Within the span of a year, Alabama rapper-singer CHIKA dropped her major label debut Industry Games and became a Grammy-nominated musician. It’s a true, fairytale-seeming story that’s built on years of hard work, beginning by uploading covers—and then original songs—on YouTube in high school. A few days before the award ceremony takes place, the 24-year-old dropped a new EP Once Upon a Time.
“Fairytales are stories with lessons and allegories / They tell us about the world that could be,” she raps on the opening “Fairy Tales,” which features BJ the Chicago Kid. “No heroes inside a book look like me.” CHIKA reflects on the lack of representation in these canonized tales, validating younger generations that don’t see themselves in the society reflected back at them. “Let’s make a couple hits for the kids that need a symbol / Let’s remind them that they matter / The media can chatter / And peer into their lives and form statistics like we data,” she raps. Her flow is contemplative and eased, until the track bursts into a footwork romp to intimidate the world’s posers and detractors.
Once Upon a Time is evidence that CHIKA is here to continuously uplift herself and others through vulnerable lyricism and adept wordplay. She flips fairytales on their heads for her own noteworthy storytelling: “Hickory Dickory” finds her reflecting about her artistic growth, making sure to keep her head on her shoulders, and “Cinderella Pt. 1 & 2” puts a modern, queer rewrite to an antiquated tale.
Rarely does it seem like the Grammys get it right when it comes to their nominations, but CHIKA’s recognition is one refreshing exception. Stream the full EP below.