Former Buckeye Walk-On "Mekka Don" Finds Success in Music

By Michael Citro on August 3, 2014 at 8:30a
44 Comments

“I was born a Buckeye.”

Many have spoken these words or at least worn a t-shirt with a similar sentiment, but few can say it with more conviction than Chukwuemeka “Emeka” Nnamdi Onyejekwe.

The son of a Nigerian couple who immigrated to Columbus in the 1970s, the man now known as "Mekka Don" is the youngest of four siblings in a family seemingly constructed for the very purpose of attending The Ohio State University. Okey and Egondu Onyejekwe landed in Columbus and began seeking their higher education at Ohio State. They now have a combined 10 degrees—he has four, she has six.

Mekka Don’s father, Okey, served as an African studies professor and director of the Ohio State Center for African Studies. His mother, Egondu, worked as a systems analyst and engineer on campus at Baker Systems. The Buckeyes were a part of Mekka Don’s DNA from the start.

“I was always on the Ohio State campus, well before I had even thought about college or even high school,” said Mekka Don. 

All three of his older siblings attended Ohio State, with his brother and one sister also getting advanced degrees from the OSU College of Medicine. Two of his siblings worked in the president’s office under E. Gordon Gee. An uncle, Emmanuel Ezirim, lettered four years for the OSU soccer team in the 80s. There were aunts, uncles and cousins who also chose Ohio State for their education.

“I was literally born a Buckeye,” Mekka Don says. “Cris Carter was in my house when I was 10 years old, watching the Mike Tyson fight with my uncle. My uncle and Vince Workman were best friends. I used to be around those guys when I was young.”

He eventually came to Ohio State himself. A gifted multi-sport athlete at St. Francis DeSales High School, Don played two years of basketball and ran track with a state-bound 4 x 100 team his junior year. But his true calling was soccer.

“My whole life I was a soccer star. That was my sport,” he said. “I was Snickers national MVP in 1995. I was known all across the city. I played on all the top club teams. We traveled all across the country. We won the state championship my junior year. That was my thing.”

But just after his state championship, he was diagnosed with a growth disorder called Osgood-Schlatter that affected his ability to kick a soccer ball.

“I was growing too fast,” he explains. “I came into high school at like 5-3 or 5-4, and by my junior year I was 5-11. I could still run, cut and do things like that but I couldn't kick anymore without there being some kind of inflammation.”

Former player. Eternal Buckeye.
Like his Buckeyes, Mekka Don brings the juice.

“Because I could still run and cut, I thought I'd try out for the football team. Coach was so happy,” said Don. “My senior year our team was loaded. We had a ton of talent coming back. I ended up making the team and started at wide receiver and we ended up winning a championship that year too. And it was actually the perfect storm. Because we were so good and got those extra games, we had a lot of scouts coming to the games. So I got a lot of exposure that I wasn't even necessarily looking for when I started to play football.”Mekka Don’s misfortune became a boon for then-St. Francis DeSales football coach Bob Jacoby, who had been trying to persuade the soccer star to try out for football for years. It worked out for both, as the Stallions repeated as state champs.

That exposure turned into opportunity. Small schools came to him with offers. He nearly accepted an opportunity to play football with Brown in the Ivy League. Already with a full academic scholarship to Ohio State, his highlight tape ended up in the hands of recruiting coordinator Bill Conley.

“Coach Conley offered me a preferred walk-on situation, and for me that was like a dream come true. It didn't even register with me that that could even happen. It was so surreal. That's how I ended up at Ohio State.”

Still learning the game of football, the young Emeka Onyejekwe redshirted and ran with the scout team.

“I never thought I would sniff the field, really, and I didn't. I was really happy to be part of the team and part of that tradition. I understood in the moment what that meant. Even though I knew I wasn't playing, running out of that tunnel to 100,000 screaming Buckeye fans, that was a rush.”

