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'Grime is the new pop music'

REPRESENTING THE NORTH: Chiedu Oraka

WHEN YOU think of prime grime locations, Yorkshire probably doesn’t even factor into the top five.

And yet, from humble beginnings on the streets of north Hull to performing at Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2017, Chiedu Oraka is fast becoming one of the city’s leading grime artists.

The 29-year-old was picked up on by Austin Dablo and featured on Spotify’s Grime Shutdown playlist with his first single of 2017, Flex, racking up more than 120,000 streams.

And, according to the MC, grime is actually all the rage in Hull. “There are loads of youths who are listening to grime – they proper love it – but there aren’t that many artists from Hull. The north of England is grossly underrepresented in grime, but I think that will change eventually.”

Like many of us who witnessed the birth of grime and its transformation to the sound that graces today’s charts, Chiedu was a firm fan of Channel U (now known as Channel AKA). “That channel played a big part in music for me. I remember the first grime track that I had ever heard – which you can say is garage – was More Fire Crew ‘s Oi."

“I remember thinking, ‘This is mad, I’ve never heard anything like this before, in my life’.”

Chiedu has performed on stages with his peers Stormzy, Wretch 32, Akala, Paigey Cakey, Jay Kae, KRS One and Mikill Pane; as well as hosting and running a club night – Audacity, which dedicates itself to only playing hip-hop, grime and UK garage.
Ensuring he never strays far from his homegrown roots, his second release of this year, N.H.E. (North Hull Estate) was BBC Introducing’s Track of The Week on BBC 1Xtra and was also championed by Huw Ste- phens on BBC Radio 1.

The track takes listeners on a journey around one of Hull’s most well-known council estates, capturing life on the avenues, on the parks, outside the shops and in the pubs. It tells the story of how a working class community, surrounded by deprivation, can still provide a foundation filled with happiness and togetherness.

The MC draws much inspiration from his ends, so much so that he is conceptualising his debut EP, 21st Kid, around the street on which he grew up – 21st Avenue. Chiedu, in his northern drawl, animatedly describes his experiences growing up – the East Yorkshire that’s far from a ‘pudding and pie’ experience.


Chiedu Oraka

“I have lived on my street since 1993 and it’s in one of the worst estates in Hull. We were the first black family on this white estate and suffered racism – proper trials and tribulations. I have had every single emotion down this street."

“I talk about a lot of these experiences on this upcoming project. Unfortunately, a lot of the kids, I grew up with, are either dead or in jail. It is a proper crime-ridden area where the kids have no proper role models. That’s what it is like.”

Chiedu embarked upon a music career after completing a sports development and coaching qualification at university in 2010. "I didn’t leave school with the best GCSEs and wasn’t really an academic at all. I was getting into so much trouble – university was a way out, a change of environment. At first, I wanted to be a physiotherapist or a teacher.”

The following year marked the release of his first mixtape, Not Your Average Spittin (2011). Chiedu is happy with the leaps and bounds that grime music has made across the nation, of late. “Grime is the voice of the streets. To me, it’s music and so much more than that, too – it’s a lifestyle. It represents a DIY attitude and it represents young boys being able to get off the streets and provide for their families by making music."

“It’s about people’s attitudes, how they dress, how they live. When I see the success of the Skeptas and the Stormzys, I’m happy for them and what it means for the culture. Grime is the new pop music in the UK.”

Chiedu Oraka will be performing at Contains Strong Language on September 29, a brand new poetry and spoken word festival, kicking off on National Poetry Day (Sept 28) in Hull, the UK’s City of Culture for 2017.

Fans will be in for a treat: “My sound is gritty, northern and working class. It’s in your face, no holds barred, aggression, pain. I don’t think there’s anyone like me out there. I make music for people, in Hull and beyond, to relate to. To make a little bit of a difference."

“When you come to see me perform, expect energy and rawness – I don’t come off the stage without leaving everything on it first.”

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