Nkechi Ka Egenamba
Nkechi Ka Egenamba (first name pronounced n-kay-kee) known as Ninja is an English rapper and the female lead vocalist for the British indie band The Go! Team. Doing a mixture of rapping, chanting and singing, Ninja is well known for her energetic stage performances and dancing. In 2005, NME voted Ninja the 15th coolest person in music.
Early life and education
Born Nkechi Ka Egenamba, Nkechi is short for Nkechinyere, and means "what God has given" or "gift of God" in Igbo, the language of the Ibo people of Nigeria, an ethnic group in West Africa, numbering in the tens of millions. Ninja is from London. Ninja's father is Nigerian and a lawyer. Ninja's mother is half-Egyptian, half-Nigerian and while not a doctor herself trains doctors. Ninja is one of five children and was brought up in a very strict household. "There were only three career paths: doctor, lawyer, accountant. Other than that, you've basically wasted your life. Everyone wanted me to be a doctor," says Ninja. When Ninja told her father she wanted to be a rapper, "He said to me, 'Wrap what? Presents?' He really had no idea what I was talking about. ... I've met relatives, and when I tell them I'm in a band, they treat me like I sweep streets and clean toilets. They're not impressed," Ninja says. Ninja had an early interest in music. "[I] always had music on the side, since I was 10 or 11 years old, whether it was talent shows or martial-arts classes." Ninja trains in martial arts and although she is not a black belt she says "I could be if I wanted to be."
Ninja had been studying at the university before she joined The Go! Team. "I was doing media and culture studies," says Ninja. "It's a great course if you have no idea what you want to do with yourself, cos it's got a bit of journalism, drama, advertising, marketing, graphic design, it's kind of got everything so you find your niche. But I wanted to do about a thousand things in my life. I wanted to be a mad scientist. I wanted to be a writer. I hadn't decided what I wanted to write." Ninja continued her studies while a member of the band and graduated in 2006. "I was doing my dissertation on the tour bus," says Ninja. "It was on Joss Stone. She made a comment about soul music, she had said 'It's not black music, it's God's music'. I took that quote and it was the title of my dissertation." Ninja had a social work job until December 2004 when she officially joined the Go! Team. Ninja graduated in 2006 after touring with the band. "I was studying finals exams at university and traveling around the world with The Go! Team at the same time," says Ninja. "That was difficult for me."
The Go! Team
Ninja became lead singer for the The Go! Team after founder Ian Parton created the first The Go! Team album in the studio. With Ninja, the live band became a "separate entity" to the original studio vision, as the performances became radically different to the recordings, particularly due to Ninja's freestyled vocals contrary to the sampled vocals present on the album. Parton acknowledged that Ninja had become the "face of the band" in an interview with Erik Leijon in September 2007. "How could she not be, really? It's an interesting thing because we're quite different people when it comes to The Go! Team. She brings it to life on the stage. She grabs the crowd by the bollocks and doesn't let go. She gives it her all, almost superhumanly, every night. When she speaks, the crowd they listen and she commands attention, more so than I could ever do. She's an entertainer, and I don't know what I am, perhaps an "ideas" person," Parton said. "I'm not fussed about celebrity at all. There are no ego clashes, no 'Why her and not me?' We're all mellow and we all bring our own thing to the band. It's not just the Ninja show. It's the combination of the people, and what they bring musically, is what it's all about."
Ninja joins The Go! Team
Ninja was the last to join the band and only heard about The Go! Team after answering an ad placed by Parton. "For Ninja, I'd been looking for the right singer for a while," said Parton. "I went to some open mic nights in London but most of the people there were more R&B or just didn't seem right. I wanted a kind of slinkiness. Also, I wanted a female because it's kind of a band rule not to have any male vocals. So I met her through the internet and sent her a CD, and she was one of the few people that was striving for something a bit different." "I saw an advert on the internet that someone was looking for an old-school female rapper and I was a student at university and working part-time and I had nothing better to do with myself," said Ninja. "I just took a chance on something," Ninja says. "There's times when someone will be, 'I'm a producer!' And you go and check them out, and you're walking [through] a whole block of council flats with gun shots in the background, and it's just some bloke who's got some beats." "There was an advert that just said 'looking for a female rapper and we have a show lined up in Sweden' and I thought 'I've never been to Sweden, so why not?' And that was it really."
Parton had originally conceived of The Go! Team after wanting to create music incorporating his favourite things including Sonic Youth-style guitars, double dutch chants, and car chase horn music. Parton started jamming these sounds together and eventually recorded Thunder, Lightning, Strike in his parents' kitchen playing most of the instruments on the first album himself. "Well lots of it was played by me and I pulled in people to play bits and pieces. It was pretty chaotic and drawn out," said Parton. "It was recorded in a basement, everything was slammed to tape with the levels in the red. We deliberately fucked up the sound to make it too dirty for daytime radio." Parton started his project with simple equipment. "I had a bunch of crappy '80s sound equipment and an Atari, and I started putting some of my ideas in practice. The idea of putting different samples next to each other - trying to make a new song by putting a range of different types of music next to each other," said Parton. "So it started off with me and then I hooked up with five other people in London and Brighton. Two of them are friends, the singer I met at an open mic night and the drummer I met at a record shop."
