Boyfriend EP cover photo. Courtesy of the artist.

Interview: CKay Wants to Be Africa's 'Boyfriend'

We talk to the rising Nigerian artist about his new Boyfriend EP, his career and the influences that shaped his futuristic sound.

CKay's father would invite him to sing hymnals whenever he played the piano in the house. As a boy he was already learning musical theory and knew the distinct tones of classical musicians like Franz Schubert and Beethoven. In his own music, those unconventional influences are bare. "I don't care if I have to hum an entire chorus," he told me through the phone. "I just hum the damn thing."

Some days before our call, I met CKay at a high-rise building in Lagos. There was a video shoot going on, with the director asking the musician to retake certain walks, and where others would've registered frustration, CKay's boyish smile never left his face. "I'll do it," he'd say, before being put through the paces again. "I just want everything to come out perfect."

This patience underlies his approach to art. Since learning to produce in Kaduna (where he lived with his middle-class Ibo parents and siblings) and then moving to Lagos, CKay has been moving his music away from the smoke and mirrors of the Nigerian music industry. His break as an artist came in 2017 with the dance-ready "Container" but before then he had produced for new-school artists like Dice Ailes and from behind the boards, was establishing his sound: mid-tempo, airy, and a perfect accompaniment for romance-leaning songwriting.

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