[00:00:00] Music: Gentle, trilling music with a steady drumbeat plays under the dialogue.
[00:00:01] Promo: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR.
[00:00:14] Music: “Huddle Formation” from the album Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team—a fast, upbeat, peppy song. Music plays as Jesse speaks, then fades out.
[00:00:18] Jesse Thorn: It’s Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. The rapper CHIKA is just about old enough to rent a car. When she was born, Tupac, Snoop, and Macee were at the top of the charts. In fact, the day she was born—March 9th, 1997—was the day Biggie Smalls was killed. CHIKA grew up in Alabama. Her parents, Nigerian immigrants, played a lot of music from their home country during her childhood. As a teen, she’d listen to Outkast and Wale, and, like so many teens before her, a lot of Avril Lavigne. She dreamed of growing up to be an MC, and eventually she did become one. She’s on a major label. She has some EPs under her belt, and this summer, her debut LP, Samson: the Album. You’ll hear some of that later on.
But the path that she took to get here wasn’t anything like that of Outkast or Wale or, for that matter, Avril Lavigne. CHIKA was about 19 when she went viral for the first time. She shot a video shortly after the 2016 election where she put on Whiteface makeup. A couple years later, she did a freestyle diss track, the target of which was Kanye West and his support of Donald Trump. And the beat was Kanye’s own “Jesus Walks”.
[00:01:37] Transition: Music swells then fades.
[00:01:38] Music: CHIKA rapping to Kanye’s “Jesus Walks”.
Now, Mr. West, take a seat, I implore you
Over time, it seems it’s gotten harder to ignore you
You undo the progress of the geniuses before you
Kim gave you the box, and now we know you can afford her
It don’t matter how much money you got or you lack
When that check clear, don’t forget your children is still Black
And your music has been wack
And your views are moving back
[00:01:56] Transition: Music swells then fades.
[00:01:58] Jesse Thorn: The young woman has bars. But viral videos are, if not quite disposable, at least—I don’t know, ephemeral. And CHIKA is a real MC. If you’re looking for more proof, here’s a single from her new album. It’s called “Requiem for a Dream”.
[00:02:16] Music: “Requiem for a Dream” from the album Samson: The Album by CHIKA.
Yeah, I get wrapped up in mystical schisms of visions at times
Searching for thrills in my mind
Pedantic with antics like I ain’t got bills on my mind
Running away from reality, that’s a fatality I can’t avoid just by taking my time
The thought of mortality keep me alive
Game of the fittest, I wanna survive
Am I a bird? Am I a plane? Or just a— that’s gotten too—?
Maybe I fall on the spectrum somewhere
They can’t answer why often I just wanna cry
Even that lyric above is a lie
I’m too afraid that I really mean die
(Music fades out.)
[00:02:39] Jesse Thorn: CHIKA, welcome to Bullseye. It’s so nice to have you on the show.
[00:02:41] CHIKA: Hi, thank you for having me. I’m enjoying myself so far.
[00:02:51] Jesse Thorn: Oh, I’m glad—I’m glad to hear!
Well, bad news! We have to do an interview now.
[00:02:50] CHIKA: (Inaudible.)
[00:02:52] Jesse Thorn: I mean, you’re ready to go. You’re wearing Balenciaga house shoes in the studio.
[00:02:56] CHIKA: Yeah, I am. I am. It’s one of those days.
[00:02:57] Jesse Thorn: I admire and—I admire and support it.
[00:03:00] CHIKA: Thank you. I appreciate that. (Pretending to be tearful.) Sometimes they don’t give me my flowers when I deserve them, but today (sniffs) of all days in my Balenciaga fuzzy house shoes, I’m glad that I can be seen and appreciated for who I am.
[00:03:11] Jesse Thorn: Not to brag, but I have New Balances.
[00:03:12] CHIKA: No, you’re flexing on me.
[00:03:13] Jesse Thorn: I got New Balances on.
[00:03:14] CHIKA: Your whole fit is flexing on me. Like, we established this as soon as you walked in. (Laughs.) Okay.
[00:03:18] Jesse Thorn: That’s very kind of you.
[00:03:19] CHIKA: You look nice.
[00:03:20] Jesse Thorn: Listening to your new album and your first back-to-back, the tone shift is really apparent. How would you describe the difference?
