Skip to the content

Album Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – EP (March 12, 2021) – CHIKA

By Evan Cardinal, Albright College ‘21

Album Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – EP (March 12, 2021) – CHIKA

The Context – Historically, the hip-hop/rap game has not been an environment conducive to pro-women attitudes as sexism and objectification permeate in lyrical and visual motifs. Fortunately, the damaging chauvinist tropes have not dampened, but have rather fueled the ongoing women in rap renaissance. The late 80s/early 90s progress of Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y” helped break down gendered barriers and set the stage for rappers such as Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Rico Nasty, and Saweetie to thrive today.

Another ascending talent and tour-de-force in the industry is the twenty-four-year-old CHIKA. The Montgomery, Alabama native gained an online following from her impassioned slam poetry and rapid-fire freestyle condemnation of Kanye West’s political and creative decisions in the late 2010s. CHIKA was soon signed to Warner Records after the release of “No Squares” in 2019. High profile collaborations with the likes of Rachel Crow on “Coulda Told Me,” Charlie Wilson’s “Can’t Explain It,” and JoJo on “Sabotage” predated her 2020 full-length debut INDUSTRY GAMES—a lively and introspective record that granted CHIKA a spot on the prestigious XXL 2020 Freshman Rap Class in August.

The Content – CHIKA’s sophomore effort ONCE UPON A TIME starts off with a charming, sunny sounding beat and accompanying R&B vocals that eventually crescendo into a few rapid bars on “FAIRY TALES.”  A prototypical trap beat serves as the backdrop to “HICKORY DICKORY”—a track where the artist speaks to the delicate balance between soaking in the glamorous rap lifestyle and maintaining her creative drive.

CHIKA strikes another sonic dichotomy on the episodic “CINDERELLA, Pt. 1” and “CINDERELLA, Pt. 2.” The former is a rather lowkey rap banger detailing the beauty and subsequent envy of a party guest in a modern retelling of the fairy tale while the latter blossoms into a lovingly R&B ballad with a gorgeous vocal performance from CHIKA. “FWB,” the first single from the record, continues the R&B vibes from “CINDERELLA, Pt. 2” but delivers a more upbeat and sensual overtone. An introspective ending to the record comes in the form of the soulful “SAVE YOU.”

The Skinny – Nearly a year to the day after the release of INDUSTRY GAMES, CHIKA unveiled the brilliant but brief ONCE UPON A TIME. Although not as in your face as the debut, the follow-up is still poignant as CHIKA retains her insightful and lyrical charm. The artist’s versatility is even more pronounced on this record as heard in the sonic transition from “CINDERELLA, Pt. 1” to “CINDERELLA, Pt. 2” and similar soulful vocal highlights. The fairy tale thematic on ONCE UPON A TIME encapsulates CHIKA’s meteoric rise in the rap game well and sets an encouraging direction for the rapper in the wake of her Freshman Class success.

The Rating – 7.4/10


  1. FAIRY TALES (feat. BJ The Chicago Kid)
  3. CINDERELLA, Pt. 1
  4. CINDERELLA, Pt. 2
  5. FWB