‘I’M IN THE BIGGEST ROOM IN THE WORLD’: An Interview with Ghanaian rapper, Kula

When I reached out to rapper Kula to propose an interview date, he was quick to accept. ‘I’m Ready’ was his immediate response. “Ok, I’ll get back at you in 20 minutes’, I said. With the ground work set, it was time to consider the line of questions to ask.

Kula has been on the road for a while now, touring across selected regions to promote his mixtape-The Best of Kula. The tour is also his way of getting close to his fans while making earning new ones. The whole experience has been worthwhile for the rapper whose latest single ‘Don’t Do It’, an observatory hip hop song on the facade of social media: “People are willing to help. You just need to make the effort’, he expressed this as among the highlights of his tour.

Kula has been in the rap game for a years, but, it wasn’t until two years ago that many took notice of him. It was on the ‘Joy FM Old School Reunion’ stage that Kula announced himself, breathing life into the ‘make the best of every opportunity’ mantra:Even though I wasn’t allowed to perform my own song, I put all the energy in that freestyle session’.

In this interview, Kula throws light on his recent tours across some regions, the state of the music scene and what upcoming artistes like himself could do to cause a change: ‘I feel artistes on the come up need to be paid for performances.  No matter how small’, his musical mentors ‘, his beginnings as a rapper: ‘I used to rap for seniors just to escape punishment. To them, it was entertainment, to me, it was training’, his future plans and his music making process: ‘I criticize my work a lot at the writing stage’.

Here is the full interview of my conversation with Kula


How has the tour been so far?

Been great and interesting. I’ve done Takoradi, Ho and of course Accra. Over 500 CDs sold so far. The next stop should be Koforidua, soon.

You’ve been around a few regions, how many more to go? Do you intend doing all the regions?

I wish I could but I doubt I can. Cost of transportation is putting pressure on the income (a CD costs GHc 5). If I spend GHc 200 on the trip, I’ll have to sell 40 CDs in order to break even. Business-wise, it’s not healthy for me

It’s not easy doing it on your own.

Yeah bro. Never easy

Issue of finance is a challenge for upcoming artistes. How do you survive when it comes to paying for studio, recording?

Sometimes, friends sponsor my sessions, but most of the time, I pay for studio sessions myself. Not enough paying shows around so you can imagine how tough it is for a young talent like me. It’s because of this that I’m selling my CDs. To raise funds to shoot music videos for “PROBLEMS (featuring Edem & Epixode) and also “Don’t Blow It” with Klem

Obviously, it doesn’t pay to be an artiste on the come up, right?

Obviously. Even when people request for free shows from you, they still feel like they’re doing you a favor.

The whole ‘exposure’ nonsense.

You know. Man’s gotta eat. Hajia no dey accept exposure for waakye.

What do you think needs to be done to help artistes like yourself? And as artiste, what are folks like you doing to change the situation?

I feel artistes on the come up need to be paid for performances; no matter how small. Also, the habit of BUYING MUSIC should be in vogue in Ghana. That will make artistes get enough revenue to keep putting out great work. This CD sales is just a start. Artistes should be able to build loyal fan base, organize their own shows, and market themselves well enough to be worth every pesewa the fans have to spend.

This need to build fan base I’m sure is what is motivating your tours. Are there other reasons as well?

Yes. The need to build a loyal fan base is a contributing factor. Also, the need to raise funds for music videos. As an independent artiste, I have to find various means of raking in cash to fund my movements and projects. Another reason is the need to make people understand that this is SHOWBIZ. Enough of the “Chale you be dope” and all fire emojis over social media. The real market is out there. Hit the streets. Give them a reason to pay for your music. Give them a reason to spend on you.

There are challenges of course. So, what keeps you going? What are the reasons for making music?

PASSION. Everyone who knows me know I’m very passionate about music. I’m also very persistent and perseverant as far as music is concerned. I love making music and I doubt if these challenges can stop me from pursuing my dreams.

My first introduction to your music was during Joy FM’s Old School Reunion in 2015. How did that happen? What did that moment mean to you?

