Chiedu Oraka
Chiedu Oraka on his north Hull housing estate. Picture: Christopher Thomond.

Hull’s Chiedu Oraka: If you grew up on a council estate, you can relate to my music

Meet a musician from North Hull estate whose music is challenging people’s perceptions of the city and inspiring the next generation.

Chiedu Oraka, 31, is headlining on the Back To Ours Big Top stage at this weekend’s Humber Street Sesh.

The rapper is tipped for big things on the UK’s rap and grime scene.

His DIY tracks get millions of streams on Spotify and his live performances with co-producer Deezkid are a force to be reckoned with. He’s performed at Radio One’s Big Weekend, and with superstar rappers Stormzy and KRS-One.

The best bit? The ups and downs of life on North Hull estate’s 21st Avenue are the core of Chiedu’s music, and tracks such as N.H.E. (North Hull Estate), I’m From A City, 21st Kid EP and the big hitter, Darcy, are reaching a global audience.

Chiedu says: “If you grew up on a council estate, you can relate to my music. 21st Ave is home for me. It’s the hub. I moved there with my mum and sister in 1993, after living in Auckland Ave while my mum was studying for her Masters degree.

Musician Chiedu Oraka on his north Hull housing estate. Picture: Christopher Thomond.

“The song that really broke me in Hull was one from 2015 called I’m From A City. I thought, let me do one that’s gonna hit home even more. That’s raw and real. So on North Hull Estate there are lyrics a lot of people can relate to: ‘If you went Tesco’s for a midnight mooch, and did a booze run, that’s North Hull estate.’

“21st Ave is such a big part of my life, I’ve had every single feeling down that street. From the great times – the parties I used to have – to the tough times when we used to be the only black family on the street. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, there was racial abuse, but by the time I was about 14, I got tough to it and I got accepted eventually.

“Everything started to change in 2012-13. I owe Stewart Baxter, who worked at The Warren, so much. BBC Introducing showed an interest in my music, then I played Humber Street Sesh in 2014 and we shut down the street. Lockdown started again when I met [rapper and producer] Deezkid, and I supported Stormzy at Sugar Mill nightclub in Hull.

“Hull’s UK City of Culture year in 2017 was great for me. I did gigs like Radio One’s Big Weekend. North Hull Estate was track of the week on Radio 1Xtra and it got championed by Huw Stephens on Radio One.

“This year, I’ve done a small UK tour, hosted Lockdown nights, written a ‘grime theatre’ show about Hull for Battersea Arts Centre and The Albany in Lewisham, done a remix of Thotiana by Blueface that’s getting attention in the US and Australia, and there’s more to come… This summer’s going to be hot – we’ve got a new single coming out and it’s going to be even bigger than Darcy.

“When I walk on the estate now, I get a good reaction. It feels like my area hasn’t got many good role models, but the Hull people do really support me. Who knows? If I get to a place where I’m a household name, maybe there’ll be a lot of Chiedu Orakas coming out of North Hull estate.”

Chiedu will perform at the Humber Street Sesh on the Back To Ours Big Top stage on Saturday at 10pm.

Listen to his music online on Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Bandcamp and Soundcloud. A new single is planned for this summer.