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An Atlanta Studio Legend on Nigerian Heritage & Hoodies for Dogs

Career: Rapper and Designer
Location: Atlanta
Who’s your Fred?: Dolph

Kelechi Emeonye, known as Kelechi or Kelechief, is an American rapper who gained prominence in 2014 with the single “Want” from his EP, Loose Change. Born in Atlanta to Nigerian parents, he is of Igbo descent. 

He has won several accolades, including a rap contest sponsored by Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound in 2016 and the Best Song-Dance/Electronica at the 16th Independent Music Award in 2018. He has released multiple albums, EPs, and mixtapes, with his most recent studio album, “AT Lagos,” released in December 2022. 

JUST FRED:  Your Nigerian heritage shines through in your music. How does your unique cultural blend influence other areas of your life, like your taste in food or style?

Kele:  My heritage informs so many aspects of my life—from music to food to partying to my principles and sense of humor. I was raised by a pair of Nigerian immigrants, so I grew up seeing my surroundings through a Nigerian lens. As a kid, it made me feel a bit outcast, but as I've grown into my own, I’ve really valued the ability to see things from multiple perspectives. 

JUST FRED:  What’s life like in Atlanta? What do you love about the city? 

Kele:  Atlanta is such a unique city. There’s a joke in the city that “Atlanta isn’t a real place” because you never really know what you’re gonna see when you walk outside, and I think that’s reflective of all the diversity of thought and vibes that exist here.

There are so many different types of scenes and communities around the city. I’ve been blessed to be able to find communities that reflect all of my different sides, from my creative and musical side to my heritage. There’s the bougie “Black Hollywood” side of it too. Atlanta is everything. 

JUST FRED:  How did you meet Dolph? Tell us about his personality.

Kele:  Dolph and I met by fate in 2022. My best friend Phay and I were driving to the studio and ended up behind a small traffic jam of cars going around a tiny ball of fluff lying in the street. When we got closer and saw it was a dog that had been hit, we hopped out, picked him up, and took him to an emergency veterinarian to get care for him. We saw that he was in really bad shape. He was in and out of consciousness so we played Young Dolph to keep him awake (that’s how he got his name). When we realized we couldn't afford emergency care for him, we ran him from there to Fulton County Animal Services and they ended up contacting New York Second Chance Rescue and they got the word out about Dolph. NYSCR ended up getting funds together for his medical care and asked if I was interested in adopting Dolph.  OF COURSE I was. The rest is history! 

Dolph’s personality is amazing. He’s really smart and a great problem solver (if it involves food). He’s also a cuddle bug, which is probably why he loves his hoodie. For dogs like him, it’s all about being comfy and warm. He loves to find the smallest space to nestle into. He’s really family oriented. He loves treating new people like old friends, especially when he sees that his family loves them. He’s protective and will always bark to let us know when intruders are around (IE maintenance men, delivery people, etc).  

JUST FRED:  Who are your fashion inspirations, and do they also influence your choice of fashion for Dolph?

Kele:  Fashion-wise I’m inspired by Pharell Williams, Nigo, Tobe Nwigwe, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, A$AP Rocky, Tyler the Creator, (I could go on forever). I’m really inspired by comfort primarily. In the past couple of years, I started designing my own pieces and it’s really changed my philosophy of how I think about clothing. I have a current fashion motif that is deeply inspired by luxury sofas. I wanna look so comfy and so soft and so expensive that people just wanna sit on me.

As far as Dolph’s style goes, it’s similar. He’s gotta be comfortable. He’s gotta be cool. He loves his Just Fred hoodie for dogs (unfortunately, it was torn up last year when he was attacked by a large dog).

JUST FRED:  In the past, you’ve discussed being inspired by the work of Kanye, Common, and Nelly. What artists are you most interested in now, and how have they informed your musical evolution?

Kele:  I’m really inspired by Tems, J Cole, Burnaboy, and Rema. I think they’ve shown me recently how big the world is, and how to incorporate influences across borders and generations.

JUST FRED:  How do you unwind after a long day in the studio? Does Dolph join you at the studio or accompany you after the session?

Kele:  Dolph really enjoys being in the studio. I think something about the repetition of the music calms him down. Maybe when I sit down to make music, he knows I’m gonna be in the same place for hours and that puts him at peace. I really don’t know why he gets so chill. He usually will curl up in a donut shape (we call it a Dolph-nut) right under the desk, and watch me bob my head and produce songs for hours. After a long day of lying around in the studio, Dolph likes to come home and lay around the house.

JUST FRED:  What is your dream music festival destination that you could see yourself on the lineup one day?

Kele:  I’d love to be on the lineup for AfroFuture (Formerly Afrochella). I’d love to do Coachella. There’s a music festival in Atlanta called OneMusic Fest that I really enjoy and would love to rock out on stage. I really enjoy performing, so there are so many stages I’d love to hit. 

JUST FRED:  Your tracks range from introspective to in-your-face. Which song feels most like your “theme song,” and why? 

Kele:  Hmmm. If I had to pick a theme song it’d probably be “Same Ole” because It’s an introspective record that talks about how much things have changed while I still remain the same. It also has a bouncy, danceable vibe to it.  

JUST FRED:  What’s the most underrated hip-hop album of all time?

Kele:  Kingdom Come by Jay Z. 

JUST FRED:  If Dolph were featured wearing a JUST FRED hoodie for dogs on the cover of your next studio album, what would the theme and setting be?

Kele:  Probably him in a JUST FRED dog hoodie sitting on a brick wall like Nas in the Stilmatic album cover. 

JUST FRED:  And finally, a question for Dolph! Dolph, what would the title be if you could drop a track just like Kele?

“The Bark Within”

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