As engaged as his entire life had been with Ohio State tradition, his time on the football team was spent soaking up all aspects of being a Buckeye. Two incidents stand out, says Mekka Don.

“I walked in the weight room one time and (Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Dave) Kennedy's office was right to the left and there was a big glass window, so you could see inside. And I looked over to the left and I see this huge specimen. I see him from the back. His shirt is off. Muscles everywhere. I'm like, 'who the (bleep) is this?' Finally he turns around and it's Eddie George. You see these guys on TV and you don't realize how big they are. That was like the 'welcome to Ohio State' moment that really showed me what I'm about to be a part of.

“Very close to that period of time, Joey Galloway came into the weight room. Coach Kennedy and his assistant were both trying to touch Joey—literally touch him. And they were trying to corner him in different places in the weight room and Joey was so quick that they literally couldn't get their finger on him. I remember just being in awe of the kind of athletes that were coming through there.”

The man known now as hip-hop star Mekka Don left the OSU football team after his second season, concentrated on school, and graduated early, leaving for New York City to attend law school. But first, he took a year off to just experience the city, living with his brother and sister, who were both doing medical residencies there. Even in law school, “Mekka Don” was peeking out from beneath Emeka Onyejekwe. In some ways it was an extension of his youth, when he had gravitated to a diverse range of music from the Jackson 5 to Guns N’ Roses.

I remember just being in awe of the kind of athletes that were coming through (Ohio State).

“During law school I was still writing music and doing stuff on the side but it's very demanding,” he recalls. “I even performed in constitutional law class a couple of times.”

After graduating, passing the bar, and working professionally in law, Mekka Don truly emerged. He had accomplished “one of the greatest backup plans of all time,” as he calls it. It was time to chase his other dreams, including his passion for music. He poured the same work ethic into music that he had previously used on schoolwork and sports, and it paid off.

Photo courtesy of Mekka Don.
Musician, businessman, entrepreneur, Buckeye.

In the late 00s he was featured in XXL Magazine and released “For the Love Remix” featuring Bizzy Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. His career took a prophetic and interesting turn when he signed a licensing deal with ESPN, which used his music on football broadcasts. It wasn’t long before he met with Gee in Columbus. He would soon once again be representing Ohio State.

“I told (Gee) all the things that I had been doing,” Mekka Don recalls. “Before I could even finish, he immediately got up to get the communications director and said 'we need to get him involved with the school, creating music for us and also kind of serving as an ambassador for the institution.'

“That basically spearheaded everything. Within a couple weeks I had written, "Let's Go, O-H-I-O." They adopted it and ended up playing it at all the basketball games that season (2012-13). The basketball team adopted it as their official tournament anthem and I performed it at the Indiana game, where we shot a music video. We put that song out and created t-shirts with Homage and all that stuff. It was a pretty big deal.”

He later signed an official agreement with OSU Trademark and Licensing and released the song, “Juice,” inspired by a suggestion from none other than Mark Pantoni. It was played at football games in 2013 and he performed it live at Eat Too Brutus Eleven Dubgate IV. There’s even a line of Juice t-shirts out, produced by OSU apparel licensee J American, with a cool innovation.

“Each shirt has a tag on it and the back of that tag has a scan code that goes directly to my website to where you can download the song,” he said. “So it's pretty groundbreaking what we've been able to do from a business standpoint.”

Mekka Don’s association with Ohio State led him to BTN. His single “Big Ten (Lay It on the Line)” was used during BTN’s telecast of the 2014 men’s B1G basketball tournament. He also performed during Big Ten festivities earlier this summer in New York City, welcoming Rutgers and Maryland into the conference and opening the B1G's new east coast headquarters. You may have seen him recently performing at B1G Media Days in Chicago. And he’s not finished.

“We're talking to BTN behind the scenes about a lot of other things.”

