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CHIKA: A HIP-HOP PRODIGY BOSSES UP

By: Ashley Lyle

Rapper Jane Chika Oranika, known simply as Chika, exhibits the lyrical prowess and soul of a hip-hop great in the making. She has, in fact, made the trip from Internet unknown to Grammy nominee in less than two years.

Born to Nigerian parents in Montgomery, Ala., she grew up a student of poetry, singing and rhyming. While school always played second fiddle to Chika’s passion for making art, she applied to and was accepted by the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Finances did not allow her to attend, however, so she enrolled in the University of South Alabama. But after her first year there, she told her parents she was putting her formal education in the rearview to chase her dreams.

In 2018 Chika went viral with a freestyle over Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” in which she criticized his support of President Donald Trump. Co-signs from people like Cardi B and Jada Pinkett-Smith thrust her into the spotlight—and gave her a taste of what it’s like to be a polarizing public figure. “Praying for opportunities, so now I got to boss up,” she rapped at the BET Hip Hop Awards as her star continued to rise.

Having cut her teeth as an independent artist—and earning praise for “No Squares”—Chika signed to Warner Records in the summer of 2019, with CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck, SVP of A&R Chris Morris and SVP of A&R Norva Denton as her champions. She enjoyed further acclaim with the single “High Rises.”

Chika’s reputation for speaking her mind and delivering her truth next attracted the attention of Calvin Klein, which tapped her for its #MyCalvins campaign in May 2019. After she appeared on a Paris Fashion Week Business of Fashion panel with the editor in chief of Teen Vogue, the publication put her on its December cover.

In March 2020, Chika released the EP Industry Games. Among other things, the title cut detailed her refusal to conform to social norms and her reaction to the surreal experience of her idols knowing her name. Her flow and versatility drew comparisons to Lauryn Hill

Inducted into XXL’s 2020 Freshman Class in late summer, Chika found herself in the company of fellow up-and-comers NLE Choppa, Jack Harlow, Rod Wave and Mulatto. A freestyle video she produced, meanwhile, gained a million views, showing there’s no stopping a poet with purpose.

November 2020 saw Chika nominated for Best New Artist. “To me, a Grammy nomination means that all the times I’ve thought, ‘Damn, I’m pretty dope,’ I was right,” she said. “I haven’t exactly sought validation, but I’m beyond grateful to have gotten it anyway, especially this early in my career.”

Chika may just be getting started, but even at 23, she boasts the creative vision and confidence of a seasoned artist. Understanding her place in the musical zeitgeist, she rejects any marginalization of her artistry or her person. She knows where she's going, and it’s her way or no way.

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