[00:03:35] CHIKA: I think with my first EP, it was very much so a young, green, happy, excited little girl, 22-year-old, who was documenting the world that she was seeing around her. And I had just moved to L.A., and so I was just like, “Everything’s gonna—everything’s gonna work out. We’re gonna, you know, keep it optimistic or whatever.” And you know, put the album out, three days later a global shutdown for the entire world, and I was irrevocably changed by everything that has happened from covid and the pandemic. And so, I through the past three years, have just kind of matured but also become—I wouldn’t say pessimistic but like nihilistic. ‘Cause like, for me, I was just coming into everything with making industry gains. And then I got to see that it doesn’t really matter how hard you work. Anything could happen in the world to like completely throw off the trajectory of what you’re doing.
And so, you hear that version of me, like you hear the old—(chuckles) not really old, but you know, the “seasoned”, quote/unquote, bitter 25-year-old, who’s like, “Well, damn, like I almost had my moment. Like, why did I have to have it stall for three years, basically?”
[00:04:49] Jesse Thorn: I feel like people attribute their pandemic hobbies—you know, the sourdough bread making or whatever—to an excess of time. You know, they’re not going out and doing stuff. I kind of think that in large part, it was just a desire to have control over something.
Like, just—and like to have that happen, to have that shutdown happen immediately upon releasing the first of your life’s work—
[00:05:23] CHIKA: Yeah. And everyone for months is like, “No, it’s okay. (Laughs.) Like, just wait. On the 13th, they’ll drop this. And then, you can go back to, you know, like grocery shopping and living normally, and you can go see your parents.” And I’m like every promise that was made to me in the months and weeks leading up to the release of my first project—all of them were shot to hell. (Chuckles.) As soon as I put out the project, it was—like, even going grocery shopping. I got to go when it was a ghost town, and nobody was in there, and all the shelves had been like, you know, completely stripped bare. And I was in a position where I was more so doing things like this, and traveling, and doing shows, and we did Tiny Desk right before.
And it was a whirlwind of a time where as soon as I was back in my house and like alone and able to take a moment to assess where I was at in life, we were in a very new and fresh panic mode place for everyone. Like, it wasn’t like, “Okay, I had press week and—or press month, and I’m going to come home and relax and reset.” It was like, no, I’m—my relaxation and reset was immediately hopping into a pandemic and not really being able to look back on the past few weeks that have been a blur to me at that point. It was just like, oh yeah, you’re hopping into a new chapter of your life. And also, congrats, your album’s out or your EP’s out. Like, you’re—this is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, and everybody’s terrified. And everyone’s sick, and not knowing what the symptoms of this thing are going to lead to. And there’s not really a—you can’t perform. You can’t really tour. You’re not—you have new fans, but they’re not going to meet you for—at that point, I didn’t know but—two years. Like, so yeah, it was a weird time for everyone, but a traumatic, I will say, time for me. It was—it is, even now putting out this album, I’m like waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it’s terrible. (Chuckles.)
[00:07:22] Jesse Thorn: Let’s hear a track from my guest, CHIKA’s, first project the Industry Games EP from 2020. Uh, let’s hear the title track.
[00:07:32] Music: “Industry Games” from the EP Industry Games by CHIKA.
Think it’s a game? They don’t control where I land
I’m trying to stack all these M’s (M’s)
All of my idols is friends (friends)
Came to the fight with some Timbs (Timbs)
Will I let up? It depends (‘pends)
Been through the struggle, I don’t run from trouble
No breaking, I just wanna bend
Won’t be defeated, I’m hella conceited
I ride on that beat like a Benz, yeah
I am the one from the stories that got you excited
Rhythmic flow is ignited
(Music fades out.)
[00:07:50] Jesse Thorn: There’s like some intense hopefulness on that record,
And like that is the part that makes me feel like that crash must have been sooo hard.
[00:08:07] CHIKA: Yeah. It was huge. It was a big one. And one that is, uh, continuously imploding still to this day. But you know, we have better tools to deal with it and ways to—like I said, I like to put it: more than what could have been while still being able to look forward to what can be. And that’s where I’ve been for the past three years. And you hear that on the album. You hear—(laughs) you hear all of that in what I’m saying and in the anger and bitterness that you kind of capture on the project.
[00:08:36] Jesse Thorn: What was home when you came home?
