By: Eden Bekele
While authenticity in an industry that is seemingly over saturated with disingenuous players is a novelty these days, no one stands more true to themselves in the Boston scene, as CHI. She is an artist, DJ and creative from the city who is a great example of how realness will only elevate your work and spirit.
It has been half a year since CHI dropped her LP titled B.O.M.B. short for “Back On My Bullsh*t”, and listeners have been fiending for more content since. The project was a successful 11 tracks, filled with an all-star roster of Boston artists, all contributing to the power that is B.O.M.B. Prior to releasing her LP, CHI had collaborated with Gin Mason and SuperSmashBroz, to release their joint project Code Name: Girls Next Door, which included the catchy Girls Night single, as well as releasing her own series of singles and DJ mixes.
We had the privilege to sit down and speak candidly with CHI on being a veteran in the Boston scene, her creative influences, and what the future holds.
Where are you from?
I’m from Dorchester by ways of Nigeria. If I wanna be real specific I’m a young Igbo person- woman.
So you’re Nigerian, and you’re Igbo, how does that influence you?
That’s like my whole origin right there. I’m big on origins, I’m big on my roots. I grew up in a household that was very African, like very African. Something my dad used to say when I was growing up, he would be like: “When you come into my house, you’re not in America anymore, you’re in Owerri. So treat it like that.” My dad used to say that to me all the time, so that’s how I grew up.
Who or what are your biggest musical influences?
Sh*t, I was talking to somebody about this the other day. I have a lot of influences, because I listen to a lot of music and I grew up in a very musical house. Off the rip- singing wise, I get a lot of my influences from falceto males, like D’Angelo, Maxwell, Prince, that’s where I learned how to riff, Rudy Currence, sh*t like that. Obviously Lauryn Hill is a big influence on me. I don’t like to say her immediately though, because i feel like people assume that’s my main influence and its actually not. People always givin’ me the Lauryn and the Tracy Chapman, another one of my influences is Brandy, notice how I haven’t named any rappers. Before, KRS was one of my main rappers, but before I was really into rap I was into RnB, I was into Jazz. I was into a lot of African music growing up. Dancehall. I wasn’t really into rap music until I rediscovered 90s rap on my own, when I was about 11/12. I was kinda like ‘yeah i like rap music’.
Going back to Lauryn Hill, she talks a lot about the Israelites how do you see yourself fitting into that narrative because I know you have a song (titled Israelite: God Bless Amerikkka) about it as well?
I know that that’s my truth and that’s my history, even though growing up as black people we don’t learn too much about our true history. I think for me I fit into that because it’s like a coming of age- more like a going back home.
People think life is about turning into a new person, but it’s really about turning into your actual self. So when I think about being an israelite and being part of like a lost group of people, I see myself fitting into that- I see all of us fit into that though. I think the difference is some people own it and some people don’t.
So getting into the music, Boston and your home, how do you feel like the scene has changed since you’ve been coming up?
You know what’s funny about that? I grew up in Boston, like actually, actually. We are in my neighborhood where I went to school. I feel like automatically, off the rip, I have a whole different view of the scene than everyone else does. Because before the scene, there was the young ethnic community in Boston. I wasn’t really one of those kids going downtown and doing all the crazy stuff, but I was family friends with people who were doing that- or like I had history with people who were doing that. And you know I was never really like that going downtown to go jerk and stuff, I wasn’t like that, but those people are pioneers of the scene.
A lot of people came up like that. So when I think about the scene I don’t really think of it- like not to say there isn’t a scene, because there is, but my place in the scene is a little different because I have real roots in the scene.
So having said that last part do you feel people are just entering the scene to fit in?
Absolutely, I think some people see it as a way to get internet famous. And Im like n*gga whats your talent though? What are you doing to progress the scene? Confuses me.
So I see that you have a lot of relationships like you said and I’ve noticed you have some hits with SuperSmashBroz and Gin Mason, what are those relationships like and how was putting together ‘Girls Night’?
Everybody loves that song. That song is great. It’s just what I was just saying, those are my friends. I been friends with Gin before music and the reason why those songs came out was because it was really authentic. We friends, we vibe, we understand that we wanted to make a certain thing so we executed it.
That’s just the homies getting together, but a lot of my music is like. If were homies and you want to make music, or if we click on a level outside of music, it just makes me want to collab even more.
What motivates you?
D*mn, I don’t like thinking about big questions sometimes. I talk a lot.
I’m motivated by seemingly being an underdog. Definitely feel like a lot of people in the city sleep on me. Is it not true? I’m saying in general, sometimes when I see certain things and I wont see my name there, I’m like “hm.”
I also just feel like I wasn’t always as proud of the music, now I’m a lot more confident. I believe in myself. That’s another one of my motivations. I’m motivated by me, not my ego, I’m motivated by my real self.
That reminds me of your song Vanity, I like the message of that song, can you talk about what feelings brought that song on? Did you always love yourself this much? Or is this something that you’ve more recently been like “Oh okay, I’m owning my sh*t”?
Good question. Vanity, is, well in all of my music I like irony, and I like satire and I like contradictions because it plays into irony.
I believe life is about duality and dichotomy. So when I think about saying something that leaves an impression on people, I think about kind of confusing them. So when I made Vanity I was like n*gga Im so happy that I’m all of these bad things- d*mn, that makes me extremely vain. It’s more like when you realize that you’re happy about doing things that don’t serve you, you kinda have to step back and think about “hm why am I happy about that?” I think that’s what BOMB is really about. Being back on your bullsh*t is about having to destroy pieces of yourself now so that you can actually be free and be who you really are.
How do you feel about the difference between lyrical rap and other kinds of rap that’s being put out? Do you think you’ll continue going this route?
I think it goes back to being an underdog. I’m doing a lot that people in Boston aren’t doing right now. The reason that Lyrical rap will always stand out is because that is the foundation of Hip-Hop and that’s the foundation of music in general, lyrics are profound. I remember when i was a kid I used to listen to Jill Scott interviews and she used to say “It doesn’t matter how you said it, it matters what you said. You could say it however you want, but if you didn’t say anything worth saying then- what are you saying?” You know that made so much sense to me. I like to carry that into my music.
So if you had to pick a top 3 in the game today, who would you pick?
Kendrick Lamar. Hmm who’s as good as K.Dot? Honestly, y’all are going to hate me but… Drake. Drake is different. You know who I’m lowkey throwing in there? Saba. I’m like d*mn why am I throwing Saba up there? But Care For Me is like my favorite album that’s come out in the last 5 years.
What do you have planned for the future?
I got a project coming out in the colder months, it’s called Clairvoyance. I’m working on getting some women in Boston on that thang. I’m going to have my producer debut on that. I recently just started mixing and mastering. I’m going to start going in-cognegro as a producer. Get ready I’m about to run these placements up, look out.
So I’m working on that and I’m working on some visuals for B.O.M.B. I’m directing my videos these videos as well, y’all will be seeing a lot of my ideas come through. Probably by mid summer all of them will be out.
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