Yeah. I remember that night. Awesome. Even though I wasn’t allowed to perform my own song, I put all the energy in that freestyle session. Dr. Pounds (a DJ with Accra based Hitz FM and very good guardian) helped push me there. I wanted to perform my own song but I was told there’s no slot for me. Only slot was inter-schools freestyle competition and I had to battle it out with another act prepping his school. I took the offer (with heavy heart) but I made sure I put my best in that performance.

You made an impression no doubt. I really remember that session and the crowd reaction. How and when did you get into music? Was there someone who inspired you to pick up the mic?

Obrafour, Okyeame Kwame (OK), Eminem, Nas, Trigmatic, Lil Shaker, Edem. These guys inspired me at different stages of my life. I used to listen to a lot of Nas, Eminem, Obrafour and OK when I was in Junior Secondary School. When I got to Senior Secondary School (SSS), I used to rap for my seniors just to escape punishment. To them, it was entertainment, to me, it was training.  After SSS, I learned how to produce and self-produced my first two mixtapes in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Then I started picking inspiration from Trigmatic, Shaker and Edem. Five mixtapes and dozens of singles later, here I am.

What was it about, Trigmatic, Shaker and Edem that inspired you?

Trig: from “My Joley”, “It Coulda Been You”, He was versatile-singing and rapping excellently. I wanted to do that.

Shaker: He was my favorite during the Skillions days. He’s the reason I downloaded the New Generation Mixtape and his Happy Birthday Mixtape. Wit and humor was something I wanted to emulate.

Edem: He defied all odds and broke through with a language that most didn’t understand. He proved that music was beyond language. That was worth emulating.

How will you measure your growth as an artist since you began till now?

I would say I’m in “THE BIGGEST ROOM IN THE WORLD”: The room for improvement. Every new song I put out is an improvement of the last one. I would say, I have really improved. My 2009 self would be proud of how far I have come. More growth ahead. Much more to learn.

Your music has carried some social themes. Your recent single ‘Don’t Blow It’ is an example. Why are such themes of importance to you?

I believe the mic is very powerful and everyone who has access to it has the responsibility to EDUCATE, alongside the usual entertainment. Just like my mentors, Obrafour & Nas tackled social issues with precision. I’m also following suit.

Back to your tour, you chose to perform at some SHS. Is there a reason to that?

I performed at Mawuli Senior High School. That was my Alma Mater. I was there for the 10 Year Anniversary of a certain year group, and as a former entertainment prefect, I had to entertain them. I enjoyed it as much as they did.

What have you learnt during these tours? And what was the highlight for you?

I learnt people are willing to help. You just need to make the effort. Also, if you add value to yourself, people will be willing to pay for your works.  I’ve also learnt to connect with people on a personal level, winning a loyal fan over; one person at a time.

Some of the highlights include this incident.  I was waiting for a car at Lapaz, someone called me from a bus, asked if I had some of the CDs on me. He bought one for twice the price and the bus left. I have people calling from as far as Brong Ahafo and Northern Region requesting for my CD because they saw it on social media. Yo, the love is real. I can feel it. I’m grateful to God and to every single person who is supporting me.

 I’m very happy for you. That clearly shows you are not only growing but getting recognized for your work

Thank bro. Small small

Tell me about your music making process like?

My music making process starts off with a lot of soliloquy. Then I put the ideas into writing. I get to the studio and I’m very particular about the beat. If it’s nowhere near what I imagined when I was writing, I’m not recording till “WE”(the engineer and myself) get it right. I’m a perfectionist, so I like to take my time to make sure the work I put out has minimal flaws. I criticize my work a lot at the writing stage.

What’s the future plan for Kula going forward? What should fans expectations from you?

In the nearest future, a music video for ‘PROBLEMS’ ft. Edem & Epixode, and a lot more to come.  An EP early 2018. More great music as usual and steady elevation into the limelight. #BoiWeiPaa

 

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Meet GHOST: The Bass Head who believes in experimentation

We live in an age where a producer’s name doesn’t only live on the album sleeve or cover of a musicians work. Producers are leaving their signatures (taglines) on songs, and it is rightly appropriate. With the ever increasing dwindling fortunes of physical album copies and more digital releases, producers are not enthused with just their name on a sleeve. They are trundling with the times, like the artists they work with or for.
That’s just one part.

