“M, iF I no blow this year, I would quit music.” Like every one battered by life’s struggles, Blessing Akiode came very close to giving up on her dream.
It was mid 2016 and she was just another rapper scouring the streets of Lagos for a career-lifting miracle. A miracle she got later that year, even though she wasn’t really expecting it. Her career trajectory remains proof that ‘time and chance do happen to us all.’
Akiode, who is professionally known as Candy Bleakz, is one of the hottest voices in the Nigerian Hip-hop scene. She also thrives as one of the few female rappers who have broken into the mainstream Nigerian pop-market, with her deluge of Street-Hop jams. Since she first came to limelight in 2016, barely three months after she contemplated quitting music, Candy Bleakz has continued to thrive as a relentless wavemaker. The Chocolate City signee constantly soars in a heavily competitive male-dominated community, where gender stereotypes silently echoes around her.
Nonetheless, Candy Bleakz is a fighter, resisting the negativity or difficulties that come with being a female Street-Hop rapper. She prefers to call herself a ‘dragon’ mirroring her fiery persona, both as a creative and as an individual. Like in her just-released debut EP dubbed, Fire, her music itself breathes with a free-spiritedness and energy that is typical of Street-Hop records.
However, what does the magic for Candy Bleakz is her vocal control – her impressive ability to stylize her vocals to glimmer with a certain pop-appeal, yet retain its sanctity as a core rap record. On Fire, she rehashes the magic she made with the viral hit, Tikuku, which is also the EP’s lead single, soaking the record with her narratives of life on ‘the street.’ It is essentially a record about the lifestyle, the hustle, and the bustle that colours the realities of every ‘dreamer’ on the street.
Getting closer to Candy Bleakz, Guardian Music speaks with the 22-year-old rapper to explore her reality as a female Street Hop artiste, as well as the backstories behind her just-released debut EP, among other interesting details on her career and artistry.
Congratulations on the EP. How does it make you feel?
IT is my first project, and I have been working on it for a very long time. I am very much excited; because it is a whole new Candy. I feel like I am able to show people more of me.
How would you define your vibe?
I am from the ‘streets.’ I am a rapper. I am trying to infuse the Streets into Afrobeats. I would like to say Afro Street, because I am fusing the typical Street vibes into Afrobeats.
It is uncommon seeing a woman do this style of music. What inspired you to go in this direction?
When I was in JSS2, I was the Class Rep. We were supposed to go for a music competition, but the participant representing the class didn’t come; I had to find a solution. I ended up going; I begged one of the rappers in the class to write some lyrics for me. I crammed it on the spot and I ended up winning the competition.
I started enjoying it, because I was gaining some audience in school. For university, when I got into OOU, it was a different world. I was seeing Rascapella, who was like Wizkid then. I was like ‘I want to do music.’ I was even studying medicine and I had to switch my course to Physiology. I fell in love with music.
Are you still studying Physiology?
I left the school in 2017, because I could not really afford the fees. It was not even about my love for music; the fund was not there. I realised that I fell in love with music, and there was no fund to push my schooling. I had to leave.
How did you break through in music?
That was in 2016. I won the Lagos Got Talent show. Gbenga Adeyinka introduced me to MI Abaga, and told him that he believed in me. That was when we went to Governor Ambode’s office. Basically, after I won the talent show, things started changed for me. In 2018, I made freestyle and it went viral. I also joined Chocolate City and met everybody.
Your new body of work is called Fire. Why that title?
We just decided to go with that direction, because people call me Ladies Dragon. They feel like I spit out fire, like a dragon, because I have so much energy. I was even going to title it Dragon EP, but my team and I agreed on Fire EP as the title. The entire record is actually fire.
Why do people call you Ladies Dragon?
For the dragon theme, I remember that during a conversation, someone referenced my energy. The person was like, ‘Yo Candy! This energy too much. You dey do like Dragon.’ And I just liked the name instantly; I took it.
Do you have other women that inspire your artistry or personality?
