Introducing Green Label Sound: Open Call Winner, Kelechi
He’s burst onto the scene on the back of a killer single, “Want”, and now Atlanta rap newcomer and Green Label Sound: Open Call winner Kelechi is looking to turn a big win into a full-length follow up to his EP Loose Change, kind of ironic when you consider he won $50,000 worth of grant money as a prize and is using every cent of it to fulfill his dream.
But it’s been a rocky road here. Kelechi’s parents immigrated to Georgia from Nigeria in the 1980s to pursue the American Dream. They also brought with them a ton of the music from their homeland, and Nigerian rhythms and melodies were all around Kelechi as he grew up. He liked his parents’ jams just fine, but it was tempered heavily by the sounds he heard coming out of the Chicago rap scene, such as Common.
He was always interested in music, poetry, and words from an early age, and would spend his teenage years making music into the deep night. His parents tolerated just fine, but they intended something a bit more steady and conservative for their son.
“They wanted a way more traditional career choice,” says Kelechi. “When I was younger and making music into the wee hours of the morning they were like, ‘whatever’. But it became more a big deal in college when I dropped out.”
By then Kelechi was on his third major in school and rapidly running out of energy to pursue a standard career. He’d gone from English to education to radiology, never finding anything that really interested him as a career choice. His happiest moments were spent in clubs around Atlanta, honing his skills at various open mics. He’d head out to DC and other cities to expand his rap reach, but there was always the traditional path waiting for him when he got home.
One day his brother and manager set Kelechi down for a heart to heart. He was 20.
“He said to me, ‘You’ve got to be honest with yourself,’” says Kelechi. “’If you want to stay in school and do that, do that. If you want to do music, do that. I want you to be who you are.’”
From there, Kelechi abandoned his parents’ dream and became a full-time musician. He chronicles that internal journey on “Momma Ain’t Raise No Fools,” easily one of the best tracks on Loose Change. The line “Nothing’s more important than the Lord ignoring your advice,” is a one-of-a-kind turn of phrase that highlights Kelechi’s unique vision of fate and faith.
“That’s probably one of my favorite songs on the EP,” says Kelechi. “It comes from that perspective of me trying to do school and not being honest and not doing well. Having to just go to class because it’s what I’m supposed to do and not making choices based on what other people think a 20-year-old should do for himself.’
With a SXSW appearance scheduled, a new music video to shoot, and lots of work to complete on his upcoming album, Kelechi is a guy on the move. His rap retains that unique perspective that mixes songs from across the ocean he’s been hearing since he was born, and some of the most American styles every produced. He is eloquent and quick with his flows, hitting rhythm notes that pay dues to the false collegiate path he was on while bursting with the feverish energy of someone like Shabazz. There’s a pathos to it too, a sort of sense of peace now that he’s on the right track.
“The new album is gonna be called Quarter Life Crisis,” says Kelechi. “I’m making changes. It like when you compare a middle life crisis to when society says you should be choosing something to start, that’s where it’s coming from.”
Catch Kelechi for his victory set at Green Label Live in Austin, this Wednesday 3/18, along with A-Trak, Joey Badass, Dej Loaf, Brenmar, and more.