The other part has to do with producers’ crossing over as artists themselves, through the release of albums or EPs. The reasons could run from angling for fame to recognition, depending on who the producer is. This producer-artist phenomenon is now part of the music culture and they are reaping the benefits.

But, there still are producers who don’t want to deviate from the old status quo. Of course, they are aware of the new paradigm. Yet, they choose to stay orthodox. They won’t leave their signature tagline on songs. Crediting them on the song/album credits is enough. Staying ‘ghost’ is enough.

That kind of producer is who GHOST (born Jerome Kojo Boateng) loves to remain. His imprints have been on many songs or albums, either on or under the producer credits or mastered credits. His recent work was on Bryan The Mensah’s excellent ‘Friends With The Sun’ EP, where he played the role of a producer and a mastering engineer.

Considered by some of his peers as one of the best producers around, 26-year-old Ghost, who also goes by the “LXXXVIII’ moniker didn’t jump into the world of music production at first. He started out as a rapper in high school. ‘Well, I began my music career initially as a rapper, later ventured into producing’. His decision to quit rapping and be a producer wasn’t motivated by the inability of producers to craft the perfect beats for him to rhyme on. Rather, it was a friend who introduced him to the field.

And when I asked if that friend taught him the rudiments, he answered in the negative. ‘Actually, nobody did. I kind of always had my thing with music from an early stage. But I was hugely inspired to venture into production by a producer friend named Lorshee, who gave me a copy of FL Studio at the time. So I went home, installed it and started experimenting till date.’

A product of Central University, Ghost began producing music in 2009, after high school back in 2009. He took it more ‘seriously in 2013 when I was in college (Central University)’. Since then, he has worked with both A-List Ghanaian and Nigerian artistes including EL, Ice Prince Zamani J. Town, Cabum, Dee Moneey, Scientific (LIB), Ankwanda.

Despite working with some well-known artists, Ghost, who produced EL’s trap anthem ‘Lalafalama’ still considers himself ‘upcoming’. And during our interview, one quality was obvious: his shy nature, which he’s conscious about. When I asked him to describe himself, a simple question that often solicits a winding answer, Ghost’s reply confirmed his shyness, something he describes as ‘a constant battle for me every day’. ‘So Ghost 88 is an upcoming producer/artiste, a huge bass head and definitely makes synchronized noise’, he punctures his comment with a laugh before adding, in third-person, ‘He’s a humble guy, mostly nervous and shy. Also hella goofy and jovial if you get to know him more plus he loves to give back!!’. That shyness was also a reason in him shelving his rapping skills from a lot of people even though ‘I could even spit some ‘bars’, Self-doubt  also played its part, ‘I really didn’t think I was “Faya” enough.’’

Picking up names especially as an artist or producer (if you don’t want to go with your real name) takes a lot of consideration and are sometimes fueled by events or situations. In the case of Ghost, the latter was the case. He settled on his moniker because he wasn’t getting the expected recognition for his work. ‘During my early days of production, I’d worked, collaborate and helped other producers on projects without being credited in any form hence the alias “GHOST THE PRODUCER”. I later threw in “LXXXVIII” because it’s my favorite number. The number ‘88′ is believed to a lucky number in Chinese mythos’.

The lack of recognition left him feeling disrespected thus his decision to go out as a full time producer. He explained the situation further: ‘I wasn’t happy. I mean who wouldn’t be considering how much time and efforts you’ve spent into making their product lit. But at the same time, I looked at it positively as well because it gave my story so much depth and more experience. The exact reason why I’m full time producing (although) I was going to do that sooner anyways’.