It’s hard to figure out when Mekka Don sleeps. He’s working hard to promote his debut album, The Dream Goes On, which came out in March. He’s finishing a docu-video (part documentary, part music video) for the song “Rockstar.” He’s promoting his new Cleveland Browns-themed song, “Rock for my Browns (Dawg Pound).” And he’s preparing for upcoming Columbus festival appearances, including the Legends of Hip Hop Tour on with Juvenile, Master P and JadaKiss, the Fashion Meets Music Festival, and the Independent's Day Festival.

He also gives back to the community, visiting middle schools and talking about the importance of education, music and sports. His fledgling clothing line is in beta testing and is being worn by people like NFL star Arian Foster. He wants to act and do music for movies and television. Someday he’d like to work with LeBron James, Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar.

“If I were to point to someone who's doing what I want to do, it's Jay-Z,” he says.

Even if none of that stuff pans out, Mekka Don has made his mark in at least one area. He’s become a favorite of rap fans largely for his work in sports.

“I've kind of embraced this niche,” he said. “It's not my only thing in music, but I think I've embraced it. You have the Ohio State thing and the Big Ten thing and now the Browns. I'm just trying to continue being a positive force in Buckeye Nation and I'll continue to try to energize the fan base."

44 Comments

Comments

BuckeyeGrownFloridaLiving's picture

Love this article as I had no idea he was a former student and football player.

+6 HS
Buckin_Tua's picture

Great article. On top of all of this impressive stuff that's pointed out in this article, it should be noted that he is absolutely one of the most interesting and accessible people through social media. I've personally had a handful of exchanges with him on twitter and he seems to really enjoy the fan interaction. Wish nothing but the best for him.

+2 HS
THEskinnyTrain41's picture

Awesome article! What a diverse background. Definitely someone that needs to be out in the schools talking to the kids. Very inspirational.

+1 HS
SilverState's picture

But just after his state championship, he was diagnosed with a growth disorder called Osgood-Schlatter that affected his ability to kick a soccer ball.

Osgood-Schlatter is no joke. Sidelined me for awhile. 

Bradychoke's picture

He wasn't that good at soccer. He barely played on our highschool team. He saw mop up minutes all the time on our state championship team.   Not trying to bash him, just setting the record straight. 

+3 HS
unknownmusketeer's picture

The fact that he was Snickers National MVP suggests that he was good.

I barely played on my high school team, but I was a captain of our traveling team for nearly six years. The traveling team won more tournaments than our HS team ever did.

+4 HS
Bradychoke's picture

The fact that you called it a traveling team reinforces that you know nothing about soccer.   "Club" soccer is generally regarded as better soccer than HS.  The fact that you barley played in highschool and a lot on your "travel" team suggests that you played on a terrible highschool team and worse "travel" team.    

-8 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

High school soccer coaches are, in my experience, morons who wouldn't know talent if it came up and bit 'em on the arse. 

My youngest son played club soccer for a team that won OYSAN twice & finished runner-up while he was there. He played D-1 in college & was on ODP & sat the bench his freshman & part of his sophomore years in HS (on a mediocre to bad team) cuz the coach had a vendetta against his older brother (who famously told the coach he had no idea what he was doing). 

Snickers MVP is nothing to sneeze at. Perhaps the disease was starting to affect him, but a LOT of HS soccer coaches are hired  because school ADs haven't a clue about futbol. 

+2 HS
Bradychoke's picture

He was not a snickers MVP.    http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/assets/929/15/NC1995.pdf

he was not good at soccer.  Period.  

+3 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

Wow! Seems the evidence is incontrovertible, Brady. I do know, as I stated in my previous post, most HS coaches I've been around couldn't tell the difference between a 4-4-2 & a .44 magnum, so it wouldn't surprise me if a talented player sat the bench. 

Bradychoke's picture

Ya. Our coach won a state championship. Good bet he knows soccer.  But you are right that 75% don't know what real soccer is.  

