing style, because he’s a wordsmith and he has a lot of love for words.
Has Wale given you any important words of wisdom?
Just to play it smart and keep the right people around you. Wale has had quite the ride in the industry — he’s the seen the good and the bad — and I think that’s why I value our friendship so much, because he knows so much.
Why did you feel like you needed to make a rap response to Kanye’s controversial comments and behaviour during this past month?
Because it was just a lot of tomfoolery. So many people grew up on Kanye being a conscious rapper that we looked up to, and to hear him and watch him become this person… He’s unrecognisable to his fans. It’s like, ‘Nah bro, we can’t let you go out this way.’ Kanye’s a little bit of a narcissist, so I knew the video would at least be heard and seen. I think the message, even though it was viral, still felt like I was speaking to him through it. So many people were leaving comments on my Instagram saying rap is ‘not just for black people’ after my J. Cole video and, then seeing a big figure in the rap community supporting Trump… It all kind of triggered me. Because hip hop means so much to me and black people and culture.
How did it feel to have the video go viral?
I’ve gone viral a lot [laughs]. It didn’t register to me at first that the video had gotten so big. I’m not use to going viral in the way that it’s not something I appreciate, but more so I know that this stuff is fleeting. So when the video was popping off at first, I was like ‘Oh, cool. People love it, yay.’ I didn’t realise so many people felt like I was saying what they wanted to, but they couldn’t. I think that was the best feeling out of all this: knowing I wasn’t alone in how I was thinking.
Are planning on releasing a proper EP soon?
I’m working on music currently. With the video, I’ve been blessed to be offered the studio time and the equipment I need to really get on the ground with this. I have a single dropping soon. It’s definitely done, I just want to take it back to the studio and see if there is anything else I want to rework. I’m definitely here to stay.
How do you feel as a black female rapper trying to make it in the game? Are you scared of face more challenges than a male rapper would?
No. I should be scared, because I see the adversities, but I can genuinely say that I do not feel a gender when I rap. That changes how my music comes across. I don’t care. What matters to me is the content and the substance of it. I think anyone who has a working brain will see that and be able to separate my gender from what I do. I’m not scared about it at all, I feel like it’s my selling point. Because then people will remember, ‘Oh dang, there isn’t a girl doing this right now!’ It’s kind of an afterthought to me. I’m gonna be okay.
Will your EP feature the socially conscious-leaning raps we’ve been seeing in your viral videos?
It’s going to be a lot of things. You probably won’t get that much turn up music from me, I’m chill. For the most part, I’ll be dibbling and dabbling everywhere. One fact: everything I say will have meaning to it. But I don’t want to box myself in too early as to what my sound will be. I also write love songs, and all kinds of stuff. I want to have that open floor.
This article originally appeared on i-D US.