That quest for respect is one reason Ghost is planning on releasing his debut project with fellow collaborator and producer Chris, together known as Synchronized NoiZe. The four track EP- Miusnderstood-is, as he describes ‘an experimental project that leans heavy on electronic music. It’s a mix of Bass music (which I make) with Disco funk(Chris’ specialty)’. For Ghost and Chris (whom he clicked with after a studio session together), they chose to go this route with their project because ‘we wanted to break away a little bit from the usual trend in West Africa, where it’s either trap or an afro pop thing. You know, to be more experimental’

Bass music isn’t huge in Ghana or across Africa so it was curious for me that Synchonized noiZe would choose to produce an EP that leans towards that genre. So, when I asked him how he became interested in Bass Music, Ghost revealed where it came from. ‘I first fell in love with bass music back in 2014 when I first discovered Flosstradamus, an electronic duo. Man! They were killing everything out there at the time’. Aside Flosstradamus, Ghost is also influenced or inspired by producers like Drvmroll, Sosa, LeMav, Rvdical the Kid, 7th Artist (Chris) and IllKeyz. Internationally, Quix, Fabian Mazur, Getter, Monxx and Luude are his inspiration. When I told him I didn’t know most of the foreign producers mentioned, he let out a guffaw before answering, ‘I know you wouldn’t be familiar with them’. He further added ‘everything about their work: creativity, sound design, structure and their personalities’ are the flicker that light up his creative path.

Ghost, like some of his producer friends have been vocal on the subject of how artists treat producers, which are mostly contemptuous. The subject ranges from no payment to not properly credited on songs. When the issue was broached once again, Ghost was straight forward with his views. ‘Man, they just playing themselves at the end if they really wanted their brand to grow (which most don’t even have brands to begin with). It’s mostly common among the mainstreams and I’m disgusted by it truth be told. And only if you knew my hustle with it because it’s a daily source of income for some of us. We got bills to pay, mouths to feed and isn’t a game for us but I wouldn’t be fair if I only pointed at artistes only for this. Producers aren’t valued for their work because of the saturated market of young producers who want to get famous so bad that they throw beats for free left and right to artists. The major reason I‘m not an artist producer anymore. I AM THE ARTIST!’

Even though I had seen his handle on my timeline, it wasn’t it until I saw fellow producer Drvmroll mention him in a tweet that awoken my curiousity. Within the same period, I saw another favourite producer of mine, Yung Fly comment on how Ghost’s 808s could shatter studio speakers. For Ghost, he regard such compliments as coming from friends rather than competitors, ‘’I will like to start off by saying these guys are awesome. Plus it’s definitely a great feeling to have guys like these not only giving me props but supporting me in anyway. No pressure at all because I’m originally dope (laughs). Just kidding. They are real close friends to me. We goof around. One of the few people I open up to’.

How did he, a producer on the come-up, managed to earn production credits on the albums of some of the artists mentioned earlier and the experience that came with it. ‘Few of them did contact me. Some, I had to reach out to make it happen. But, some of them were possible via recommendation by close fam who were also in their circle or knew them personally. The experience is an awesome one! Let me use this example for instance, it’s like this kinda high, once you achieve it, you never wanna get back to being sober again because it’s boring (laughs). You always wanna be that high, constantly!’

How do you prepare for such studio sessions with the likes of EL and Sark for instance? Do you have sleepless nights till it’s done? I asked. (Another laughter) ‘I Just bring my A game and laptop along with me like I normally do. I’m willing to do any amount of work on the project till it’s done irrespective of the artist. I’m mostly active at night so no biggie

Although no date has been fixed for the released of Misunderstood, Ghost has released three songs that foreshadows what he and Chris may be offering. On what the future holds, Ghost outlined three things he wants to see happen:

First, ‘West Africa being recognized not only for our afro beats or sounds but electronic music as well.’

Second, producers should experiment some more, something they aren’t doing. Currently, the ones who are, are being slept on. It’s shocking!’

Third, ‘more releases, more collaboration, more moves and prayers. With time my hard work will be rewarded’.

There are a handful of producers who have helped changed the soundscape of our time and from the conversation with Ghost, he has the ambition to not only introduce a new wave of sound but also push his name within the ‘who is who’ canon. Pushing the envelope of sound, experimenting with other musical influences is one of the foremost tools of creativity within his production vault.

