The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
If there is any justice in the world at all, Chika‘s Industry Games will become the industry standard for introducing new, tremendously hyped artists. Even though it clocks in at just seven tracks, Industry Games packs as much confidence, creativity, emotion, lyricism, and spirituality as many full-length projects. The Alabama artist might not have the emotion-wrought come-up story many of her peers boast, but her unimpeachable pen game and high level of execution can make even the mundane sound sublime.
In a modern climate where it seems like women almost have to meet a checklist of both physical and musical attributes, Chika is a blast of fresh air. This isn’t one of those finger-wagging arguments putting down sexually aggressive rappers in favor of their more demure counterparts. This is one of the moments that utterly dismantles half-baked complaints that “women can’t rap.” Chika raps better than even the best rappers; her rise was precipitated by high-concept viral videos of rapped open letters to tarnished heroes and praise of her skills from her predecessors.
But all the fast rapping in the world means little in the grand scheme of things without some substance behind the style. Fortunately for Chika, this is where she truly shines. From her viral open letter to Kanye West to her powerful performance of the political diatribe “Richey V. Alabama,” Chika has always been an artist with more on her mind than flossing, flexing, and flashing.
That same preoccupation with subverting expectations and digging below the surface manifests on Chika’s debut EP with songs like “Designer.” Instead of referring to clothes, the title describes love, using the designer designation as a metaphorical separation between the authentic and the phony. “No more fake love,” she declares on the chipmunk-voiced chorus. “I want designer.” Meanwhile, “Balencies” — rather than being another song celebrating material possessions — uses coveted luxury sneakers as the focal point of not just a typical rags-to-riches story but also as a therapy session about imposter syndrome, the pressure to succeed, and the grind it took to get them.
The raps are only part of the story though; what truly sets Industry Games apart is its production — not its beats, its production. Not content to simply throw together a collection of eight-bar loops set to crashing 808s, Chika ensures that each song is imbued with a sense of culture, history, and movement. “Songs About You,” the clear standout of the album, bops along with a soulful R&B instrumental that gives Chika the chance to show off her vocal chops as much as her clever couplets. Chika herself points out what makes her artistic direction even more impressive: “Your fave got hella hits /
But come in sixth for writers credited / My lyrics come embedded.” This is all her.
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to use collaborators, though. While she’s the only credited artist and no other rappers spit a verse, the omnipresent embellishment of Chika’s praise team of backup singers gives songs on the back end, like “On My Way” and “Crown,” a gospel-ish lean that buoys their encouraging messages. More sermons than songs, both songs land with the emotional punch of a tailor-made Sunday service — the real kind, not the Kanye ones. Those same, gospel singing-ass backup singers dazzle on “Songs About You,” uplifting the song from a simple boasting track to a spiritual experience.
The title track is the one that provides the EP with its thesis, though. Other rappers aren’t in love with the form. Chika is. That love permeates every minute of the short project. She wasn’t just made for this; it’s a part of her, it’s who she is, and it’s what she would have wound up doing in a million timelines, no matter what obstacles fell in her path. She isn’t the conventional rapper that so many have come to expect from artists of her background, origin, and yes, her gender. But that’s the thing about conventions — they change over time. She isn’t conventional yet, but her debut project provides more than enough proof that she should be.
Industry Games is out now on Warner Records. Get it here.
Chika is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.