[00:08:38] CHIKA: Um, like where was home or like—?
I mean, North Hollywood, chilling in the valley. The first place that I ever lived was—or the first place that I ever came out here and stayed at is the first place I ended up like signing a lease and living at, And yeah, it’s like everything is frozen in time. It’s just nuts. But yeah, that’s been…
[00:09:01] Jesse Thorn: I mean, North Hollywood’s perfect. You got the arts district there. You’re an artist. So.
[00:09:05] CHIKA: Yeah. (Laughs.) But I also moved to LA nine months before the pandemic, so I wasn’t able to create an ecosystem or like have a real homebase. The people that I was—and I still work with them, but the people I was working with became my not only friends, but like my family, because I came out here by myself from Alabama. And so, yeah, I have really strong bonds with the people I work with. And I’m sure they’re really tired of me. (Laughs.) But it’s like because I was in a constant work mode, I was able to not really pay attention to the fact that I didn’t have anyone outside of work. And so, even being in the arts district, it was like watching all of these new and young transplants who are like hopeful and like me, you know. But they have other people they moved with. Like, they have a roommate, they have like friends. Or if they’re dancers, at least they go to the dance studio every day, you know what I’m saying?
For me, it was moving here and doing press and, you know, signing or whatever. Great things, but the moments to connect to people are few and far between, and so it wasn’t—it’s like, yeah, being in the Valley is cool. It’s cool for what it is, but also it can become really isolating very quick if you’re not aware of where you are, specifically. I’m nowhere near everyone else who lives in Beverly Hills at all.
[00:10:34] Jesse Thorn: The other thing that’s going on as you are struggling to form real life relationships in this place that you just moved to before the world shut down is that you’re also were and are a social media star. And so, you’re also engaged with the weird semi-relationships of that.
[00:11:01] CHIKA: Yeah. Hate it. (Chuckles.)
[00:11:03] Jesse Thorn: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard.
[00:11:05] CHIKA: Yeah, it’s really tough, ‘cause when you build your entire—because for me, I built my career online and then struggled to legitimize myself as an artist, because I would feel like a, quote/unquote, “internet person”. So, you can imagine that over the course of however many years it’s been, from like blowing up or whatever and doing things on the internet, there’s been plenty of people who like reach out in high moments. And they’re just like, “We love you, and you’re great! And this, that, and the third.” But when it’s quiet and when there’s no one else around and when it is three days after the global shutdown starts, and you’re looking around, and you’re like, “Ah, there’s really nobody here,” and that social media stuff gets really—I would say, tiresome, but also it’s sobering, I guess is the word I would go for there.
It’s like, oh, okay, none of that is real at all. Like, there’s a few people, of course, that I’ve met on the internet and like been able to make connections with who are some real life like allies and friends and people who look out for me, but the majority of it is a smokescreen. And a lot of it is just like having holographic friends, and when you actually need some someone there physically, most times they don’t appear. And so, yeah. It was weird having this era of time where the world wasn’t shut down, and no one could foresee covid happening, and you feel like social media is an extension of real life. So, you feel like you have all of the people in the world around you who are there for you and this, that, and the third. But then, when all of that is snatched away and you’re—like I said—alone in your house and you can’t—you physically can’t get with anybody because of social distancing and CDC. And like you start realizing just how alone you are. Yeah, social media is not always what it’s cracked up to be, I’ll say.
[00:12:57] Jesse Thorn: We’re taking a break. We’ll be back in just a second. It’s Bullseye from MaximumFun.org and NPR.
[00:13:04] Transition: Thumpy synth with light vocalizations.
[00:13:09] Jesse Thorn: Welcome back to Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. If you’re just joining us, my guest is CHIKA. She’s a rapper, poet, and actor. Her debut album came out earlier this year. It’s called Samson. Let’s get back into our conversation.
Tell me a little bit about how your parents felt when you decided to become a social media celebrity.
[00:13:36] CHIKA: Ah, that’s hilarious.
“How did your parents feel about that?”
[00:13:41] Jesse Thorn: Rather than—because your parents are first generation immigrants from Nigeria.
[00:13:46] CHIKA: Nigerian. Yeah. No, I’m first generation. They are straight from over there. Yeah.
[00:13:49] Jesse Thorn: There you go. So, and like I’m gonna speak broadly of the Nigerian American community.