Ghost knows a producers’ death knell is when they become static. And with the evolution of sound happening faster than a blink of an eye, one has to catch up, and fast. Hence his rhetorical question: ‘If you aren’t experimenting with your art as a creative then what are you doing?

Listen to his latest single ‘Entirely Sho’ feat Ansah Live

Why they became fans? 6 Sarkodie fans share their story ahead of ‘Highest’ release

Tomorrow is a big day for Sarkodie. And even more huge for his fans. Tomorrow, September 8th is the day his much anticipated fifth studio album, ‘Highest’ will be released. 

An 18 track album produced almost exclusively by Jayso, ‘Highest’ is expected to cement Sarkodie’s legendary status within the music stratosphere. Regarded as the biggest rapper in Ghana since his appearance on the scene in 1998, Sarkodie has solidified his position with each album, single and features.

‘King Sark’ as he’s known, has, across these years, built for himself a catalogue so huge compared to any of his contemporaries. From Ghana Music Awards trophies, to BET Award, and other prestigious accolades, Sarkodie’s name toll louder across Ghana, Africa and the world when African rap music is being spoken about. 

Despite the success of his songs and albums, releasing a new body of work comes with it’s own pressure and uncertainties like how impactful it will be on the culture, and what the critics would say. From all indication, ‘Highest’ may be the most anticipated album of his almost decade long career. 

In our quest to gauge fans anticipation, we asked five Sarkodie fans to share how they became part of ‘Sark Nation’ (his fanbase name), what attracted them to him and what they expect from the album.                                                                       ————————————————-

Name: @Khadinal1

Town/City : Tema

Gender : Male  

It was easy to tell how big Sarkodie would be in the future”                                            

To start it with, I have known and followed Sarkodie right from High school (he was my Senior in school so it helps). It was easy to tell how big Sark would be in future upon listening to his raps way back. Sarkodie has been in the music scene for close to a decade now and yet, it feels he came into the game just a year ago and the reason behind that is his craftiness, dynamism, versatility, good branding and constant learning.                   

”It’s mostly difficult and near impossible to penetrate the boarders of Ghana with music made in the local dialect, Sark defied that odd and won the heart of countless people all over the world with his songs. I don’t even have to talk about the number of features he’s made on both foreign and local artists tracks on regular basis. To sum everything up, Sark is a complete musician and gives people who patronize his songs value for their money. All essential elements that makes a song complete and authentic are imbibed in Sark’s songs-both talking of accurate rhyming, relevant subject, flow, advice, humor and skills. 

Sark is a prolific artiste who always makes his fans enjoy good music constantly unlike other artiste who stay dormant for a longer period before dropping another tune. No wonder Sark’s fan base keeps multiplying with with each day that passes by”.

Twitter Name: @adwoa_sark.

Town/City: Accra

Gender : Female                                                        

I feel special being a Sarkodie fan”

I became sark fan since 2007. His style (his way of rapping) got me attracted to him. Being a Sark is a blessing. I feel it wouldn’t have been the same if I wasn’t his fan. I feel special been a Sark fan. For the album, we expecting more than you can think of. We aiming really high with this album. We not limiting it to only Ghana. Both international and local awards will be won with “The Highest’ Album. We (sarkfans) believe in God and In Sarkodie.’

Twitter Name: @shawnybills.

Town/City: Undisclosed

Gender:  Male              

”Being a Sark fan I can escape my world in the duration of his songs”

I became a Sark in 2007. A friends DJ introduced me to his music. Him rapping about life and being positive attracted me to him. Being a Sark fan means I can escape my world in the duration of his songs. Sarkodie has done than it all when it comes to music. I’m expecting the album to hit platinum.

Name: Prince Young (@PRINCE_SARK1)

Town/City:  Accra

Gender:   Male     

I became a fan of Sarkodie because of his style of rap”

I have been a Sark fan since Kasahari time  but we officially formed a group called #SarkNativesGh as a fanbase for Sark and I’m their PRO. I became a Sarkodie fan because of his style of rap- it was not new in the system but his was different and his story lines. He will rap and make you laugh and punchlines were on point.