Parton sent Ninja a copy of the record to learn the music. "He sent me a CD. I listened it for two weeks. It took me a while to get my head around it," says Ninja. "It was so unique that I didn't say, 'Hey, I want to play.' It was dizzy, different, chaotic, rocking, happy. It was so much. I was figuring what I was going to do." Parton also wanted Ninja to come up with lyrics for the live show. "Ian wanted me to write lyrics for the live show," says Ninja. "I was wondering how I was going to fit in. People think of rapping as being a certain way. The Go! Team really pushes the boundaries. There can be rapping, singing, and shouting. There is so many possibilities. It is not as restrictive as modern rap is at the moment."
The live band
Ninja tried to figure out where she fitted in when she joined the band. "At first, I thought, 'What is going on?'" Ninja said. "I was trying to think where I fitted in. It’s like fireworks, and you want me to dance under the fireworks?"  Ninja, at 19, had previously appeared on stage with other bands and had ambitions of becoming the next Mis-Teeq. At first, Parton wasn't even sure The Go! Team could become a live act and described a terrible first live performance as "ropey." "But I didn’t know I was joining a band. I just thought I was doing a couple of shows," says Ninja. "And then I kept doing more and more shows. And then it was about a year later that our manager got us together and said, let’s talk about this band thing. And it just went from there."
Ninja says the band's purpose is to get people on the dance floor. "I can always see the one guy at the gig who’s refusing to dance," Ninja says. "He’s always really tall, standing at the back, catching the light. I can see it in his face – 'You’re not going to make me move, you’re not going to make me dance' – and, by the end, he’s in the middle of the room, going mental." "For The Go! Team it's about what the music needs, it's very upbeat, it's very reminiscent of cheerleading and hopscotch and double dutch and Sesame Street, so I give it that feel," says Ninja. There are times when I slip in something I want to say, get a bit political. But for The Go! Team, most of the time, the lyrics aren't really about anything, it's fun music. It's feelgood music, so it needs feelgood lyrics."
Ninja says the records and the live show are really two different entities. "To know what The Go! Team is about you need to see the live show and hear the album," says Ninja. "The live show is so hectic. So much is happening onstage. People are running around and changing instruments. Sometimes it is two people and sometimes it's all six of us. People can expect the unexpected." Ninja says that the visual element onstate is a strong part of the live show. "We have a lot of visuals going on as well now. The visuals encompass the spirit of The Go! Team. We make very visual music," says Ninja. "It's like a party on stage. We have a lot of fun. When someone smiles you want to smile back. If we are having a good time onstage we hope that the audience is having a good time as well."
Proof of Youth
On May 13 2007, The Go! Team announced the release of their new single and subsequent album on their website. The single, "Grip Like a Vice", was released on July 2, 2007, and the new album, called Proof of Youth, was released on 10 September in the UK and a day later in the US. The new record maintains The Go! Team’s scrappy spirit through a canny mix of samples, live band recordings and an array of special guests, including hip-hop hero Chuck D, electro diva Solex and Bonde Do Role singer Marina Ribatski. "I wanted it to be noisier, more kind of ballsier, just a bit more wangy, a bit more kick ass, and a bit more live sounding," said Parton. "I always loved weird tunings and white noise and feedback and more aggressiveness. A bit more Public Enemy and more sing-along."
Ninja and the rest of the band had more musical input on the second album. "The band was a bit more involved in the recording process, we went into the studio and put down our parts as they were needed but the samples are still Ian’s side of it." On the song Flashlight Fight, "Chuck D's part on was all done over the Internet," says Ninja. "Ian chopped it up and rearranged and changed the words. If he ever wanted to do it with us, Chuck would have to learn the new version." When Ninja performs the track live, she uses her own words. "I just can't rap someone else's lyrics, so I made up my own," she says. "I made (my lyrics) political," Ninja says. "I was watching TV and was inspired by how the government makes you think you have a choice in things. You have a choice to go to school or work, but they're the only options they have given you. ... I am a conspiracy-theory addict, and this is my little conspiracy song."
Ninja also uses her own words on the song "Grip Like a Vice" instead of the words on the recorded version. "Ian used found vocals for that song," Ninja says. "Mine are all break-dancing terminology about b-boys and tricks and moves."
The recording was a more collaborative effort on the second album. "Everyone contributed to it in the recording stage," says Ian Parton. "Ninja wrote some of the lyrics, everyone played their instruments on it, and they came up with ideas for parts and what instruments would be used next." "The second album is a big deal for any band," says Ninja. "But I think luckily people don't care so much about our second album as they would someone like the Arctic Monkeys or The Kaiser Chiefs. So that way the pressure is eased a little bit. If you don't get us the first time, you're not going to get us the second time!"
