Barely six weeks before she heads back to her home country Ivory Coast to perform at the African Cup of Nations in January 2024, Grammy Award-nominated Ivorian American artist, and songwriter Chrystel recently unveiled her exciting new afropop single titled ‘Snapchat’, featuring Nigerian rap star Blaqbonez, and produced by award-winning afrobeats hitmaker Type A (Fireboy DML, Amaarae, CKay). ‘Snapchat’ is the first single from Chrystel’s long-awaited and highly anticipated sophomore EP that is due for release in February 2024. Written and recorded with Blaqbonez and Type A in Lagos, Nigeria during Chrystel’s last trip to West Africa, where she has been recording much of her upcoming project, ‘Snapchat’ is a carefree and flirtatious afropop offering with a heavy dose of confidence, independence, and self-assurance.

Driven by the infectious bounce of Type A’s bass and guitar-led production, held together by the inescapable chemistry between Chrystel and Blaqbonez, and underpinned by their witty songwriting, the track is an instant dancefloor filler that was crafted to make you move.

It’s about feeling sexy and having fun. I want people to feel like they know their powers when they hear it. I’ve always had an inspiring sense of self assurance, and confidence, and I feel inspired seeing other people walk their own conviction. To me, this song is like a form of self-care – knowing what you like, and liking yourself, without needing validation from others is key. Loving yourself for who you are, and who you’re becoming is so important to me.”

Chrystel on the inspiration behind ‘Snapchat’

Revered as a Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum selling songwriter, having written on the acclaimed Dreamville compilation album ‘Revenge Of The Dreamers III’, as well as on Baby Tate’s viral hit ‘I Am’ featuring Flo Milli, and Ari Lennox fan favourites ‘Bussit’ and ‘Outside’, Chrystel is also now emerging as a fast-rising artist in her own right. On the back of her fan-favourite debut EP ‘Prey’, and her scene stealing collaboration with Ivorian producer Jeune Lio, the Atlanta-based Ivorian American native comes with over six million global streams. Her highly anticipated next project will see Chrystel lean more into fusing her contemporary pop songwriting with afropop soundscapes from her homeland, as is evident on new single ‘Snapchat’.

While I am a first generation American, I was raised in an Ivorian household, where West African traditions, influence, and culture ran rampant. Growing up, I was introduced to a wide range of music, and I quickly began to pick up on intricate sounds and melodies of the music coming from the continent. I believe that multi-cultural background is what sets me apart. My main goal for this project was to create the best music I could possibly make with the best producers coming from the continent right now. Taking elements from different sounds, cultures, and collaborators who have helped refine my sound, and making it make sense. It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. except this isn’t your first puzzle and you’ve gotten really good at it. The end result is even better than what I envisioned.”

Chrystel on what to expect from her new musical era, and upcoming new project

We sat down with Chrystel and dived into her shift from her debut EP “Prey” to the more inclusive and intense energy of “Snapchat” and its empowering vibe, her multicultural influences, and the balance between commercial success and artistic vision.

What’s the theme or vibe of your upcoming EP compared to your debut, ‘Prey’?

‘Prey’ came out within the first few months of the Covid time. It was meant to be a quick 3-songs that I made as an introduction to my world and my music as I worked on more music and a longer EP. This EP is more inclusive, I made most, if not all of it, in the studio with an audience, the production was made on the spot, and I was traveling a lot during the making of it. For this project I’m coming with not only more music overall but more of a story to tell. The vibe is more intense. I can tell you exactly where I was, what I was doing and how I was feeling with every single song I made for the new project. I was living out of suitcases going up and down West Africa for basically all of it. Every day was something new with new people and energies around. It really wasn’t until recently that I thought about how I basically never leave my home studio and how comfortable it is to make music here and how completely opposite it was to make this upcoming project. I was really outside.

As the lead single from your upcoming EP, how does ‘Snapchat’ set the tone for the rest of the project?

