It’s been almost a year to the date since Alabama rapper Chika stormed the scene with her debut EP INDUSTRY GAMES. She’s keeping it pushing, giving us the second EP ONCE UPON A TIME after a year that has established her as an industry force. Before the pandemic began, Chika’s name was beginning to spread but it’s exploded over the last 12 months. She’s been nominated for a Grammy, collaborated with Stevie Wonder and taken on an acting role.
Here, we look back on how Chika owned a difficult year, entering her second project in an enviable position.
March 2020 - INDUSTRY GAMES
Last year, just before the world descended into absolute chaos, Chika released her EP INDUSTRY GAMES. It was her true arrival, introducing us to a rapper who doesn’t mince her words. It’s a powerful, charismatic and braggadocious record that doesn’t miss a beat moving from autobiographical flexes (Balencies) to motivational triumphs (CROWN). The project was mostly produced by Lido who has also worked with Chance The Rapper and JoJo.
March 2020 - NPR Tiny Desk
There is no desk more iconic than the NPR Tiny Desk. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Tyler, The Creator has performed there and Chika joined those ranks in March. With a full band, Chika moved through tracks from INDUSTRY GAMES and used the gaps in between songs to show us just how personable and funny she is.
August 2020 - U SHOULD & MY POWER
The pandemic pressed paused on the music industry but by August things were starting to happen again. Chika jumped on it, releasing two new songs. The first U SHOULD is the lead-single from her new EP and it’s a soulful, vocally-driven track. She effortlessly oscillates between singing and rapping showing off her limitless talent. The second track MY POWER is taken from the Project Power soundtrack - a Netflix original that Chika acts in. It’s once of her most poignant moments yet, celebrating where she’s gotten to against all odds. “My word is my power,” she raps over a gospel-inspired beat.
August 2020 - Project Power
“My whole team is seeing green like ‘yo, she acts too’,” Chika raps on Balencies. She proved it in Project Power, playing an inspiring rapper. She was headhunted by Jamie Foxx who saw her rapping on Instagram and hit her up about acting in it. “Jamie Foxx saw my Instagram and saw me rapping and thought I was dope and he wasn’t incorrect,” Chika said in Netflix production notes.
August 2020 - XXL Freshman List
The XXL Freshman List is one of the highest honours in hip-hop for a new artist. Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert have all featured and Chika was named on it this year. Her acapella freestyle was arguably the best in class while she also killed it in her Cypher alongside NLE Choppa, Rod Wave and Lil Tjay.
September 2020 - High Rises/Crown on Jimmy Fallon
When you start hitting that late night circuit, you know your star is rising. Chika took to the stage on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She used the platform to performed a melody of INDUSTRY GAMES songs Crown and High Rises. Standing behind a mic and in front of a band, she proved the power of her presence.
October 2020 - Can’t Put It In The Hands of Fate (with Stevie Wonder)
The legendary Stevie Wonder’s releases and collaborations are few and far between these days. He came through in October though with Can’t Put It In The Hands Of Fate. “In these times, we are hearing the most poignant wake-up calls and cries for this nation and the world to, please, heed our need for love, peace and unity,” Wonder said upon release. He gathered a stellar cast of social conscious rappers including Cordae, Rapsody, Busta Rhymes and Chika. Where do you even go when you’ve collaborated with Wonder before you’ve even dropped your debut album?
November 2020 - Tank & The Bangas’ Mr Insta
Chika doesn’t collaborate with many acts but she did jump on a track with New Orleans collective Tank & The Bangas. They teamed-up on Mr. Insta, a rumination about social media, in particular, the way it can start to dictate your life. Tank & The Bangas were nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2020. In some ways, it felt like the act passing the torch to Chika.
December 2020 - FWB
In December, taste number two of the EP came in the form of FWB. The mid-tempo cut showed off Chika’s vocals more than ever as she slides over a woozy, soulful beat. It’s resonated too with the song remaining her current most streamed song on Spotify.
December 2020 - Nominated For Grammy
That same month, the nominations for the 2021 Grammys were announced. Chika is one of three female rappers nominated in the Best New Artist category, collecting the honour alongside Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat. It’s her first Grammy nomination and an early one at that proving that she’s making some serious headway. By Monday, we’ll know whether she’s able to convert that nomination into a win.
March 2021 - Spotify Singles
The Spotify Singles series sees artists deliver one rendition of their own song and a cover. For the collection, Chika offered up a paired-back version of U SHOULD and a cover of Billie Eilish’s My Future. The jazz-infused aesthetic of My Future actually suits Chika’s strengths perfectly but she elevates it, inserting an unexpected rap verse.
March 2021 - ONCE UPON A TIME
Almost exactly a year after EP number one, Chika has dropped the second one. ONCE UPON A TIME shows exactly how far she’s come in that time. It’s a record that traverses both the heartfelt and the poignant, as she celebrates her rise and also contemplates how she got there. Sonically, it’s even more widescreen than the last one, adopting blaring horns and big, bold vocals. One minute, you’re taken to church and the next we’re in the club with Chika spitting bars at a rapid speed.