Ninja says that in The Go! Team, "you're always fighting to be heard. I suggested we put the lyrics out there on our web site, but it hasn't happened yet. There's six of us, and you can throw something out there, but you never know what's gonna happen."
On September 14, 2007 Aversion reported that Ninja has recorded songs with producer Richard X for an upcoming release. No additional details were released about the upcoming album. "I'm definitely going to do my own solo thing," Ninja said. "I don't know when that's gonna be. I don't know what I'm doing this month or next year." Ninja says the only reason she hadn't made a solo album before is that she doesn't like the glare of publicity. "I'm not ready to be a celebrity. I still get on the Tube almost every day and go out to buy the Sunday paper in my nightie," Ninja said. "I doubt I could handle people spying on me while I'm doing that," she added. 
"What I write for my own music is completely different to what I would write in The Go! Team," says Ninja. "My own music is about what I am and what I've been through. I've recorded with Simian Mobile Disco and there are producers who want to work with me – Mark Ronson. So you'll have to watch out definitely." Ninja says that the music business a very difficult industry. "But music is a really difficult industry and one of the things people don't realise is that drugs are everywhere and if you drink – I'm not a drinker at all – but if you drink, alcohol is everywhere and all the pressures are everywhere," says Ninja. "I was actually shocked. If someone has dabbled in it before, they're just going to stay dabbling in it, they're going to drown in it if they're in the music industry." Ninja says that she is able to work in the music business because she knows who she is. "I'm really lucky that I'm in it at this age, cos I've seen a lot, even before I joined the band," says Ninja. "So I know who I am now. But if you are a teen coming into the industry, you might not know who you are and that's when you can get into trouble."
Ninja has varied musical interests but is primarily interested in hiphop. "I listened to everything. I was into classic music and jazz," says Ninja. "I am mainly into hiphop. I like the real hiphop with loads of swearing. I like those CDs with stickers that say "Parental Advisory" and "Explicit Lyrics." The proper hiphop is all about people getting shot in the neighborhood. It is all violence. I like that kind of hiphop. Because it was real and they were rapping about what they know."
Discography with The Go! Team
- "Junior Kickstart" 7", 12" and CD single (2003)
- "The Power Is On" 12" Single (2004)
- "Ladyflash" 7" and CD Single (2004) #68 UK
- "Bottle Rocket" 7" and CD Single (2005) #64 UK
- "Ladyflash" (re-issue) 7" and CD Single (2006) #26 UK
- "Grip Like a Vice" Single (2007) #57 UK
- "Doing It Right" Single (2007) #55 UK, #3 UK Indie
- Are You Ready for More? (Australian Tour EP) (2005)
- Audio Assault Course (College Radio Sessions) (2006)
- Step and Repeat (8 Track EP) (2006)
- Public Service Broadcast #3 (2004) (Compilation album)
- Help: A Day in the Life (2005) (Compilation album)
- Time Magazine. "All Systems are Go!" by Hugh Porter. October 13, 2005
- MTV. "The Go! Team | Lyrics | Huddle Formation" September 13, 2004.
- The Afrocentric Experience. "African Female Names."
- Behind the Name. "Nkechinyere"
- DCist. "Concert Preview: The Go! Team" by Andrew Wiseman. October 30, 2007
- Erie Times News. "Go! Team's Ninja fights to be heard" by Len Righi. November 4, 2007.
- Brightest Young Things. "BYT Gets Into The Go! Team Huddle Formation!" by El Chico Cesar. October 30, 2007.
- Highland News. "Go for it!" by Margaret Chrystall. February 28, 2008.
- The Portable Infinite. "The Go! Team" by Alexander Laurence. February 14, 2006.
- Oakland Tribune. "Go! Team's noisy sounds veer into picturesque directions" by Tom Lanham. October 15, 2005.
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- Chart Attack. "The Go! Team Care About The Young Folks" an interview by Erik Leijon. September 28, 2007.
- Live Daily. "liveDaily Interview: MC Ninja of The Go! Team" Christina Fuoco. March 8, 2006
- Pitchfork Media. "Interview: The Go! Team" Interview by Ryan Dombal . April 25, 2005.
- Canada.com. "They've got sweet cred" by Mike Doherty. October 31, 2007.
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- Live Daily. "The Go! Team exhibits 'Proof of Youth' on tour" by Kym Kilgore. September 19, 2007.
- USounds. "The Go! Team Interview" by Chaz Bartok. April 6, 2005.
- Arjan Writes. "The Go! Team Interview." October 13, 2004.
- Times Online. "The Go! Team get going." by David Armstrong. September 16, 2007.
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- San Francisco Bay Guardian. "Go, Go! Team, go: More from cheer leader Ian Parton." October 19, 2007.
- Aversion. "Go! Team MC Plans Solo Album." September 14, 2007.
- The Scotsman. "Ninja and Go! Team are going places" by Gary Flockhart. September 21, 2007.