There is a general consensus that music artistes making a comeback from the Diaspora are often falsely celebrated as a result of location, rather than their talents. But with a pedigree that entails sound engineering for top acts like the Migos to landing mixing credits on G-Eazy’s breakthrough album (When It’s Dark Out), Nigerian-American music artiste, Hoodini has dispelled all such notions.
With musical influences from the likes of Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Kirk Franklin, Andrae Crouch, J Cole, Ed Sheeran, Jay-Z and Drake, there is a feeling that living in Hoodini’s mind is a study in creative diversity.
Formally known as Chuma Nwokike, Hoodini officially started his music career as a recording/mixing engineer at the prestigious QUAD studios in NYC and several mixes and productions later, he launched Ktizo Studios in 2016 and began crafting his own unique brand of Afrobeat.
His attempt at establishing himself as a multi-diverse music creative resulted in the release of his debut single, ‘Ready Go’, under the newly launched Ktizo recordings imprint. ‘Ready Go’ as a first single did quite well, garnering more than a reasonable amount of attention online, setting up the singer/producer, Hoodini as a music artiste to look out for.
Hoodini, born in America but officially a native of Anambra State in Nigeria, has shared his time between Nigeria and New York until recently when he moved back to Nigeria in September 2019. Those formative years have defined who he is as a person and an artiste and are pregnant with stories that reflect his dual heritage.
Hoodini aims to explore his dual experiences in his upcoming project which is an experiential EP he calls the ‘Motherland Cosmopolitan E.P.’ On what message the much anticipated EP plans to convey, Hoodini gives us first hand insight.
“I wouldn’t say a message but more of an experience. The EP is divided into two parts; Love and culture, so it’s basically my take on those two things based on my life experience growing up in Nigeria and moving to the US and then moving back to Nigeria.”
Hoodini’s transition from producer to singer comes with a story, one he is only too willing to share.
“I’ve always been an artist and that’s how I started out my musical journey. However, after my move to the U.S, my musical career took a detour as I fell in love with the engineering and production aspect of music. After about 5 years of supporting other artists in creating music; I decided in 2018 to make my own music as an artist again. It’s amazing to see how production has influenced my sound as an artist as well from the days when I only rapped to the present where I’m now singing a lot more and exploring different melodies.”
Collaborations are a key part of enriching the brand of music you offer and artistes everywhere have always used it to criss cross genre, augment their sound or simply acquire a new fanbase. Hoodini isn’t too keen on fostering singing collaborations as much as he’s excited about connecting with music producers; probably a result of the many years that he functioned as one.
“Hmmm, right now I’d say I would like to work more with producers than artists; so I’d say P2J as far as international goes, and locally I’d like to work with Sarz but I guess Sarz is international as well… haha.”
On how he acquired his unique stage name that he shares with the world-renowned Hungarian-born, American illusionist and stunt performer, Harry Houdini, he shares an interesting story.
“I got the name in Secondary School during a battle rap battle. During the battle, I had a line that said “I’m like the great Hoodini the AK (Ak-47) is my wand, I say Hocus Pocus the next second you’re gone” and I won the battle with that line and since then everyone has called me Hoodini after that.”
As a result of a series of continent hopping, Hoodini has been off the Nigerian music event scene for a while and so his predilection to music awards is more or less diplomatic.
“To be honest I’ve been out of the country for the past 10 years so I haven’t been in tune with award shows in Nigeria but I do think it’s great to be recognised by your own,” he explains.
Unbothered by conventional genre depictions, Hoodini stalls when asked to place his music in a genre; he explains why.
“Honestly, it’s hard to box into a single genre but I’d say that it’s a fusion of Dancehall, Afrobeats and Hip-Hop.”
Hoodini’s single “Ready Go” delivers a smooth afrobeat melody that pulls you in with its smooth, mid-tempo pace and staggered lyrics. On how the hit single was received in Nigeria, the young artiste is slightly ambivalent.
“It was great but somewhat bittersweet because I was outside the country and so I couldn’t fully feel the effect firsthand. However, it made me appreciate how music travels beyond borders and how amazing that is.”
Like the animated cartoon series, ‘Pinky and the Brain,’ Hoodini’s eyes are set on world domination and that’s not altogether surprising because the multi-talented music artiste has been in the room with mega stars overtime and has probably caught the bug.
“New single; an EP shortly after that and then world domination!” he lists excitedly.
Like many new artistes, Hoodini knows a thing or two about cutthroat Record deals and advises caution when it comes to deals and agreements.
“I think with record deals you just have to make sure the deal is mutually beneficial to both parties and that you also don’t sign whatever you’re not comfortable with. I’m not opposed to record deals, I think labels can serve as a machine to propel your music to the next level but the questions are around the costs of doing so. Do I get to keep my masters? Such details will need to be ironed out during the negotiation process.”
Hoodini’s visual checklist features his signature braided hair and dark stylish shades, and although his sound profile is breezy enough to woo you, it conveys an aura that is heavy enough to be considered dope.
This article was written by Henri ‘Yire; connect on Instagram with him here