CULTED SOUNDS: CHIEDU ORAKA TALKS REPPING YORKSHIRE, ENJOYING THE PROCESS & ‘COUNCIL ESTATE CONFIDENCE’
When grime first started gaining national and international attention, all interest was focused on the heavy-hitters in London. Dizzee, JME, Skepta and Stormzy (to name just a few) helped elevate the genre to one of the most exciting and dynamic music coming out of the UK – so naturally, interest was extended to other areas of the country, where the sound was putting down firm roots.
From MIST and Jaykae in Brum, to Bugzy and crew in Manny, the UK music scene has been shifting out from London over the last decade – and now eyes are on Yorkshire, thanks to Chiedu Oraka. Coined as ‘The Black Yorkshireman’, Oraka describes his music as the sound of a new working-class Northern England. With his distinctive Yorkshire slang permeating each of his tracks, Oraka has built a solid foundation with singles that have earned him attention from the country’s biggest radio stations and an esteemed reputation as Hull’s Black Music pioneer. We caught up with him to chat about the craft, his upcoming EP, and the power in not conforming.
You’re known as ‘The Black Yorkshireman’ – how did growing up in Hull influence your sound?
This is a great question, and besides the obvious accent, I would say the name “The Black Yorkshireman” represents being a misfit. I am a bit of an anomaly because growing up in Hull, I was surrounded by indie bands and guitar-centric music.
My influences came mainly from my mum and sister, growing up with mum’s legendary parties blasting out reggae and afrobeats. I then found my way into Channel U and became obsessed. My music generally describes the story of growing up in Hull, on a council estate and being the only Black kid in the area. So the influence Hull has had is huge.
Along with a North Face – what can you not leave the house without?
Headphones and a playlist – I can’t imagine leaving the house in silence. I play music to brush my teeth, get ready, walk, it’s just with me everywhere I go. Anyone who knows me also knows I’ve always got a litre of water on me, I am a bit of a health freak and as mama always says… “just drink water and mind your business”.
What would be your dream project in the next 5 years?
A full album with sick features and producers. I already have the name, the vision, who I want to be on it and all the marketing… man’s gotta manifest this stuff. I’d also love a production company. I love creating content and have always been fascinated by people generally. I imagine going around the world and just speaking to the maddest people.
I also want to build mumsy her dream home, obviously. Big mama Oraka loves to remind me that she is first in line and I need somewhere she can hoard all her belongings and just live her content life, surrounded by her bags and shoes.
Who are your creative influences – music or otherwise?
Way too many to mention but –
In music I have to shout out the goat, Skepta. What this guy has done for UK music is indisputable. My guy is approaching his 40’s and still has more swag and relevance than the younger gen. I also love sick producers like Pharrell and I have to shout out James Blake, he needs to be on my album – James if you’re reading, holla at The Black Yorkshireman.
Creativity comes from the craziest of places I think. It comes from a conversation with a 6 year old or from looking at how the most successful people in the world operate. I also love an underdog. I’m a fan of people like Kanye who don’t conform and just express their creativity regardless of all the noise.
If you had to describe your sound in two sentences, what would these be?
I am the sound of a working-class England. My sound holds no punches and embodies a social commentary that hasn’t yet been picked up by the mainstream.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists – something you wish you’d known?
Find yourself a group of people that you really trust to give feedback on your releases. Music is full of opinions so it is important you trust your gut and a very select few. There will always be the next milestone you want to hit, so try to enjoy the process and the wins along the way.
And finally, labels aren’t everything. If you start to get label interest, remember you’re the talent and you need a good return on investment. Don’t let the excitement of these conversations and the big names being thrown at you get you stuck in a bad deal.
View this post on Instagram
Can you talk us through your favourite track on your upcoming EP Council Estate Confidence – how did it come to be?
‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ is my number one. I was sat in the studio with my producers (Blem Production and Deezkid) reminiscing on music from back in the day and found ourselves bopping to some G-Unit. We wanted to create that nostalgia and bring it to current life… I think we did a pretty good job.
It slaps… go listen to the project!
Lastly, name 5 tracks you’re loving right now and why.
Knucks – Los Pollos Hermanos (perfect for cruising in your car, I think it’s impossible for this guy to drop a bad tune)
Headie One – Came in the Scene ( I’ve got this on repeat at the moment. It looks like the old Headie is back. Perfect gym music)
Knucks – Playa Playa (This one is my favourite from his project ‘Alpha House’. He just flows on this so effortlessly and the production is sick)
Potter Payper ft Nines – Gangsteritus 2 (What a piece of music, this song is beautiful. Great hook, great verses and two of my favourite rappers on one tune. What more could you ask for)
Kamakaze ft Deuce Sparks – Time it Took (The Leicester boys went in on this. Such a underrated tune but I have it on all the time in my car).