We had the good fortune of connecting with ‘Kechi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi ‘Kechi, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Both of my parents are from Nigeria — Imo State, the heart of Igbo land. I grew up around an abundance of culture, both within my household and outside of it. Most of my friends come from immigrant homes, even though I was still the token Black kid. I also lived in Nigeria for over a year when I was 14/15, which was a very formative time in my life and really opened my eyes to a greater world perspective. I’ve seen leisure and struggle up close, and I carry that with me as a person and a creative artist.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The mantra now and forever for my music & art: Foreign but Familiar. From my Igbo-Nigerian household upbringing, to the immigrant children I rollled with in the suburbs, to my classical voice training — I was bred by a constant clash in cultures that bleed together to create something I call home. You hear it in my voice, my style of music, which champions musicality above everything in the songwriting and production, the lyrical poetry I paint a picture with as a vocalist and an MC. It’s hard to put me in a box musically..
I commit to every asset of music making on an extremely high level, even down to the live performance, which I don’t think artists my age in my genres (hip hop and R&B/soul, primarily) put enough time and care into nowadays. I play live instruments, particularly piano/keys, I construct my own arrangements & compositions, and I know how to work a crowd from the stage. I learned that from church and my musical theater days. I’m inspired by the likes of D’Angelo, Robert Glasper, Lauryn Hill, Lupe Fiasco & more.
The most difficult part of my journey as an artist has been creating a community where my sonic world can roam free and feed others. I’m still early in my artistic journey, and it’s hard to get people on board with something different, especially when I haven’t solidified a team around me who can help me build and push the vision forward. Furthermore, I have a bigger outlook on where my journey will take me. Although I’ve grown in the Chicago scene, my music is meant for the world to experience.
Foreign but Familiar is the mantra, now and forever. I’ve established my music business OJUBA Music, which is meant to communicate a new idea of wealth, and put the value back in the soul of music. I’ll continue to remain true to my uniqueness, all the quirks that make me ‘Kechi.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ooh lemme think about this cuz I’m most certainly a home body lol. Assuming it’s summertime Chi, I’d definitely take my friend biking down the lakefront, probably around museum campus. There are several museums to check out, my favorites being Museum of Science and Industry and Museum of Contemporary Art (they have the coolest exhibits).
I’m a huge sushi & ramen guy, and my go-to spot is Shinju Sushi in Hyde Park, which is a fresh, primarily Black neighborhood on the south side. Down that entire block is a record shop, a artist-friendly retail spot the Silverroom, one of my favorite music/night life venues The Promontory.
Other really good concert venues include Subterranean, Chop Shop, Cole’s Bar, & Golden Dagger. A good blend of local talent and more mainstream names.
We also have THE best DJs for hitting the town — Slot-A, Aced Spade, Mochi, Ryan the Person, Cut Cuz, Mo Mami…the list goes on. More times it’s about the vibe curators than it is about the actual venue, to me. Although if the venue has space to dance then that’s an automatic plus. And the West Loop probably has the freshest spots to hang.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I wanna dedicate my shoutout to my late grandmother, God rest her soul. Her love and care nurtured my sisters and me growing up, a huge help to my mother in difficult times, and her vibrancy and spirit lives on.
I also wanna shoutout my bro F.A.B.L.E, my closest friend within music and outside of it. Blessings, g, for growing with me doing this music thing and being a real one through the ups and downs. Love.
Angela Estrella Bryon Mase F.A.B.L.E Ofega