I really cannot say. I like every good woman out there that is ambitious and very hard working. I would say I respect and like Tiwa Savage.
How easy was it for you trying to build your career as a female Street-hop artiste?
Sincerely, if I say that it is easy, then I am ‘capping’ (bluffing). Omo, it has not easy and it is still not easy. Being the only female rapper doing this, surrounded by a lot of male artistes doing the same thing, is a lot.
I am not dressing sexy or any of those things. It is harder for me (to convince people). It is even easier for guys to connect and collaborate, but it is harder for female singers like that. I have to work 10 times harder than others.
What is your creative process?
There is no special way, really. If a producer comes around, he/she plays me a good beat and I draw inspiration from it. I like people around me when I am recording; I like conversations going on. I am more of a freestyle artiste. It all depends on the kind of angel of inspiration that brings the vibe.
Which song on Fire EP did you enjoy making the most?
I enjoyed making Red and Tikuku. I enjoyed Tikuku, because it was made during a recording camp; we had a lot of people around. We were playing and having fun, while recording. It was not all work; it was a chilled vibe. I also enjoyed Tikuku, because it is a very personal record.
For Red, the reason is because it is a lifestyle song. I am basically saying that I am a bad girl, and a good girl at the same time. So, I enjoyed recording it, because I was able to show the streets more; it was me.
How was Tikuku personal to you?
In this industry right now, it is hard. I have been here for quite a long time, and 60 per cent of people here know me; I had not gotten a hit song then. I had to keep working. I don’t need to tell people to believe in me; I need to let them see.
So, for Tikuku, I was like ‘E fe nla (you go see).’ Tikuku basically means that you are going to do something by force. So, I am like ‘E fe Jo (You must dance)’ and ‘E fe Tikuku’ (It is by force). Even when I was singing it, I was very emotional. It was a long time coming, and I had not gotten hits. Whether you like it or not, Omo, I am going to make it in this industry.
Did you have any moments when you felt like quitting music?
Yes, actually. I feel God just came through for me at the right time. I was already learning Video Directing; it was like an alternative. I was learning very fast. I started going to locations; I had worked on sets with artistes like Olamide. Video directing was there already. I was just like ‘Omo, If I no blow this year, I would quit music.’ And that was the year that I won the talent show.
I met Governor Ambode thrice; he gave me money. I was able to perform at state events, as at then. Chocolate City came in. God came through for me at the right time. I gave myself three months and the miracle happened exactly within three months.
Is there a reason you didn’t feature anybody on this EP?
At first, I had Bella Shmurda, Jamopyper and even Cblack on it. However, we were having a hard time clearing the song with Bella’s management. I kept on losing my time; same thing with Jamopyper. They are actually my guys, but these issues were with the management. So, my team and I just decided to do just Candy. I realised that I started changing my sound without even knowing. We got better jams and decided to let people have enough of Candy.
How did you even get the name Candy Bleakz?
Around 2012, a lot of artistes were adding ‘kid’ to their names, because of Wizkid. So, I was called Blesskid. However, because of Davido, I decided to make it Blesskido. When I got to OOU, I was in the studio with one of the big artistes at school; they started laughing at my stage name. They took the first three letters from my name ‘Blessing’ and the first three letters from my surname ‘Akiode’, and they formed Bleak. We saw that Bleak meant something else, in the dictionary. So, we just added ‘Z’ to it.
Someone else named Candy just saw me and said ‘You are sweet. You are a good girl. I dash you my name.’ And that was how we got the name Candy Bleakz.
So, what do you want to do with Street Hop, moving forward?
So, I really want to take it to the next level, but I guess I am doing that already. I am putting the street on Grammy, on AFRIMA, on Google. I am giving the street a global record.
My dream is putting the streets on the map. I want to break the stereotype that street music cannot fly globally. If people can vibe to (pop music sung in) Pidgin, then they can vibe to Street Hop.
Finally, tell us two things people do not really know about you.
I am a lover girl; I also love watching Korean movies.