by Wilfred Okiche
Upbeat and always ready to laugh out loud, pint sized Chidinma Ekile has been on a roll since winning the MTN sponsored reality TV singing competition, Project Fame. In an industry that is notoriously tough on reality show alumni, she has managed to carve out a niche for herself.
From ‘Jankoliko’ to ‘Kedike’ and now, ‘Emi ni baller’, her hitmaking streak has been consistent. We spoke with her recently and touched on topics as varied as her school-work balance, love life (or lack of it), her vibrant alter ego and emerging sexuality.
You look smaller than I was expecting.
Yes. I get that all the time.
While I was trying to set this interview up, we had to reschedule a couple of times because of your school work. What do you study?
I study Sociology at the University of Lagos and I am currently in my second year.
Wasn’t there some story about you dropping out of school some time ago?
That was in 2010 when I just got admission to study Mass communication but I could not accept it because of Project Fame.
What is the burden like for you, combining music and schooling.
It has been very very difficult. The shows, interviews, studio sessions can all be overwhelming. While my mates are focused on schoolwork, I am thinking about a lot of other things at the same time.
Which of them suffers more; school or music?
I don’t think any because I try to balance it.
Did you consider quitting school altogether? I mean you had won Project Fame. You certainly don’t need school to make money.
Yes, initially I did, especially at that time I ignored the first admission. But school has always been one of my life plans; to study mass communication. It has always been on my agenda right from when I was little. It was something I took really seriously. I have a brother who just graduated from Mass communication at that time and I remember taking his hand outs and studying them even before I got admission. Yes, I took it that seriously. So I thought to myself, it is better to just go for it now even though I do not have all the free time because if I don’t do it now, I may never do it.
Sounds like you are just getting it out of the way.
In a way, yes, but it helps that I do not bother my parents for much so I feel now is the best time. So the stress, the challenges I have to go through don’t matter much because it is only for some time.
Has music always been on your agenda, the same way school was?
Music was never on my agenda. You have to understand that I never really went out that much, I am a home girl. When I entered for Project Fame, I just wanted to go out and meet people, it wasn’t something that I thought would last.
At what point did it change?
It was after I won Project Fame. I could just as well have taken my money and gone on to start a business or something but I was curious, I just said let me even give this thing a try and to my surprise it got serious.
I notice you call yourself Miss Kedike these days. Where does that come from?
It is not something I planned. I was recording one day and someone just mentioned it and I put it in and it kind of stuck but the truth is that Miss Kedike is different from Chidinma, she is like my alter ego. She is the rough, thuggish one you see in the videos like ‘Emi ni baller’, full of sass and confidence and is always bragging while Chidinma is the quiet, good girl who cannot hurt a fly.
Hmmmn… your own Sasha Fierce
Okay, speaking of ‘Emi ni baller’, I know it was on Ill-Bliss’ ‘Oga Boss’ album released last year and next thing I know it is being pushed as your single. What is up with that?
It is my song but at the same time, a collective effort. Suspekt had his verse in it and so did Ill-Bliss and we are family but it is my song and will appear in my forthcoming album.
So the whole street swag in the video, I know now it is Miss Kedike but does it come naturally to you?
It wasn’t planned at all, I just went into the studio and it came to me, wasn’t something I had to think so hard about. Growing up I listened to a lot of reggae, a lot of Onyeka Onwenu and plenty of Musiliu and the Fuji and Apala scene at the same time because of my hood. I was also in the choir so I had the opportunity of soaking up a wide variety of music and styles.
You grew up in Lagos, didn’t you? surely that must have had some influence…
I did, I grew up in Ketu and I don’t know about now but then it was a really harsh environment for children to grow up in and my parents were very concerned so they kept us indoors and that is why I am the reserved person I am today. My parents never allowed us mingle with the wrong crowd. I also think it is as a result of mingling with the Capital records people. Not in a bad way sha. You know they are all men, I am the only girl and they are all rappers so it rubs off on me somehow because I am with them everyday and listening to them talk and being bullied by them, it all adds up. It has been great because I have learnt a lot of things from them.
What is the most important thing you have learnt from them?
How to have confidence in myself. The music business was a different world for me, way out of my comfort zone. I knew nothing when I came in so having to build that confidence to survive and get ahead has been valuable. I learnt that I can be so much better and can do much more than I am currently doing.
What is the relationship like with your colleagues from your season of Project Fame?
Sometimes we talk, lose contact at times and then hook up later on. It is very cordial.
You just finished a national tour, what was the experience like?
It was great, we visited almost all the states and before that I did an African tour and it was like the whole Africa fell in love with Chidinma at the same time.
I know winners of singing reality TV competitions tend to struggle afterwards. How have you managed to maintain relevance?
It hasn’t been easy. I had to think about strategies. After I won, people expected me to do an R&B song but I came out with ‘Jankoliko’ just because I wanted a bigger audience and not necessarily like I went commercial deliberately. I felt there should be a bigger life after Project Fame and I had no intentions of putting myself in any box.
What stage of production is your new album?
I am working on that now. ‘Emi ni baller’ is actually off that album and I just dropped two singles. I am compiling songs and still recording at the same time. We are looking at the last quarter of the year for a release date.
Where do you think that rumour of you dating Adams Ibrahim came from? With these things there is always a source.
Yes, but I have no idea where it came from honestly. It is one of those things that come with celebrity.
But were you guys too close for comfort at any point in time?
We are friends I accept but I saw the pictures and they were pictures from a photo shoot we did together.
So who is the man in Chidinma’s life?
There is no man in my life
Why? You are married to your music?
No, but I am not thinking in that direction at the moment.
What kind of man would make your heart beat kedike?
I don’t ask for much oh. It becomes more difficult once you begin to do that. On a more serious note though, if he is confident intelligent, then I am fine. Good looks don’t rank high for me like some girls.
You have money, fame, beauty, hit singles. Don’t you think a lot of potential suitors are intimidated by you?
I don’t think that any serious man should be intimidated by any woman no matter what she has achieved. It is just not right, a man is still a man.
How often do you visit home?
I still stay with my parents, when I get too busy, I stay away for some time but I always go back once I am done. I am a home girl, I still wash plates and mop the toilet. I love that home environment, I love family, I love my family.
Since Tiwa Savage arrived, female singers are getting a lot more comfortable showing some skin, is it something you plan on doing?
No, no no, there will be none of that.
But sex sells.
It does but not for me. We are all different I guess.