Name: Kwesi Brew D’Highest (@KwesiBrew1).

Town/City: Takoradi

Gender : Male                                   

The track that got me to love Sarkodie the more was ‘Life’ featuring Obrafour”

2009  was the year I became a fan. Actually, the first time I saw Sark was on Edem’s ”Keva’ song. But, the track that really got me to love Sark the more was ”LIFE” ft Obrafour. His passion for his works won me over. Identifying as a Sarkodie fan means a lot; the bragging right alone. It’s a huge feeling. As for the album, it’s all the way to the Grammys.

Name: Stanley Edem Adjoda aka Stan Edd (@staneddmusic)

Town/City : Tema

Gender: Male

‘I loved listening to Sarkodie because of how he could tongue-twist and I could hear everything’

I first heard of Sark on Triple M’s song ‘Yawa Boy’, a reply to R2bees ‘Yawa Girl’. But I didn’t pay much attention to it. Till I heard him again on Ayigbe Edem song ‘ You Dey Craze’ (Keva). That’s when I was like wow. Who’s This?! And yeah, a lot of people actually waited for Sarkodie’s line on that song.

I loved listening to Sark because of how he could tongue twist and I still could hear everything. I used not to love  hip hop and the whole rap thing till I started listening Sark. I appreciated Sark’s rap even beofre Jay-Z’s because of the twi and becos I could relate with what Sark usually spoke about. He doesn’t repeat his concepts and his story lines are interesting, funny and easy to relate to. Plus, he’s a Tema boy. I am a musician myself, I sing  and I must say he is one of the guys who has inspired me to actually go in for this music thing. Being a Sark fan is a good thing. He never disappoints and the fact that he makes me win my arguments.

And let’s be honest, Sark is the first rap act to let us understand the whole making music a brand. Before that, it was more of getting fame, money and some baby mamas that’s all. But Sark changed the game. With the album, I’m looking for something out of this world; something more than what we’ve heard. He always has his own pace and the trend he sets. Looking forward for a different sound that will set a new trend. And, he working with Jayso, I know this will be the album of the year.

Interview: Eff The DJ displays complexity in simplicity

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All photos via EffTheDJ’s IG

If you’ve ever been to any of the weekend raves that the city offers, you’d probably have danced to the playlist of one of the best DJs in the city. For years,  has built his reputation as not only a music head but a DJ with impeccable music policy that spans across the genres of hip hop, hiplife, afrobeats, pop and all that is in between.

A few weeks ago, the love extended to him on social media when he celebrated his birthday was enough attestation to his value as a person and a DJ. The Ashesi University graduate who happens to be the resident DJ for Serallio and nKENTEn’s ‘DecafLive’ podcast events describe himself in the following words: The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows’.

Djing wasn’t Eff The DJ’s first love, although he has been a music fan since childhood. He started out as a dancer: ‘I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music’. His attraction to the art of DJing happened after witnessing DJ K3V (his now #IFKR collaborator) and Kobby Ankomah-Graham playing at different events respectfully.

Days after celebrating his birthday, I got him answering a few questions about music and the DJ business in Ghana. In this interview, Eff shares his first DJing experience, tips on how to grow, Kendrick Lamar, how reading the crowd is a quality of a good dj and why he’d play a hype man for DJ Keyzuz in a DJ tag team battle.


For those who don’t know you. Tell us a bit about yourself

The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows (haters will disagree). I go by EffTheDJ, but my actual name is Franklin Digber. Love art, love music.

How long have you been DJing and what attracted you to choose this art form?

I’ve been doing this for about 4 years. I’ve been into music since childhood. I remember going over to my cousin’s place when I was young and taking their Michael Jackson CDs home to listen and dance along to the songs. So initially, I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music. We had the virtual DJ software on our computer at home but I never really used it. Fast forward to (Ashesi) University, we have a year group party and DJ K3V kills it. So I link up with him later and we started our small classes. My mind was made when we had another event at school and I heard Kobby Graham play for the first time. I said to myself, “this fire, I will play some”. And I never looked back.

