Chike is booked and very very busy. Since the release of his 2020 debut album, Boo of the Booless, the singer has kept the engine running with video after video, a surprise EDM remix album, massive hit singles, the release of his 2022 sophomore album, The Brother’s Keeper, and appearances at almost every wedding in the country. But with Jade Osiberu’s Gangs of Lagos, Chike is set to make his feature film debut, making the already busy singer an even busier actor.
Gangs of Lagos, Amazon Prime’s first Nollywood feature, follows three friends played by Tobi Bakre, Adesua Etomi-Wellington and Chike, as they navigate life, and well, gangs in Lagos’ notorious Isale Eko. With political elements playing a strong factor in the film, it seems like kismet when I chat with Chike mere days after the disappointing elections in Lagos state saw thousands of people disenfranchised and hurt.
“You can’t preach democracy and force at the same time,” Chike explained when the topic of the elections came up. “I kept hoping that maybe this time we’d get it right, but there are still a lot of people who don’t want the betterment of the country.”
But elections can’t dampen the feeling of being a leading man as Chike gets into the process behind his big screen transition, the pressure to match the genius of Boo of the Booless and why he named his latest album, The Brother’s Keeper.
Tell me everything you can about Gangs of Lagos and what you thought when Jade hit you up to join the project
If Jade calls you for a project, you jump on it because you know it’ll be good. I’d already worked with her on a project I can’t talk about before she asked me to do Gangs of Lagos. I guess I delivered on that one, so she decided to give me something more challenging. I remember being impressed by the script and having questions about how we’d pull off such a large scale production, but then I remembered it’s Jade, and she always puts out the best projects.
I play Ify, a carefree guy who’s kind of naive…I’m trying to tell you what I can without giving away too much. He’s surrounded by love from his family and friends in Isale Eko, but bad things happen to him as a result of his naivety. He’s just a guy trying to navigate life on the streets.
What was the most challenging part of shooting the film?
I won’t spoil it for anyone, but a very emotional scene in the movie really got to me. I didn’t have any lines or anything, so I just had to be present and listen to all the other actors perform. They were saying these really heavy things and giving striking performances that I didn’t know when I started getting emotional.
You’ll know this scene as soon as it comes up in the movie, but omo, it was the toughest scene for me to shoot throughout our production.
Making music is one thing, but I’m curious about what you learn about yourself when you attempt to become someone else as an actor
So one of the major personality traits I realised I shared with my character was that we’re both carefree. Outside of that, acting in Gangs of Lagos allowed me to do things I wouldn’t do as Chike and understand how life would be different if they were my choices.
I got to see different parts of myself as a person. Could my life have gone differently, or could I have ended up as the guy I’m playing if my choices were different? But the most exciting thing about acting is I can do the wildest things and not get judged for it because it’s not real life. It’s not every job that gives you the freedom to be someone completely different every time.
Talking about music, what was going through your mind when you made your 2022 album, The Brother’s Keeper, especially after the success of 2020’s Boo of the Booless
I was a completely different artiste when I made Boo of the Booless. I know a couple of people knew me before the album, but it’s not like I had an existing fanbase or anything like that. But then the album came out, and things changed. Making a new album, I knew millions of people would be listening, and it could’ve either made me bold or scared. But all I knew was I couldn’t stop. I needed to make music.
I didn’t consciously try for The Brother’s Keeper to be different. It was just a more confident album because I became a more confident artiste making it. People knew my music now. It wasn’t just friends and family telling me, “You’re a good singer. One day, you go make am.”
Nigerians love music that’ll make us dance even when it’s sad — look at Burna Boy’s Last Last and Omah Lay’s Soso. But you tend to make stripped-down emotional songs about hurt, love and fame. Why do you gravitate towards songs like that?
I read somewhere that it’s important to write what’s true to you, and that’s what I try to do as an artiste. I make sure I write down experiences and situations peculiar to me. I call my music “afro-stories” because my songs are my stories. For example, Please is about the fear that not all good things last. I could have a good run right now as a performer, but who knows how long it’ll last? So Please is just me praying, “Make my own no spoil”.
If my song is not about how I’m feeling now, it’s about what I felt before or how I’d react to a situation I’ve heard of. I don’t doubt that the music I’m making will find an audience. I’d have quit by now if I had doubts. My ultimate goal is to make music that’s realistic to me.
Help me understand why this album is called The Brother’s Keeper. Who is this brother? What is he keeping? And where can I find it? Three questions, but you get my gist.
People think it’s the album’s theme, but it’s not. The title was more of a representation of who I’d become as a person, not necessarily about the songs on the album. I’m my brother’s keeper, so the album is a: “The Brother’s Keeper presents you with these songs”, not “These songs are about being your brother’s keeper”.
The remix of Spell with Oxlade is out right now. What inspires your collaborations?
Collaborations are always about the music for me. What can I do to make this song better? If I can hear someone on a song in my head, I’ll reach out and try to get them to jump on it. Going with an artiste who elevates my song is the first and last step in deciding on a collaboration for me.
Interestingly, I didn’t go after Oxlade for the remix of Spell. Oxlade is my guy, and we share the same producer. He heard the song at our producer’s place and decided to do something on it. He called me after and told me about it. My team and I loved his input. This was before the album even dropped. But we held on to the remix because I wanted to release it later. I have a thing for extending the lifespan of my work. LOL.
What’s next for our brother’s keeper?
I’m still determining, but we might make a video for Enough and put that out soon. I’ll put out new music if we don’t do that.
Abeg o. I said I’ll put out new music. I didn’t say “album”. New music could be a single. Last last, everyone will get new music.