Stitch Reviews: Once Upon A Time
Album Title: Once Upon a Time
Release Date: March 12, 2021
Record Label(s): Warner Records
I’m starting from an extremely biased position with my review of Chika’s latest EP: she’s one of my favorite rappers ever - I’m talking Top Five here. From seeing her freestyles on social media across 2018/2019, I knew I was witnessing someone special. And here we are in 2021 with her third EP (her second with Warner) Once Upon A Time. With overt references to fairytales, her childhood, her path to fame, and her queerness across her tongue tripping lyrics, this EP helps you see why Chika was nominated for Best New Artist at this year’s Grammy Awards.
Once Upon a Time starts off with “Fairy Tales (feat. BJ The Chicago Kid)”. This track is peak #RepresentationMatters and I mean that in a good way. The track pulls from different genres (like India.Arie-esque R&B for the first half) as Chika essentially lays out who she’s making music for in the first place. Then, in “Hickory Dickory”, Chika is all about the hustle and how hard she’s had to work to get where she’s at. This track traces her trajectory and Chika doesn’t shy away from letting you know that she’s shooting for the stars as she raps over an understated beat that doesn’t detract from her excellent delivery.
“Cinderella, Pt.1” and “Cinderella, Pt. 2” continue the fairytale theme started by the previous two tracks. These songs are so good because they put Chika almost in the prince role fawning over a sweet Cinderella at a house party and clapping back at the people around them that can’t see the goddess in their midst. I cannot stop listening to these songs. Part one snags me with the speed of Chika’s flow but also the adoration/thirst in her lyrics, but then the chorus in part two is just mind-melting in its sweetness. (Seriously, Chika’s singing voice!!)
Like it says in the title, “FWB” is an ode to being Friends With Benefits with someone. This song is smooth and so sexy, shameless in a way I can’t get enough of. In “FWB” Chika is in charge and keeps reminding the guy she’s singing and rapping about not to fall for her even though they’re intimate. When she croons in the refrain that “I don’t want your love, I just need your touch”... It just feels so satisfying.
Chika closes out Once Upon a Time with “Save You”, a song that feels so personal from the jump. Especially at the chorus, this song feels like she’s rapping not just for her audience, but for her past self and when she’s insecure and stressed in the present. This song is a different kind of intimate from “FWB” because it’s all about healing and growth and I love that for all of us. But I have to say that the Lesley Gore reference that Chika slips in (“I say it's my function, I'ma cry if I want to”) in the second verse makes me love this song even more than I already did from the first verse.
Overall, Once Upon A Time makes me crave a longer release from Chika. Every single thing she does is like electricity across the skin whether she’s singing the chorus of a song or spitting a rapid-fire rush of syllables in her powerful verses. If you’re not listening to Chika already, you need to fix that error immediately.
I recommend this album if: you find yourself rooting for underrepresented rappers who come into the industry ready to take it by storm, you can’t get enough of relatable lyrics, rappers who can also sing, and you’re weak for innovative rhymes and rhyming schemes.