COLUMBUS, Ohio — There’s never been a point in Chukwuemeka Onyejekwe’s life where he was willing to be put in just one box. If he’s interested and passionate about something, there’s a good chance he’s going to pursue it.
That’s how he came to be Mekka Don.
“I've always been interested in music since I was a kid. I was break-dancing for people in the neighborhood when I was 4 years old and music was a big deal around my house,” Mekka Don said. “We used to always listen to music. My brother and sisters, we would write raps and we were like 8—they weren't good, but we would write them. And we just loved all kinds of music, and so did my parents.”
His parents are Nigerian and moved to Columbus in the 70s on academic scholarships at The Ohio State University where they earned multiple degrees. After starting their family in Columbus, Mekka Don being the youngest of three children, the Onyejekwes remained faithful to the scarlet and gray.
With his parents becoming professors at Ohio State and his siblings attending the university as well, he was already a Buckeye fan and there was no question in his mind that he wouldn’t be a Buckeye, too.
“Buckeye was just kind of in my blood, you know, and so by the time I'd even gotten to Ohio State, I was already a huge Buckeye fan. I'd already been on campus all the time,” he said. “So that's how I became a huge Buckeye fan. And then obviously playing for them, it just took it up to a complete another level.”
In high school, he was a two-sport star and played on the St. Francis DeSales High School soccer team that won a state championship in addition to playing football for the school.
While his athletic abilities weren’t the reason he attended Ohio State, he ended up joining the Buckeyes football team as a walk-on.
Redshirting his freshman year, he spent his time with the scout team as a wide receiver and defensive back before stepping away from the team to focus on his academics.
More than an athlete
After graduating from Ohio State, he went on to law school in New York and worked at a law firm after passing the New York State Bar Exam, but he quickly knew a career in music was what he truly wanted to pursue.
Being able to follow his dreams, whatever they may be, is something he prides himself on, refusing to be labeled as any one thing.
“One of the things that I realized early is that I don't want to be put into a box. And I don't think there's any reason why you have to be put into a box. And that's one of the things that I preach heavily,” he said. “I think all of us have multiple different talents, and if not talent, at least multiple different interests. And I've always been a person that was interested in something. I was going to put a plan together, and I was going to try it. And if it doesn't work, it's okay. It's not the end of the world, but I at least know that I try.”
And so Mekka Don decided to try his hand at a career that he had dreamed of since he was a young boy.
With an early passion for music and family members with musical abilities of their own, he and his brother started a band in high school. With Mekka Dona on the drums, his brother on guitar and his cousin on bass, the family started playing all kinds of music.
He said that rock and alternative music were always big for him, especially Jimi Hendrix, but he also had a passion for hip-hop as well.
Influenced by Tupac, DMX and Busta Rhymes, among others, Mekka Don started developing his sound and who he wanted to be as an artist.
“As I just continued to grow into trying to figure out who I was as an artist, different things started to develop. I started to try to figure out what lane I was going to be in,” Mekka Don said. “I went to probably six different lanes in terms of music just because I didn't really know who I was as an artist.”
After leaving the law firm in 2006, Mekka Don went all in and found the lane he wanted to be in. Licensing some of his music to ESPN, Ohio State and even the Cleveland Browns, Mekka Don’s career began taking off.
In 2012, he was named an mtvU Freshman by MTV and his video for a single called “Dirty” won the mtvU Best Freshman Video award.
His single “Nip and Tuck” even became a viral trend and online dance craze in 2018.
Over the years, Mekka Don has continued his music career, creating anthems Ohio sports fans listen to before big games, like “Let’s Go O-H-I-O” and “Rock For My Browns,” and after taking some time off to heal from an injury, the rapper is back at it, releasing his latest single “Still Dope.”
Mekka Don’s single, released in May, is a response to 2020, a year when many struggled after going through so much.
From the pandemic to the election to the calls for change in regards to social justice, he knew from his own experience that something positive was needed and he felt like his music could be just the thing.
“After I was done writing the song I was so happy because this is where I feel like I need to be in music, given my perspective, given my education and awareness and just things that I've seen in society and understanding, I feel like I need to put out something like this, something real,” Mekka Don said.
He went back and forth on what the song would mean and how he would deliver it.
“The concept was that it was going to be my comeback song, just because you haven't heard from me for a while doesn't mean I'm not still dope. And then I started to think about it more, and I was like, ‘Nah, that's not it. That isn't what this is supposed to be.’ This is something that's supposed to be more universal, that speaks to the people, people who are going through stuff, people who are dealing with, struggling with stuff, struggling with racial issues in America, struggling with everything else going on in America,” he said. “And this song still needs to serve as a reminder to them that if they're still standing, they're still dope.”
After making the song that celebrates the joys and strengths of the Black community, Mekka Don also released a video to accompany the single and visually share the message the song carries.
“Ten years from now, 20 years from now, the reality, unfortunate reality, is we're probably going to be going through a lot of the same things that we're going through now. And so 10 years from now, 20 years from now, somebody listens to this song and it speaks to them as well—that's the dream as an artist,” he said. “To create something that people think is timeless and that can provide inspiration over different generations, so that's ultimately my goal for this.”
As for what’s to come for Mekka Don, his dedication to not being placed in a box carries on. But even with open aspirations, the most important goal Mekka Don has is to continue creating art that serves as inspiration for others.
“I feel like if I can just keep kind of getting that energy out there multiple different ways, then that's what we'll be. That's what success will mean to me in this particular situation,” he said.
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