According to recurring anecdotes, immigrant African parents always push their children very hard, especially with respect to education and career paths. The stereotype seems quite logical because people of color often have to work twice as hard to get the same type of opportunities available to white people. And also, lest I forget to add, African parents are strict.
Being pushed by parents comes from their desire to see their children succeed. This leads to their doting need to ensure that every level of education is blazed through with flying colors, thereby guarantying an ideal future with a stable, well paying job. This well intentioned plan, coupled with the traditional 9-5 mentality means that only a few ideal professions are deemed viable by African parents: Medicine, Engineering and Law mostly.
Kelechi Emeonye, a rapper from Marietta, Georgia, born to immigrant Nigerian parents dropped out of Georgia State University to become a full-time rapper. While Kanye West would be proud of this high risk move, I can only imagine the puzzled look on the faces of his parents when Kelechi informed them of his decision. Quitting school to start making rap music from their basement was most likely never in their plans.
Three years ago, Kelechi traveled from Atlanta to Florida to meet his musical idol, J. Cole. Fortunately, he did meet J. Cole and he played a song he specifically made for Cole, with hopes of either getting a verse or getting signed to Cole’s Dreamville imprint or both. The story of that fortuitous meeting, narrated in an article by American hip-hop publication, DJBooth was my introduction to Kelechi.
Learning he had a Nigerian background and he used his traditional name as his stage name was all I needed to be sold, and I immediately hit play on “American Dreamville”, the song he made for J. Cole. Although the objectives of making the song and playing it for J. Cole hasn’t been achieved yet, it definitely isn’t for lack of quality.
With an uppity beat that sounds like a celebratory occasion showered with confetti, “American Dreamville” finds Kelechi waxing lyrical about achieving his dreams, most pertinent of which was being signed to Cole’s imprint. The song has just one verse, with space for another verse reserved for Cole. According to Kelechi, Cole was enamored by the song, but it didn’t lead to anything bigger than that meeting.
Another door opened up for Kelechi, via a Green Label Sound competition which he entered and subsequently won. “Want”, a song off his debut EP, Loose Change(s) which he submitted is the song that won him the competition. The prize was a $50,000 budget to create an album. The resulting project is his debut full length, Before The Quarter, released last year.
A combination of introspective songs and simply fun songs portraying Kelechi’s poignant writing and solid rapping, Before The Quarter is a well crafted and highly enjoyable project. Largely self produced with assistance by other producers like Nate Fox, Peter Cottontale, etc, B4TQ is a sonically colorful project. A rapper with an understanding of the nodes behind the boards is always plus.
There is a striking realness from his thoughts and how he doesn’t sugar-coat his reality that permeates into Kelechi’s writing, which leads to an ease with connecting to his music. On B4TQ opener, “Advice”, Kelechi is frank with himself, with lyrics which read like a letter to self. “Don’t shame your father’s name, don’t stop your mother’s laughing” is an easily relatable line, especially to those raised by typical Nigerian parents.
Kelechi is also uncut and proud of his background, unapologetically embracing his dual nationality on “Immigrant Son”. “I’m Nigerian, I’m American”, he raps emphatically while also attributing his Igbo heritage to why he has a big ego.
One of my favorite songs and a standout cut from B4TQ is the slick grooved “The Glo”. It features BJ The Chicago Kid’s ethereal crooning alongside a choir to give the song an undeniable gospel feel. “The Glo” is a part-celebratory, part-prophetic song, with a radiant and uplifting production that feels like it was dipped in sunshine.
Kelechi is currently in the process of independently releasing his sophomore album via his personal imprint, STNDRD. The album is titled Quarter Life Crisis. In an innovative move, one song will be released every Monday until the album is completed.
Here's the Quarter Life Crisis album cover & tracklist. Party starting September 25th. Retweet this if you're a real one. pic.twitter.com/fX3qM86Ydy
— Kelechi (@kelechief) September 18, 2017
QLC being a story, with each song acting as an integral scene, and the intent to not barrage new fans with too much to chew at once is Kelechi’s reason for adopting an alternative rollout approach. QLC will contain 11 tracks, with features from Chance The Rapper, K Camp and fellow STNDRD labelmate, Phay.
Released before the album, “Shaquille O’Neal’s Quarter Life Crisis” is a slow rolling cut with Kelechi in a melancholic mood, disappointed by the currently underwhelming position of his rap career. 14 time NBA all-star and 4 time NBA champion, Shaquille O’Neal makes an appearance, narrating his subpar skill level at 13 – “6’9, couldn’t dunk”, and his determination to rise above the odds. “Shaquille O’Neal’s Quarter Life Crisis” as a prelude to QLC, acts a foreshadowing to the album proper.
The rollout of QLC began last Monday (Sept. 25th), with the release of “Flowers (Intro)”. It opens with Kelechi turning down an invite to turn up with the squad on a Saturday night. On the first verse, Kelechi raps about leaving the world a better place through his music despite being “an immigrant son with limited funds”, over lively but controlled production.
As “Flowers” reaches its hook, the production turns into a triumphant burst, with a choir sonorously yelling “Imma live forever”. Kelechi raps joyfully about his death on the second verse, with the belief that his passing will only further embellish his impact. The song ends with a sudden gunshot, which only spikes intrigue for what the next song off QLC will have to offer.
Nigerians have an uncanny ability to support and celebrate other Nigerians doing great things, no matter where they are. Kelechi is a talented rapper we can also throw that collective cosign behind.
Kelechi has been on the road to open for big rappers like Chance The Rapper, Action Bronson and most recently, Wale on his SHiNe Tour. Here’s to hoping he gets to headline his own successful tour very soon.
Kelechi’s music is accessible on all platforms, SoundCloud inclusive.