Interviews

ToD Interview: Chisom Perfectly Blends Afrobeat & Hip-Hop

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Growing up in a traditional Nigerian home and being influenced by the urban scene of Baltimore, helped artist, Chisom, to create his sound and own genre. The 23-year-old producer, rapper and creative director, effectively blends afrobeat and hip-hop to create a vibrant sound that can surely resonate throughout the world. I was put on to him in February with his “Africa Get Money” track and immediately liked the sound he created and was intrigued by his well infused background. Since then, he has released another international hit which is a remix to fellow Nigerian Dancehall artist, Burna Boy’s track, “Soke” where he raps in three languages. Below we discuss growing up Igbo and his love for hip-hop, creating his debut The Jordan Year, why he chose to remix “Soke” and what’s next. After the jump, listen to the Burna Boy remix and watch the visual for “This One Chick” off The Jordan Year. 

ToD: What was it like growing up in a Nigerian household and being exposed to both traditional Nigerian music and also being exposed to the hip-hop scene of Baltimore?

C: For starters, my Dad is a lifelong collector of music from everywhere – everything from the Bee Gees, to Paul Simon, to the most traditional music from our part of Nigeria (we’re Igbo, from Southeast Nigeria). When I was a child, he’d play vintage African music videos on TV every evening, then record us (my siblings and I) dancing to them. Also, every night since I was born, my Mom has lead the family in singing praise songs in Igbo. We play drums and harmonize.
My parents were not really into rap, and they definitely didn’t like most of the music videos (LOL). Also, I grew up in the greater Baltimore area, which is more known for its Baltimore Club music scene than its hip-hop scene (which is growing, so don’t sleep).
Still, when I was 7, my grandmother gave me a little portable radio as a gift. That day, I discovered 92Q – Baltimore’s favorite urban radio station. I was hooked on rap instantly. I didn’t quite understand everything the rappers said, but I loved the way they said it. I’ll always remember songs like, “Welcome to Atlanta” (Ludacris), “I’m a Thug” (Trick Daddy) , and “Girls, Girls, Girls” (Jigga) as the ones that introduced me to hip-hop.
ToD: How do you think your music would be different if you did not include your Afro roots and include that sound? 
C: Though not all my songs are African-inspired, my roots provide a unique perspective. I’m also exposed to sounds most hip-hop fans don’t hear all the time. It’s amazing to have access to & draw inspiration from that.
What type of pedestal do you feel you are on being the first in your family to be born in America? What are some of your goals for your family? 
Being the oldest, I’m expected to set a great example for my younger siblings. Honestly, I would like my parents to be happy with how their kids turned out in their new country. I’d also like to see my siblings doing things they truly love, and not settling for what’s expected. 
ToD: What was your creative process like for your debut, The Jordan Year? How do you feel with all of the recognition you have received in regards to the EP and the single, “Africa Get Money”?
C: It’s a funny story. I didn’t consider being a recording artist until December (the day after Black Friday). I was testing out my new mic, which I’d gotten to record artists I produce for. I heard the playback and thought my voice sounded interesting. I wasn’t really expecting to hear it and like it as much as I did. 
 After that, I would write songs at every opportunity, then rush home from work every day to record. I became hooked. As I continued, I realized my 23rd birthday would be the perfect time for an “artistic rebirth”. By February, I had The Jordan Year.
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ToD: Why did you want to remix Burna Boy’s “Soke”?
C: One of my closest bros from college came to Detroit and showed me a playlist of some new music he’d collected. He’s always been up on the latest in Afrobeat and Dancehall. When “Soke” by Burna Boy came on, I just stopped in my tracks. Funny enough, that was my first time really listening to Burna Boy. The next day, I couldn’t listen to it without wanting to sing along, so I did just that. 
ToD: What do you have next in store after this single? Anything special you working on?
C: I have new music on the way! We shoot the music video for my single, “Africa Get Money,” on April 30th. I’m also working on a summertime EP – ‘Melo. Look out for my collective too – ill Company.
ToD: Who can you not stop listening to right now? 
C: Lord, this is a tough one. I love so many artists for different reasons, and there hasn’t been just one dominating my playlist. My most recent album listen was 2 Chainz & Lil’ Wayne’s Collygrove. My friends will tell you I listen to Dom Kennedy’s Yellow Album quite often – it’s my chill-out music.
ToD: How do you plan to give back to both the African community and the environment you have grown up in?
C: I plan to use all this as a platform, to promote the beauty & diversity of Black culture, be it “African” or “African-American”. I also want to show other first-generation Americans that pursuing your dreams is the right way to go.
Chisom wants to leave everyone with these words: I love and appreciate everyone who’s shown me love so far. I do this for you!

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