Born Chukwuka Ekweani, CKay comes from a musical background. He learned to play the piano at a young age from his father, who was also a choirmaster at the church they attended in Kaduna, Nigeria.
Moving to Lagos
He subsequently formed a band called Cre8tive Music with friends, performing at shows in and around Kaduna while also learning music production. CKay knew early on that he wanted to pursue a music career and therefore left home for Lagos – but had to convince his family first.
‘My parents… never really saw music as a very stable career. I had to make the decision to either chase my dreams or regret them and spend the rest of my life thinking ‘what if,'” he explains.
In Lagos, the budding musician worked as a producer in three recording studios. His big break came when he signed to the Chocolate City record label, where released his first single Nkechi Turn Up in 2016. He followed this up with the EP #WTFiCKay in 2017.
First big hit
However, he had to wait until 2018 to win over a broader section of fans and artistes alike when he dropped his dance tune Container. Asked about this early hit, CKay said, “Container was not even a sound. I’ve always been making love songs, [and] that was the music that got me signed in the first place.
“I think Container was an attempt to experiment [because] I like to try stuff out in the studio depending on my mood and I made that song. I was not even trying to make a song – I was just having fun. I wasn’t really singing; I was just vibing but it dropped and was such a huge record. I mean, it’s so crazy [because] the song didn’t have the craziest marketing; just love on the streets.”
Ckay’s ‘love nwantiti’
After Container, CKay’s next big hit would become his biggest song to date. love nwantiti was initially released in 2019 as part of his second EP CKay The First. The song became a massive hit on TikTok. Interestingly, he had to upload an acoustic version of the song on TikTok so that users would know he was the artist behind it.
“Certain countries enjoyed the music a little too much and started to claim it was theirs. I appreciate the love, but, yeah, I had to go on TikTok again and set things straight,” he explained in a 2021 interview.
love nwantiti has remained popular in countries such as Morocco, India and Portugal while dominating streaming charts, including YouTube’s Top Songs Global and Spotify’s Global Viral 100. It boasts over 956 million streams across all platforms.
CKay followed up this success with the release of Emiliana in 2022. This song has equally proved popular with fans across the world, amassing well over 290 million streams.
While the numbers are impressive, CKay is still committed to artistry and making music that connects to people. Writing and singing about love is the basis of his creativity, which for him is inspired by his Cancer Zodiac sign.
This fascination with love and passion has also inspired his persona as “Africa’s Boyfriend.” It is also the result of years of listening to artistes such as Usher and Sisqo and how they express love, sensuality and intimacy in their music. He has managed to replicate this in his own Emo-Afrobeats way.
CKay’s debut album
Having made a name for himself on the world stage, CKay is set to drop his debut album on 23 September 2022. He promises fans that this album will be a reflection of his emotional trajectory. Following the release, the star will headline his first US and Europe tours from 1 October 2022.