The only thing I had in mind when I went to the studio everyday was to just make amazing music. There was not an agenda at first and there wasn’t a feeling until after. The only expectation I had was greatness. ‘Snapchat’ has huge carefree energy, and we’re talking a lot of shit! Either you’re with us or you can watch from a distance but either way we’re going to live how we want to. I definitely was living in that energy while making my project. I felt powerful, and I wanted other people and women, especially, to feel powerful while listening to my music. That is the tone I’m setting for the rest of the project. Bops and power.

What inspired the carefree and flirtatious vibe of ‘Snapchat’, and how does it reflect your message of confidence and independence?

What inspired the vibe was definitely the dynamic in the studio. When Type-A (producer) asked what kind of energy I was going for I said I wanted to make the babes dance. He’s really talented and I love the melodies and bassline patterns he chooses to work with. They are truly so catchy and brilliant. Being in Lagos at the time and going out every night definitely inspired the song and its vibe. It’s so easy for me to make music in West Africa because it sounds how it looks. 

How did collaborating with Blaqbonez enhance the creative process of ‘Snapchat’, and what was the dynamic like in the studio? 

Blaqbonez is another person whose melodic ear is so good. He just gets it. I’ve never heard a bad song by him. We made the song at his home studio, and he kept on saying “ALL THE BADDIES LIVE ON SNAPCHAT!” It was what came to him, and we just went with it and built off of that. It was very back and forth in dynamic. He also was very flexible and wanted to make sure I liked everything he did. But really, I thought everything was just fire. No notes!

Growing up in an Ivorian household, how has your multicultural background influenced the sound and themes of your upcoming project?

Growing up in an Ivorian household especially in a place like Utah was very unique. It definitely made us leaning into our Ivorian culture even more than I feel we might’ve in another part of the United States. Utah is predominantly Mormon and the percentage of black people there was like less than one percent when I was growing up. I am not Mormon, and both of my parents are Ivorian immigrants so having that strong foundation, the pride of knowing our heritage and extended family who are all still in Cote D’Ivoire, was something I loved and cherished. I grew up listening to predominantly Francophone West African sounds but also got to discover other artists from other parts of the world through my parents and my own discovery. The sounds of my upcoming project are definitely based in West Africa and lean into a pan-African sound. Taking a little bit from all over the continent. My parents were also fans of the greats like Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Madonna, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Faith Hill, Sade, Tracy Chapman, Chaka Khan, I could go on and on but basically everything. Which makes so much sense because today I find myself wanting to create without genre. I just want to make what I like. In terms of themes, I have always been rebellious against traditional roles in family and the household and society. I believe in autonomy through and through. Culturally I think I am considered to be a bit of a nuisance. I am and have always been disruptive. I can’t help that and I will never try to hide that part of myself. I’m just naturally defiant, I’m not agreeable, and I believe I’m here on earth to pioneer new paths for women and people like me. That same energy is what I leaned into for this project and something I want to continue to explore through music. 

From songwriter to Grammy-nominated artist, what key lessons have you learned in your journey so far?

I’ve learned to trust my instincts even in the face of adversity. A lot of artists who also write are scared to be called songwriters because everybody wants to be the star. There are definitely implications that can come with calling someone a songwriter especially in a studio setting. While I definitely understand that I might not be Grammy-nominated today if it wasn’t for my love of just creating music, period. While it was never my goal or intention to write for others, the things I’ve been able to do because of my love for just making music and being in the studio are something I don’t take for granted. 

With over six million streams and critical acclaim, how do you balance commercial success with staying true to your artistic vision?

That’s an interesting question. I don’t really ever think about that because I have a natural love for pop music. My artistic vision is really just based on my mood that day when I’m creating. I lean into what I like and that’s where I strike gold. I think more than anything, true artistic vision is about belief. If I think something is hot, then it’s hot. End of story. The most important thing to me as a fan of music and art is if I believe in the artist or not. I always ask the question; do I believe what this person is saying and doing? If the answer is no, it’s always because they seem like they’re trying to be something they’re not. You can always tell. 

How does it feel to showcase your music in your home country at the African Cup of Nations, and what can we expect from your live performance?

It feels great. I knew I had to be there when it was announced that it would be in Cote d’Ivoire. The energy is going to be insane! Spiritual even. There is truly nothing like the energy there. You can expect to have a good time. I’m coming with a vengeance and a point to prove.