DaytonBuck1980's picture

So, you're "that guy" huh? 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

+3 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

It's good for their family and him about all the degrees, I can respect that and his story. Mekka Don is probably one least appealing rappers i've ever heard. He'll fit right in in the mainstream. There iare a number of a more notable guys hailing from Columbus though I just wish one of them had association with Ohio State: Fly Union, Soul Position, Copywrite and a lot of guys that Hi-Tek has produced for (these are off the top of my head). Although many of them I don't listen to. Here is some of Copywrite's work

Illogic the former Columbus battle champ

Fly Union

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

-5 HS
Michael Citro's picture

Way to make this section about your personal preferences in rap. Regardless of what you think of his music, Mekka Don's story is a good one.

hit_the_couch's picture

Actually, I wasn't talking about his story, nor was that my point. And no, I don't listen to most of these artists; there are plenty more from here that I also don't listen to. I'm just pointing there's better hip hop artists hailing from Columbus. 

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

-10 HS
DaytonBuck1980's picture

I met Mekka Don before the Wisconsin game last year at Eat II Brutus and he came off as very approachable and humble. Because of that interaction I started digging into his music and became a fan. With that said, it seems that more and more 11w has adopted a hive mentality and any post that even so much as offers a differing opinion is DV'd or ridiculed by the staff. This guy simply offered his opinion about other artists from Columbus. So he doesn't think Mekka is all that, and posted some examples of others music. Is that really hijacking a thread? Some people need to stop drinking the kool-aid, take off the scarlet colored glasses and let people have their opinion. 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

+10 HS
Colorado Johnny's picture

Which is exactly why I never comment anymore. Bunch of middle aged guys with the mentalities of 12 year old girls with their upvote/downvote BS. Go ahead, bring on the downvotes. 

+5 HS
OnlyOne's picture

I agree and I'm middle aged.  The oppession with teenage boys is a little sick. These recruiting sites/industry are part slave auction block, part NAMBLA and all the hate for Michigan is just plain childish.

-10 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

...all the hate for Michigan is just plain childish. 

Huh?!? You are joking, right? Of course we hate *ichigan! I have good friends that are skunk weasel fans & they despise us! I think you need to turn in your Buckeye card!

+5 HS
DaytonBuck1980's picture

Lmao, I'm amongst the middle age crowd, being 34 in September, but damn, you negated your point when bringing up the slave trade and nambla. While I'm calling for open discussion I'm in no way equating 11w with hate groups or sexual perverts. In regards to *ichigan hate, I almost edited my previous comment to make the exception for all anti-*ichigan comments. In regards to that school, let the hate flow. 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

+3 HS
Oldschoolbuck's picture

Dayton, you're still a young "buck"(eye), amigo. I'm claiming 40-45 for middle age (and I'm waaaaay past either of those)!

+2 HS
DaytonBuck1980's picture

Lol! I hope you're right Oldschool, but while I may be 34 I'm guessing my liver is pushing 70! 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

+2 HS
OnlyOne's picture

Got over 15 years on you.  Maybe too young to remember, but Woody and Bo were actually pretty close.  They had lots of respect for each other.  Remember once a Buckeye always a Buckeye.  Woody understood two things 1. always, always, respect your opponent, and 2. don't let emotions - hate is an emotion - get the better of you.  Rivalries and the passion they generate are healthy if they motivate one to get better, but if they deteriorate into hate they become unhealthy.  One prepares hard for the game andplays ones best.  When they game is over you shake hands in respect for the opponent having the respect for you that they too played their best.

Not sure how equating the recruiting industry to slave trade and nambla negated my point that it is sick.  I guess I hit a sensitive nerve.  You seriously don't think these youngmen are being exploited by folks like Nike?  I think recruiting should be left to the players and their families, high school coaches, and college coaches.  Do you think it is right that grown men who aren't family members, high school coaches, or paid college representatives should be able to make money peddling high school players like that dude Oregon paid from Texas?   What about the fact that if the kid doesn't pan out he can be kicked to the curb and lose his scholarship?

