Many who listen to your music think you are a us or UK returnee…
I was born and bred here in Nigeria, and I have lived here all my life. I have never travelled abroad, let alone going to the US. The only time I
have travelled out was when I went to Sierra Leone, and that was when my father was working at Unipetrol. He was there to oversee a branch and we went there to visit him for a couple of months. Concerning the way I speak, I grew up in a house that had cable TV. We were always watching American programmes. We hardly watched Nigerian stations. Then again, I was always reading foreign novels. I think all these influenced the way I speak and rap.
Even your name sounds so foreign that many people think it is English.
No, it is not an English name. Kel is short for Kelechi. I am a full fledged Igbo girl.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have two sisters and a brother. I live with my parents. I am studying Economics in Lagos State University on part-time basis. I am in my fourth year.
Why did you go into music?
Music makes me feel alive. It calms me down and it makes me feel happy. I tell you, music is very personal to me. Rap is like a way of expression. I got into it because I can’t really sing. I don’t think I would be able to express myself as much as I do now if I were singing.
When did you discover your passion for music?
According to my mother, I used to carry her hair brush and use it as a microphone. I would stand in front of her mirror, singing and dancing. I never used to love rap music. I used to think that rap was just noise until a friend of mine started playing rap music around me every other day. I started listening to other people rap, then I fell in love with it. I tried my hands on writing some songs and it came out well. So I decided to do rap.
When did you decide to go professional?
I think it was in 2000. I joined a gospel record label but things weren’t really working out, so I left. I started doing some stuff with other producers.
But you don’t have an album yet.
I have singles and they are on air. I am working on an album, which may be released around March.
You have moved up to become one of the top female rappers in Nigeria. Did you think you would get to this height when you started?
I had my eyes on the top, but I didn’t think it would come this soon. I didn’t know it would be this sudden. It feels real good to be appreciated and recognised. Somebody can now walk up to you and say, ‘Oh, can I hug you?’ Some tell me how much they love my songs and videos. Initially I was scared each time people recognised me. But really, it is a nice feeling that people watch what you do and appreciate you.
Has stardom changed your lifestyle in any way?
Yes, it has.
So you don’t keep the same friends?
I still keep my friends. But the thing is that I can no longer enter buses or bikes. I cannot go to some ‘coded’ places and buy ‘coded’ things any longer. I now have to behave myself anytime I am in the public because all eyes are on me. One has to be calm all the time.
Is it the stardom thing that made you change your outlook, so much so that you even wear contact lenses now?
I don’t think so. Even before now, if you leave me, I would want to change my hairstyle every week. I always like looking different. I love wearing contact lenses. I see it as a part of the Kel thing.
Has anyone influenced you in the industry?
My manager, Osagie, has been there for me. I also appreciate Sound Sultan, Terry the Rap Man, MI and Trybsmen. I used to love Trybsmen when they were together. The first time I listened to Mode Nine, I was dazed. I never new that such rap could come out of Nigeria. I listen to people like Jay Zee and Kanye West. I also listen to other artistes. Music is music and I just love music, especially good music.
You are more of a hard core rap artiste.
No, I don’t really do hard core.
Are you not facing a big challenge in the rap genre considering the fact that we have top rap artistes like BOUQUI and Sasha?
I don’t see that as a challenge. Everything has been going on well for me. I have been getting shows here and there. If I would need to score myself, I would say two over ten. I am just starting and I still have so many things I want to do. There are so many stuff to do. I have not even got half way.
Most people compare you with Sasha…
I always try to stay away from such comparison. People always try to imply that I have a ‘beef’ with Sasha.
But are you having any problems with her?
No. I have met her a couple of times and we are cool. I don’t know why people compare us. It may be because there are only a few female rappers in Nigeria. Sasha is like the biggest of all the female rappers. I think it is only normal for people to compare me with somebody like that.
Do you envy her?
No. There is no reason for me to envy her. She is doing her thing and I am doing my thing. There is a lot of space in the market for everybody.
You are studying Economics, would you eventually dump music to practise what you are studying?
I am not going to be rapping forever. Eventually, I would want to go into the business side of the industry, and I think my course will help me then.
Now that you are in the eye of the public, how do you cope with male admirers?
I try not to give out my telephone number all the time. If I am somewhere and I notice the person is getting over-familiar, I stylishly run away and keep a respectable distance.
But you have a boyfriend…
No. I don’t have a boyfriend and that is the truth.
Maybe you said so because you are not proud of your boyfriend…
I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t know what you are talking about. The last time I checked, I was single and I had no boyfriend. That status has not changed.
But how come you don’t have a boyfriend? Is it that guys haven’t been coming?
It is not that they don’t come. I have people coming to me, but I just want to focus on my career.
But we you are dating MI, the rap artiste…
I heard that too. They also said I was dating Shank. But seriously, I am not dating anybody.
Maybe you have a ‘girlfriend’ then…
I like guys, please.
What if a guy eventually comes and tells you to quit music?
Then he will have to go. Music is my first love. If you care about me, you have to care about the things that I care about.
Are you thinking about marriage at all?
Definitely. I am thinking of it. But certainly not now.
Valentine was last weekend. How did you observe it?
I was at a show. I performed at the Nigezie Partea.
Do you have a role model in the industry?
Oh yes. I would say Sound Sultan. He is just a nice guy and he is very humble. He always remembers where he is coming from. He has so much talent. He doesn’t get involved in conflicts.
What is the next stage of your music career?
I have one or two more videos before the album drops.
How was your growing up?
It was just regular. My childhood was nice.
Sinc you had a father that was working at Unipetrol, I suppose you didn’t have it rough when you were growing up.
So you have never seen the other side of life?
I did when my father stopped working at Unipetrol.
Your schoolmates must be seeing you as a celebrity…
They ‘hail’ me once in a while. Nothing much. I don’t get any special favours in school because I am Kel. My lecturers don’t even know me. I think it is a good thing.
What do you hope to achieve in future?
I want to make Kel a household name. I don’t want to be known only in Lagos or Nigeria. I want to be known all over the world.
Are there times you wished you were just Kelechi and not Kel?
No. I like the life I live. I love the celebrity thing. It is fun. I wouldn’t give it up. I love what I do. It is fun.
BY NONYE IWUAGWU