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The first time I met Ckay was in 2021 in my first in-person interview following the first wave of the pandemic. That conversation took place in the moments that followed the release of his EP 'Boyfriend', and his viral TikTok hit 'love nwantiti'. In the three years that have followed, he has been certified platinum/multi-platinum in five countries and gold in four. He became the first African artist in 50 years to hold a top 5 position on the UK Singles Chart for four straight weeks and was the most artist of the year, just a few accolades from that moment. Of course, things didn't stop there, as he released his debut album, Sad Romance, in 2022, gaining a large amount of success for the Afro-emo singer.

Very often, one's retrospection takes place further down the line as most tend to look back at their career at a certain point. However, taking stock of what one has achieved and where one is is essential, so it felt naturally fitting to begin our conversation there. "It's been a crazy journey from CK The first EP, to now. So much has happened; I feel like so much has changed. It's been amazing; it's been quite a roller coaster ride. I appreciate the love from everyone for all the music I've done so far".

Having had the experiences that have taken him to international stages worldwide, he has not only elevated himself in terms of the music he makes, but he does so in a way that he has maintained his authenticity. As one listens from 'Ckay The First' to 'Sad Romance' and now as he introduces this new sound, there is a thread amongst his music that has continued throughout the various styles and sonic offerings people have come to know him from. His perfectly titled emo-Afrobeats style of music is rooted not only in his musical influences but also in the vulnerability and emotions that his music offers. One finds relatability regarding how he can express himself in his music.

When you listen to his music, much of it centres around his experiences of love in its many forms and varying degrees that one can feel and experience. Examples of this are peppered throughout his discography. His viral TikTok single 'love nwantinti' which means small love in Igbo and is about his intense desire for a love interest. 'emiliana' where he sings about a long-distance relationship. 'nwayi' touches on themes of desire and infatuation. These are just a few examples. Love is a universal theme, and the complicated emotions and depths that come with it are topics he has never been shy of. This is what makes him the most relatable to his fans and listeners all around. "I've experienced love in so many different capacities, good, bad, ugly, crazy. I've experienced it all. I happen to make music out of it; people listen to my pain, joy and everything I go through in these songs, and they can relate to it because it's something we have all gone through." This honesty has coined him as 'Africa's Boyfriend' because whilst we may have all experienced and gone through such experiences, his openness and ability to express that in the way he does makes him the artist he is.

Throughout the years that he has been wowing audiences, consistency is something that he has been able to maintain. Constantly offering song after song, delivering hit after hit. It is a reality that has been quite a sight to see when you think about it. Very rarely does introspection occur when one is at the height of one's career. However, with all that has happened in the space of time since CKay The First, it's essential to stop and smell the roses and also take stock of the work that has been done and the achievements. The experience of the last few years seems like it's been crazy and intense for anybody overserving it, and such has also been true in his reality. "It has been a crazy journey from Ckay The First until now. So much has happened, and so much has changed. Lots of performances, lots of trips, I put out my debut album, and it's been amazing. It's been quite a rollercoaster of a ride. I appreciate the love from everyone, and right now, I'm just looking forward to this next chapter."

The chapter in question follows up on 2022's 'Sad Romance.' Since dropping its deluxe last year, he has been relatively under the radar yet still maintaining his presence through his features, which saw him collaborating with Janelle Monaè, Olamide and Tamera, to name a few. However, now that he is back and stepping into this next phase/chapter of his career, he is again letting listeners into his life experience in the last few years. "I'm in a very different place in life; I've experienced a lot more in love as well. Chaotic, chaotic stuff, and I'll tell you guys all about it when the album comes out" Along with the stories to tell, he is also shifting around the sounds in terms of what people can expect to hear on the album. As demonstrated on tracks like 'WATAWI' and even 'Hallelujah', both of which featured on Sad Romance, he is infusing the sounds of Amapiano into his musical pallet, expanding it beyond the smooth, pop R&B-infused sounds we are used to hearing from him.

