“Everything inspires me,” laughs Blessing Akiode during a recent Zoom interview. By everything, she means her personal life and all it encompasses. Like many other artists, this is not very unique but Akiode says it with the quiet confidence of someone who’s never doubted her abilities. Her voice remains this way for the entirety of our interview.
The 22-year-old artist, better known as Candy Bleakz, is a reflection of her music: energetic and full of life. She tells me the story of how her stage name came to be and it’s a long, convoluted one that took a bit of community effort. Before she was Candy Bleakz, she was BlessKiddo, a name that was an ode to Wizkid and Davido.
Most artists in 2014 chose either ‘kid’ or ‘do’ as a suffix to add to their stage names. Not Candy Bleakz. She wanted something different and unique. She wanted both. BlessKiddo served her well for a couple of years but one day, during a random studio session, one of her friends commented that she looked too good for it.
“Everyone in the studio agreed with him and we all started brainstorming new names,” she says. “They suggested Candy because I like bright colours and we got Bleakz from my first and surname. I loved it then and I love it now.”
To sum up Candy Bleakz in one sentence, just turn to her Twitter bio. The artist’s sound leans heavily towards street music, a genre of afrobeat that has Nigerians in a chokehold. Currently, not a lot of female artists dabble in the genre and that is what Candy Bleakz means when she calls herself the last of a dying breed.
“My sound is fire,” she reiterates.
Even with the very serious childhood career goal of practising Medicine, Candy Bleakz has always been drawn toward music. Ever since she won a competition for her secondary school, she knew that music was something she wanted to explore. In her own words, “Music is me, I am music. I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t have it.”
For the past decade, Candy Bleakz has been working on her career with an admirable level of persistence. A persistence that has since gotten her signed to one of the biggest record labels in Nigeria- Chocolate City. She doesn’t care that the odds might be stacked against her. She’s here to stay and make everyone listen.
In fact, this is a rough translation of the lyrics to Tikuku, one of the songs on her six-track E.P, Fire. Candy Bleakz was on a quest to switch up her sound and Fire is proof that she succeeded. The E.P. is a mix of hip-hop and amapiano, a sound that she tells us she’s recently fallen in love with.
“My biggest song is not out yet,” she brags. “But the songs on this project are close enough. Although most of the tracks on my E.P. are amapiano, I tried to go back to the street and do some rap.”
All the tracks on the E.P. share a cohesive theme and one would be right to call the project a 16-minute not-so-gentle brag. In one project, Candy Bleakz manages to tell the story of her life, taunt naysayers and rap about her talent and prowess. She does so gracefully too.
She describes Tikuku as a salute to the haters who try to deny her talent and hard work. “Whether you like it or not, you will listen to my music,” she says.
As if to prove her right, the song has garnered over 325,000 videos on TikTok. This is not Candy’s first hit and it most definitely will not be her last. Not only does she intend to keep honing her sound until she’s one of the biggest female artists in Africa, but she’s also hoping to become a movie director in a few years.
“A few years ago, I learnt video directing at Iyanu Ipaja and I want to make use of those skills,” she says. “I also want to act in movies while I’m at it.”
You might think that pursuing all these goals might be exhausting for the artist but she disagrees. “When you realise that you can do everything you want, there’s nothing stopping you from chasing your dreams.”