I think Coach Meyer is on the right path with supporting the 4 year scholarship and the Plan B training.  

DaytonBuck1980's picture

Good post. I see your point Only. Yes I do think these kids are being exploited. But I think the ncaa as a whole is explotative.  While I agree with you on that point, I think making the comparisons you made are a bit extreme and ultimately deter from the point you were making, which was legit. It's the same when someone compares something to being a nazi. While their view might be logical, that comparison immediately renders their point irreverent. 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

BuckeyeStrong2's picture

Maybe if he didn't have something nice to say, he should have just kept his fingers off the keyboard. Just because you have a mouth, doesn't always mean you should use it.

"BLOOD. THIRSTY. BUCKEYES."

+5 HS
DaytonBuck1980's picture

You're right Strong2. He probably should have worded it differently. I'm a fan of Mekka's but I also appreciate the info on other local acts. This community is 2nd to none, just wish we had a lil more room for differing opinions. 

Still not giving a damn for the whole state of Michigan. 

+2 HS
ChazBuckeye's picture

I agree with DaytonBuck on this one...it's a big reason why I only comment if it really pertains to something I feel interested in and feel confident I won't get blown out of the water over my opinion (s). Otherwise I read and move on....not worth the MOD and other superior staff BS. Funny how"opinions" get everyone all upset.......then come out the only way they can show off their little amount of power....too funny.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Cavluv23's picture

I'm digging that fly union group ... I had never heard of them before ...I keep Dom Kennedy on the iPod rotation, I might have to add these cats now ... Thanks for the info ...

World travel is my passion spreading the word and grace of Ohio in every corner of the world . 

+2 HS
Buckeyebrowny919's picture

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

cinserious's picture

Before this article, I knew about a tenth of a % about Mekka Don. This man and his family just ooze success in every way imaginable. What an inspiration. I mean, who can just open up a law firm at any given time as a "backup plan"?

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+4 HS
BassDropper's picture

corny as hell

DIRECTIONER

-3 HS
Habu71's picture

Such a diverse and successful background, I had no idea. Nice write up. 

+2 HS
BroJim's picture

Really cool story, thanks for doing this bit.

I season my simple food with hunger

AndyVance's picture

Damn, everyone's a critic these days. Glad to read about "the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey would have called it. Some of you need to step back from the keyboard and refill your Prozac scrip.

BroJim's picture

Andy, I respect you and what you bring to this site. That being said, mental health is no joke.

I season my simple food with hunger

+2 HS
AndyVance's picture

Fair point Brother. I agree the comment may have been in poor taste; it's frustrating to see a great profile story on a Sunday afternoon turn into a gripefest about the subject of the story, or the choice of topic, or the fact that most readers don't care that a member didn't care for the subject's music or the choice of topic... We just seem to have a lot of Negative Nancies in the crowd these days and it's pretty tiresome. I guess every street needs a few Oscars, huh?

+2 HS
BroJim's picture

Agreed. I should have address the point you made in yout comment. Indeed, it is frustrating to see, and it is a great stroy. See you out there.

I season my simple food with hunger

+2 HS
JJB's picture

Thank you for setting this one up:

+1 HS
CCatanzaro's picture

"Chukwuemeka Nnamdi Onyejekwe" would be damn near impossible on Wheel of Fortune.

Dairy-fed intellect and pure, unhinged sass.

 

+1 HS
Silver Bullet 10's picture

I love Mekka Don's music. Big fan. "Let's Go O-H-I-O" is a great pump up song.

Shangheyed's picture

Great stuff I didn't know his Buckeye blood was so scarlet!

MassiveAttack's picture

GREAT ARTICLE!   I never heard any of Mekka Don's music, I will have to give him a shot after reading so much good stuff.  I love to hear about people who see things through, and advance themselves (especially Buckeyes).