Whilst we have seen the explosion of Amapiano depart from its home base of South Africa and infiltrate dancefloors across the world, it has only been in the last year or two that we have seen its infusion with West African Afrobeat sounds created a fusion of the two sounds to enhance what has already been growing out of the separate regions of the continent. Artists like Asake have led the charge in Nigeria, with artists like Shallipopi embracing this fusion in their offerings. Not to mention others who have experimented with the odd track here and there. As somebody constantly evolving and growing his sound, CKay has found a way to welcome it into his musical palate to keep him true to himself. "Amapiano " is a sound that I vibe to and have been listening to since 2019. Around the time I made Ckay The First, putting into my music and infusing it into my sound is a different way to express myself."  His foray into this sound is one that he further delved into the first offerings of his upcoming album. The double singles 'IS IT YOU? & MYSTERIOUS LOVE' are his first releases of the year, and once again, they touch on the topic of love, posing questions that will further be explored in the project.

"These two songs were the first ones I put out because they represent the beginning of the narrative regarding where I am. I feel like I am in space where everything has to be questioned." The two tracks are somewhat linked, and if you listen to both back to back, you get the narrative and theme emerging between the two. Where IS IT YOU? poses a question while searching for a new love interest and finding someone to match his desire. MYSTERIOUS LOVE acknowledges the complexities of said love and questions it with the opening lines, "Is this love, is this lust?" already posing the question to said love interest on the nature of their love and its complexities. Both of these set the tone of the story. 

Details and any information about the album are kept under wraps, with him not giving anything away. However, in prying what I can, the little information I receive tells me that growth is the key theme for this next era in the CKay journey. "This next era is growth in every aspect of life, from music to love to my relationships with my family and friends and my well-being as a human being. That's where I am stepping into in this era." What that sounds and looks like is what we will have to stay tuned for. It will be different from its previous offering, and considering evolution and constantly finding new ways to do things and express himself is part of his artistry. We will all be in store for something new, fresh and exciting.

Taking a departure from music. I venture into another part of CKay's creativity beyond just music. Where you hear him express himself to the max throughout his music, the same can be true with another part of his artistry that has served him well and lent itself to him quite favourably: his style and sense of fashion. The past year has seen him collaborate with Ralph Lauren, becoming the first African Face of the brand, which was cemented with the launch of its Polo Oud fragrance. Beyond collaboration, fashion has always played a part in how he expresses himself. "Fashion is very similar to music in that it's also self-expression, the colours of clothes, the fabric, everything for me. I wear stuff depending on how I feel and want to feel." And, of course, this ties back to the music in terms of its emotions and how he can translate that through his style. "Music, too, is tied to fashion in so many ways because music is a feeling; it makes you feel a certain way, and that feeling will make you dress a certain way. My music makes you feel stuff; it makes you feel emotions. For me, I like to wear colours that reflect the emotions." 

As I conclude the conversation, the idea of introspection once again returns. This time thinking about his younger self and the young boy who had dreams of doing music in comparison to what the realties are. People often find this expectation versus reality when they think about doing something versus when they do it and how those realities or ideas compare. So, like everything he has achieved and the dreams he is getting to live, I'm intrigued to know what those expectations versus realities have been for him. "It's a blessing. It's a reality I'm still getting used to sometimes. But it's also very different from what I thought it would be when I was much younger, dreaming about it. it's a lot more complicated than I thought, a lot more demanding than I thought, and it takes a lot more of a toll on me than I thought."  Often, there is a sacrifice people don't speak of when stepping into such positions. By pursuing one's dream, you give up a part of yourself for the nature of the job. It becomes a service where you constantly show up and are giving of yourself, and this is also a reality he has come to know, as he understands it also to serve a higher purpose. "I'm grateful that people show love to my music; at the end of the day, we're all here to serve the universe. It's all about coming to this world and making a difference, making a dent, making people feel something and improving the existence of people, and I feel like I do that with my music."

Undoubtedly, the brand of Ckay has elevated and will continue to do so in the future. As we depart our second conversation in his journey too far, I look forward to all that is to come. And there is a lot more to come. "More music, there's a tour coming. I have some surprises, too; expect more growth and an increase in everything you know Ckay for. Great music, great fashion, everything I'm just growing." Undoubtedly, the next album will carry on the authenticity that has been carried out through his music. As he continues shining as the African lover boy, we are tuned in and ready.