[00:13:56] CHIKA: Go crazy.
[00:13:57] Jesse Thorn: You can correct me if it doesn’t apply to you.
[00:13:58] CHIKA: (Laughs.) I’m ready to hear it.
[00:13:59] Jesse Thorn: But like of all the immigrant groups in the United States, it is one of—if maybe even the—most highly educated and just very culturally—
[00:14:11] CHIKA: Overachievers. Doing too much, honestly.
Like, I get it. Like, I get it culturally, but also I think that we should just chill. Like, let’s give our kids room to breathe and become who they want to be. My parents were definitely, as Nigerians, very much so into education. My grandmother, she was in an abusive relationship, and so she wasn’t necessarily with my mom’s dad all the time. And she didn’t have a strong education, but she had five—if I’m not mistaken—kids. Yeah, she had to take care of them, and so one of the main things that she knew would get them out of poverty or put them in a position where they wouldn’t be in poverty was education. And so, she—not forced it but instilled that into her children. And I get it; it was a survival skill. But it ends up being almost (chuckles) like a generational curse. I hate laughing at these moments, because it’s—these are all realizations that I’ve had over the past three years. You spend enough time with yourself, you have to go back and dig into your family’s stuff, too.
But yeah, they—education became less of a tool and more of a generational curse where my family—they say if your parent is cheap, it’s because they have spent enough time not having money to know that they never want to go back. And so, they’re very tight fisted. In the same way, if you don’t really have the struggle to be something or you don’t have a reason not to dream, but your parent did not have the freedom to dream, they will pass that down. And so, as soon as I—first year of college, after like—the semester is about to end, the second semester is about to end, and I’m like, (whispering) “I don’t want to go back.” I’m waking up every day, and I’m watching my roommate—who is so excited to be at our school. So excited. She loves it. She’s in the color guard. She’s marching all over the place. And I wake up every day and I’m like, “I want to die. Like, I don’t want to be on earth.”
I had to eventually tell my parents like, “Yo, it’s getting real. I can’t do this anymore.” And I presented it to them in a way that I said, “College is applied time. It’s nothing but applied time. And everyone here is applying their time for the career they want. But I know what career I want, and I can’t do it here.” I was an undeclared major. I was essentially wasting time and money. And I was just like, “If y’all give me a year—give me a year. Like, if I don’t have anything to show for it, then I’ll go back to school. But give me a year to apply my time outside of school for what I want.” And I put forth a very convincing case, I will say.
And my parents were like, “Get a job.” And I was like, okay, cool. They’re like, “You can stay here.” I was like great. I have a room upstairs. Been had one since I was eight. (Laughs.) They were like, “As long as you can take care of yourself and, you know, pay for your own gas and all that, get to and fro, and you’re not being a burden on us, feel free to pursue your music.” And then three months later, I blew up from something that had nothing to do with music. And that was also a month after coming out to LA, blowing all of my money on this random opportunity that I had to work with my favorite artist. And I got stood up. And so, like there was a lot of—in there, I’m sure my parents were like, “What is she—what is she doing? Like, is she gonna make it? Is she gonna do anything that makes us proud? Our other daughter’s about to be a doctor. She’s in med school, and she’s on like a fast-track program. And here’s our youngest being like, ‘I want to drop out and be a rapper.’”
That—like, it probably scared the hell out of them. But it only lasted—their fear only lasted three months, because after that, social media took off out of nowhere. I did not expect it to happen. And eventually over time, they started seeing that like, “Oh. Our daughter’s actually making a name for herself,” even before it was paying.
[00:17:55] Jesse Thorn: Where was this conversation—this intense conversation on the timeline with the “I’m queer” conversation?
[00:18:02] CHIKA: Oh, it was right—same time, man. Same time.
It was a lot happening in that time. Just formative years, truly. I’d blown up already. I was already like an Instagram person, social media person, doing freestyles and stuff. And one of my first like viral videos or whatever was me rapping about growing up in the church, but knowing that I was queer and being like, “This don’t make sense. Like, the God I’m being taught about hates me. (Laughs.) He hates me really bad, and I’m an abomination. But that doesn’t make sense, because I feel really loved. And I love my partner in a way that isn’t literally focused on sex at all. So, what is the truth?” And so, I wrote a verse about that. And that was probably—what?—like three/four months into me being a social media person. And my cousin sent it to my dad, hoping to out me.
