Kelechi is a Nigerian-American artist that is always 100% himself. His art speaks for himself, but his eclectic personality made him even more of a star. His interesting perspective and awesome work ethic give him an impressive view of the creative world. Born on Atlanta’s Northside, Kelechi always knew he had a better start than his Nigerian parents. The rapper-singer-producer-engineer is one of the most talented upcoming creatives in the game.
Not many artist’s first songs grant them a $50,000 reward. Kelechi’s first single, “Want,” did just that and helped his family understand his decision to pursue music professionally. I mean, I can think of a rapper who dropped out of college and became slightly successful in music. Thereafter, the Nigerian rapper took to the road with Chance The Rapper & Wale. The momentum from those shows led him to join Jidenna’s successful 85 to Africa Tour!
Kelechi’s career is just starting but is destined for international stardom. Check out our in-depth interview below to learn more about the multihyphenated phenom.
Ahmad Davis: Introduce yourself to the people who are not aware of you or your music just yet?
Kelechi: Hey. I’m Kelechi. I’m a Nigerian American artist from Atlanta Georgia. I rap, sing, produce, record, engineer, and master all my songs. I also edit videos and do a bit of graphic design work. I’m really just a multidisciplinary artist who makes cool shit with my friends and puts it on the internet.
AD: Atlanta is home to some extremely talented artists. How does the area help you grow as an artist?
Kelechi: Atlanta is the home of quiet black genius. I know we’re very notorious for inventing trap music, but you’re way more likely to meet a nigga like Donald Glover than a nigga like Quavo. I think the best thing about Atlanta is that you’re surrounded by greatness at all times. It can be tough because it can make you take it for granted, but it helps you grow because we’re tapped into the epicenter of black culture in the States, the Way Nigeria is an epicenter of culture in Africa.
AD: You like to say that you are 100% American & 100% Nigerian. How do these two experiences help you create your true identity?
Kelechi: I spent a lot of my life trying to figure out how to be half Nigerian and half American. And I’m not half of anything. My parents came to the States in the ’80s and raised four children in a little Nigeria that was our home, but I still had to fully understand this country and how to navigate it as a black man in America. Being Nigerian doesn’t negate my black experience, and being Black American doesn’t negate my Nigerian one. I’m both—200 percent.
AD: In your album trailer you touch on how you went from being super busy and touring to having to adjust to quarantine. How has the pandemic changed your routine as an artist?
Kelechi: The pandemic took a lot of things from me, as it did all of us. I had done short tour stints with Wale & Chance The Rapper, but the 85 to Africa Tour was the first time I’d done a full run….and then we weren’t allowed to tour anymore. This past week, I performed with Common for Raphael Warnock’s senate rally, and that was my first show in 13 months. While the pandemic took away our ability to gather traditionally, it gave me time to sit down and take inventory of everything that had happened to me in 2019 and really tell my story. You don’t get that trailer without the pandemic, so we take our lessons with our blessings.
AD: Your tour with Jidenna was a success! The footage from those shows look like a great time. What were some of the lessons you learned or advice you picked up on tour?
Kelechi: The first thing Jidenna told me was that there are no “stars” on tour. He told me if he had a lazy night, there’d be people in the crowd who’d say: “I came for Jidenna, but Kelechi killed him” or “Deante Hitchcock killed him,” etc. No one on the road has the luxury of standing on their laurels, and everyone who hits the stage is a star to people in the crowd. From the first show in Sacramento to the last show in Los Angeles, I saw his live show morph and evolve and grow, and it showed me that you can always make it better. My set was totally different at the end of the tour than it was at the beginning.
AD: You have a great bond with one of the game’s favorite lyricists, Wale. Can you speak to what that bond means to you?
Kelechi: Rap-wise. Wale is one of my earliest influences. I don’t even think I’ve gotten a chance to tell him that face to face, but I’ve been an avid Wale fan for like 12 years. I remember adding ‘Nike Boots’ to my Myspace page in high school and having kids at school think that it was me. He was the first Nigerian nigga I saw being himself and being wildly successful, so he subconsciously set an example for me to do what I’m doing right now, so being able to tour with him, hang with him, or text him is somewhat surreal. Wale is an unsung hero of this shit, and I’m glad to be able to give him flowers whenever I can.
AD: Your upcoming project Going Home is highly anticipated, especially following your Rico Nasty video cameo. What do you want people to take from this album?
Kelechi: Going Home is a return to self for me. I came up watching the Wale-J.Cole-Kendrick Lamar-Drake comes up very closely. I was such a fan of what they did in the game that I subconsciously wanted it to be mine. Getting passed over for the Dreamville sessions was the blow to my ego that I needed. I needed to return to what made me ME. Who am I without my influences? Who Am I without any co-signs? Personally, creatively, I want people to know that I’m returning home. And home isn’t just my crib in Atlanta. It’s me and MY stories. It’s my family and THEIR stories. Truthfully, it’s sonically as African as it is rap. I really want people to know where I’m coming from.
AD: Similar to Russ, you do a lot of the song-making process alone. How intentional is this? Do you pride yourself on being a DIY musician?
Kelechi: Shout out to Russ. I never had intentions of doing all this stuff, to be honest. Honestly, I would love the luxury of walking into the studio with an engineer who knows my sound and a producer who knows what kind of beats I like, and a songwriter to prepare songs for me, but I’m not great at asking for help, and help is expensive. I ended up learning all that stuff on my own, so I wouldn’t have to depend on or pay anyone else. Therefore, I do pride myself that I can walk into a room with my laptop and leave with a full song. I didn’t realize how rare that was because I didn’t start doing it to stunt; I learned the skills out of necessity.
AD: What or who motivated you to presale your album on Bandcamp? Do you think this will be a more popular trend in 2021 with so many musicians having to create new revenue streams?
Kelechi: Ukan & Nipsey Hussle. My brother/manager Ukan really put the amount of work we’re putting into this album intro perspective for me: Fully recording and mixing my album, doing multiple visuals, doing a virtual tour. He let me know that I have fans and supporters who know that their favorite artists aren’t touring which is the bulk of any musicians’ income. So he called me and was like “let’s do some Nipsey shit with this next one”. Rather than selling mixtapes for $100, we thought we’d do it with vinyl. Bandcamp facilitates independent digital/physical merch sales better than so many other distributors so going with them was a no-brainer. The songs are still available on all streaming platforms, and the album and vinyl are also available on my website, kelechi.shop.
AD: Tell us more about your plans for the upcoming year?
Kelechi: I’m releasing Going Home song by song, week by week into early 2021. In early spring, we’ll be dropping the deluxe with many new collaborations and features on it. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but I’m really connecting the diaspora with the deluxe. I have a Going Home documentary planned, but it’s in developmental phases, so I can’t let too much on that go either. I’m really just telling my family’s story, though. That’s the point of all of this. Just telling my family’s story.
Look out for more fire music and check Kelechi out today!