[00:18:56] Jesse Thorn: Hoping out you maliciously?
[00:18:58] CHIKA: Yeah. We’ve talked about it (laughs) this past Christmas. But yeah, she sent it to my dad, hoping to out me. And he called me downstairs to his room. I thought it was because I was smoking in my car. I don’t know. I thought he has found the weed. He has located the marijuana. This is not a drill. (Laughs.) So, I thought it was that. And I come downstairs, and he’s like, “Just sit down.” And I’m sitting in his room like this is like The Godfather. I’m sitting there like (whispering) what is he about to say?
And he’s like, “So, I saw this post recently.” I’m like post? Oh no! (Laughs.) It hit me immediately what was happening. I was like (gasps). But he’s like, “So, are you—do you consider yourself gay?” I was like (nervously) no. At the time, I identified as bisexual, so I said that. I’m pansexual now, because I’m an inclusive shorty. Anyway, but yeah, he asked if I was gay, and I was like, I’m bisexual, but yeah, I’m attracted to women. He was like okay. And his first question was, “Do you feel safe?” And I did not expect my Nigerian father to ever ask that. I thought it would be a flogging from the Lord himself. But his first question was, “Do you feel safe?” And I did. And so, I said yes. He was like, “Okay, do you think it’s going to affect your career in any negative way?”
And I was like, “No, I don’t think so. There’s enough gays out there. We stand together.” (Chuckles.) And he asked if anyone else knew, and I was like, “Well, I mean, it’s pretty obvious. I’m in a bowtie.”
But he was just like, “Okay, do any of the Nigerians know?” And I think that was his main concern, because I guess he didn’t want them to know before him.
And I was like, “Well, not really, but it’s not a conversation to be had with them. But there are some others!” I was like, “I’m not the only gay one out here, okay?”
He was like, “Okay, cool. Well, I don’t think all gay people are going to hell.” Which is the first time I heard that from my Nigerian, very Christian father.
And I was like, “Okay, could have had this conversation long, long ago.”
And he was like, “Yeah, I don’t think all gay people are going to hell. And as long as you feel like you’re safe in our house and like you aren’t gonna be in any danger, it’s not gonna throw off your career, go crazy! Like, have fun.” And I was like okay. And he was like, “Alright, cool.” Gave me a hug. And I left the room, and I was like—the whole time I thought I was getting busted for smoking in my car! And nope! That was not what was happening.
[00:21:22] Jesse Thorn: We’ve got to go to a quick break. CHIKA has a lot of fans, including some fans who say they don’t like rap music very much. She says, yes, it’s nice to open people’s eyes, but it’s also a hassle. We’ll talk about that. It’s Bullseye from MaximumFun.org and NPR.
Music: Fun, exciting music.
Maddy Myers: Video games can make you laugh.
Kirk Hamilton: They can make you cry.
Jason Schreier: (Singing.) They can even make you sing.
Maddy: We are the hosts of Triple Click.
Sound Effect: Three clicks.
Jason: It’s a podcast about video games.
Kirk: This is an exciting time for new games, from Diablo to Final Fantasy.
Maddy: From Starfield to Street Fighter.
Jason: From Zelda to—oh, who are we kidding, we’re just gonna talk about Zelda.
Kirk: Whether you play games or you just like hearing about them, we’ve got you covered.
Maddy: Find us at MaximumFun.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Bye!
(Music fades out.)
[00:22:13] Transition: Chiming synth with a steady beat.
[00:22:18] Jesse Thorn: I’m Jesse Thorn. You’re listening to Bullseye. My guest is CHIKA, the rapper and poet.
Do you remember when Hamilton was huge? Like the hugest thing ever?
[00:22:26] CHIKA: It’s still huge in my heart. (Laughs.)
[00:22:27] Jesse Thorn: Okay. So, first of all, I’m just going to open by stipulating God bless Hamilton. God bless Lin-Manuel, a supporter of this show and other shows on our network, a decent fella and a brilliant genius.
[00:22:43] CHIKA: And opener of my album.
[00:22:44] Jesse Thorn: There you go.
[00:22:45] Music: “Overture” from the album Samson: The Album by CHIKA.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: (Speaking.) Our stories are all we got. So, if you’re gonna tell it, tell it boldly. Tell the truth without fear.
Legend has it, moments like this happen once in your life
It’s a tale of finding glory in strife, while avoiding the hype…
(Music fades out.)
[00:23:10] Jesse Thorn: I wanted to put my face through a window if one more person told me about how they didn’t really like rap, but they loved Hamilton.
[00:23:17] CHIKA: But they love Hamilton. Ugh.
[00:23:19] Jesse Thorn: And I’m like, well, first of all, Hamilton is like 70% musical theatre. Like, don’t worry that you’re turning into a rap enthusiast.
[00:23:26] CHIKA: Oh my god, I’m a rap fan! (Laughs.)
[00:23:29] Jesse Thorn: Like, great rapping in there and everything.
Shout out to everybody in the cast. Shout out to Lin-Manuel. But like, it’s musical theatre. You know, it’s a hybrid of the two, and it’s definitely musical theatre. And I just remember that intense feeling. And there is this world of hip-hop that someone wants to tell you when they’re telling you about how they like it. “I’m not—I don’t usually, but—I don’t—I don’t know—”
[00:23:52] CHIKA: They have to—like, there’s always a caveat. Like, there’s a stipulation there, like some kind of, “Oh, I don’t know! I usually—” I don’t care what you usually listen to, just say you like this and move on.
[00:24:03] Jesse Thorn: Right. And I feel like between rapping about being queer, between people looking for body positivity narratives, between the poetry thing—like, “You know, she really is a poet!” Between those three things, like my 80-year-old lesbian auntie would definitely email me one of your videos.
[00:24:27] CHIKA: That’s how it is. It’s actually really sweet. I get a lot of comments and DMs from people who always start their DM with, “Hi, I’m nothing but a 54-year-old White woman from the Midwest, but I have to let you know your music really—” And I—that happens every day. And it’s always, “Hi, I’m nothing but a—” Age, insert age here, “Caucasian.” And then, whatever region that they attribute to—
[00:24:55] Jesse Thorn: I mean, I know about these emails, because I get these emails. I get these emails about this show. Like, “You had a rapper on your show, and I don’t usually—”
[00:25:02] CHIKA: (Nasally.) “I don’t usually listen to rap, but that’s like—”
[00:25:04] Jesse Thorn: “You’re really the guy that tells me about rap!” And I’m like, I’m also old.
But I also think, like on the one hand, what a blessing to open people’s eyes. On the other hand, what a hassle.
[00:25:20] CHIKA: Yeah. Yeah. Really. It’s the most stressful thing I’ve ever chosen to do in my life. (Laughs.) I often do I often do question if I chose the right path for me, as a person. I know I did when it comes to skill and when it comes to the fact that I love it, and it’s cathartic and really therapeutic in that way. But also, I question on a regular basis. I’m like, “Me, the mentally spicy girl. Is it a good thing for me to be in a career field that I have to know what people think about me?” I’d rather live my life the way I currently do. It causes problems now. But I’d love to live my life the way I currently do, where I just don’t care, and I am violently myself. And whatever comes from that is for me, and whatever does not, was not. Like, I would love to live that way, but I can’t do that.
Even now, like I’m like, “Okay, if I were to be violently myself right now, I’m—what brand would see that and think that does not align with them and they don’t want to help with this or sponsor this or like give me an opportunity?” I’ve essentially made my humanhood into a commodity, and since I’ve commodified it, I no longer get to just do it, and do it legitimately. I’m doing it in a way that is always under scrutiny, and it’s not fun. It is not a great place to exist as a person. And it is—like you said, tiresome, very tiresome. But as an artist, we—I’m doing the insane thing, which is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result and putting out music and continuously doing that for the people that it does touch and for the people who love that and parasocially love me. That’s the purpose, but god, it is very much so the most exhausting thing I’ve ever chosen to do. And I chose to do it when my brain wasn’t fully formed, which is the most telling thing of all. (Laughs.) So, yeah, yeah.
[00:27:32] Jesse Thorn: Do you feel like in this space between that first record and this record—and to some extent the space between, you know, a year and a half ago, maybe when life started resembling life again and now—you have developed skills to be yourself and be a grownup?
[00:28:01] CHIKA: No!
Absolutely not. No. (Laughs.) I think that in the light of covid and in light of all of the things that we’ve all had to go through personally, interpersonally, and just as a world at large, I think that we’re all going to be a bit messed up for a lot longer than we’re assuming we are, and I think that we have to be not so afraid of that. I think that what we’ve all experienced collectively and separately is one of the most—we won’t know it until, you know, years and years and years pass, but a life shifting occurrence that feels so minuscule, because we lived through it and so many people didn’t. It feels like, oh, you know, there was this pandemic thing, and it was, you know, a blip on the scale in terms of our entire lives. But realistically, for someone who is just starting their life, that is a huge, major glass window to like fly into full speed. And that’s where I was.
And so, yeah, I may be able to stand, and I may be able to fly short distances right now, but I’m still healing ultimately. And there’s certain tools I have, but also when you’re learning—when you’re learning what’s broken, you can’t really pick the proper tool yet. The only tool I have right now is turning it into something. It’s transmuting the energy into something positive. And the only positive thing I can make right now is either art, paintings, or poetry. So, that’s how I’m treating it.
[00:29:32] Jesse Thorn: Is there a song on your new album, Samson, that we should go out on?
[00:29:37] CHIKA: I think it would be cool to go out on “Delilah”.
[00:29:43] Music: “Deliliah” from the album Samson: The Album by CHIKA.
Come home when you feel safe again…
(Music continues under the dialogue.)
[00:30:01] Jesse Thorn: Why do you choose that one?
[00:30:03] CHIKA: It’s the song on the album where I am no longer really looking at everything as a “out to get” me situation, and I realize that I’m also sometimes the author of my own downfall. And it’s a song that I wrote to uplift someone who’s always in my life there for me and looking out for me and also holding me accountable, even in moments where I don’t see that or I’m not appreciative of it. So, after everything that I’ve said today and the conversation we’ve had, I feel like you’ve gotten to know another side of me and all the other songs kind of represent the same vantage point. But “Delilah” is the one that it shifts, and it warps. And so, for people to hear a more intimate side of me I think that’s a good one. It’s a goodie.
[00:30:50] Music: “Delilah” by CHIKA.
I may be strong, but I am just a mortal in your presence
Tearing down my walls
You found me broken, and you started fixing
I don’t deserve you, and I never will
You know it’s true, but just for the record
You an angel
So, nobody do…
(Music continues under the dialogue.)
[00:31:01] Jesse Thorn: Well, CHIKA, I appreciate your time and your music. Thanks for coming in.
[00:31:04] CHIKA: Thanks for having me! This has been a blast.
[00:31:07] Music: “Delilah” by CHIKA.
… painting blues, the different hues
They add a layer to what God has done
All my life I questioned if somebody could shine for the sun
(Music continues under the dialogue.)
[00:31:14] Jesse Thorn: CHIKA. Her album, Samson, is out now.
[00:31:17] Music: “Delilah” by CHIKA.
You are the wish I’ve been afraid to verbalize aloud
You make me dream again, make me feel seen again
I quit the drugs, but you’re so potent that I fiend again
I lost my way, I made mistakes, I thought…
(Music continues under the dialogue.)
[00:31:28] Jesse Thorn: That’s the end of another episode of Bullseye. Bullseye is created from the homes of me and the staff of Maximum Fun, in and around greater Los Angeles, California. The other day I was at the farmer’s market. I bought a big tomato plant at the behest of my six-year-old who absolutely demanded it.
Our show is produced by speaking into microphones. Our senior producer is Kevin Ferguson. Our producers are Jesus Ambrosio and Richard Robey. Our production fellow at Maximum Fun is Bryanna Paz. We get booking help from Mara Davis. Our interstitial music is by our friend Dan Wally, DJW. Our theme song is called “Huddle Formation”. It was written and recorded by The Go! Team. Thanks to them, and thanks to their label, Memphis Industries.
Bullseye is now on Instagram! You can find sneak peeks, behind the scenes, and all kinds of neat stuff @BullseyewithJesseThorn. So, find us there, follow us, tell your friends about it, share our interviews with your friends, please. We appreciate it. I think that’s about it. Just remember, all great radio hosts have a signature signoff.
[00:32:40] Music: “Delilah” by CHIKA.
You are my everything
(Music continues under the dialogue.)
[00:32:46] Promo: Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR.
(Music fades out.)
About the show
Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.
Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.
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