The journey has been worthwhile I can see. With four years experience, do you remember the first time you DJ’d and how was your first experience like?

 (Long laugh). Very vividly. Yeah, it was another campus party. At this one, they shared “Poki” (you know the old ice cream thing, right?) I was so nervous. I’d say I hadn’t really learnt to read crowds yet so I came with a completely different vibe. You know how these things go, there’s a section of the crowd which usually is a wild minority waiting for a different vibe so I was feeling myself and all, then suddenly someone threw poki at me in protest . I’m still searching for the Person. Stress chale (laughs).

That obviously threw you off

It did. I was ready to pack up but Baylor and K3V encouraged me to stay, because these things happen.

Talking about reading crowd, how important is that awareness to a DJ?

Very, very important. Reading the crowd accurately makes your job up to like 40% easier. The rest is keeping your reading up, challenging yourself, and giving an experience — and depending on the crowd, challenge their ears.

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What exactly does a DJ look out for when reading a crowd?

(Hesitates), various things. I don’t think it can be standardly defined. For me, I look out for the ambience of the event, the personae of guests, what a day in their life is like, what they probably listen to, what they want to hear, what you feel they haven’t heard in a while, and what you think will make them go nuts if they hear for the first time.

How would you describe the Ghanaian audience? Are they hard to please or easy to win?

Ever since I started playing, I’ve been exposed to various audiences, so it’s hard to call this. But, I’ll say there are different audiences. Some are easy, some are hard. It really depends on where you find yourself flourishing.

For indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.

The first time I saw you was at The Republic Bar some years back. Your playlist was what gripped me. How do you curate a playlist for the events you DJ? Say an outdoor event and a private or indoor one?

Oh thanks. Truth is I hardly curate playlists for specific events. When I do, I note the kind of music I think will work for them and try it. If it’s working, I continue, if not, I wing it. And whether indoor or outdoor, it depends on the kind of people present. But usually for indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.

What has been the best event you’ve DJ’d thus far?

Best event. I’d say back in 2015. I think, one FXP Takeover night at Republic (probably the session that birthed #IFKR). If you’ve ever been there on a very wild concert night, imagine the same energy for a regular Friday night. We really made the waiters’ job difficult that night, and that was the first time I moved a crowd with hand gestures, and no mic. Never felt more powerful.

Let’s talk about #IFKR. You guys dropped two songs earlier. What’s going on?

Yeah, we hit a couple of bumps on the way but we’re on track now. The EP is on the way. We’re just wrapping up now. It won’t be too long.

 How much music do you have (bytes wise)

162 giga bytes

That’s some huge library. It’s understandable

(Laughs) it’s a personal thing. It’s hard to delete music

As a DJ what are some of the challenges you encounter in your trade?

As a DJ in Ghana, you are literally the party, but you can still somehow get taken for granted. You’re not well taken care of or you’re underpaid.

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With your experience as a party DJ and having been a radio dj, is there any difference? If yes, in which areas?

Playing for radio is a more controlled environment. There’s so much liberty in being a radio DJ. Also a wider opportunity to introduce the audience to new music, and also an opportunity for the DJ to build a fan base. Depending on the kind of party, you’re either playing what the guests came to hear, or what you feel like. As I said earlier, the audiences vary.

DJs are seen as the guys who can make or unmake an artistes. How valid is this observation?

Yeah, I kind of agree. Traditionally, music comes out, and DJs keep it on rotation for people to get used to, and then that makes the artist. But more recently, due to various channels of information flow, artists have been able to make themselves. There’re various ways but the seemingly more efficient ways are using the internet, and by using the street route. If people like your stuff on the internet, they’ll want it played and it might not have to do with the DJ at all. Same for music that’s hot in the streets.

That’s a very solid point. I also share the same view. How do you prep for an event?

I try to get a practice set in at least a day before, speak to any DJ I know who’s done a similar event for tips. And a lot of thinking

Aside K3V, which other DJs excite or challenge you to be better both in Ghana and outside?

In Ghana, easily Kobby Graham, Keyzuz and DJ Putin. Kobby’s crates are just wild, Keyzuz’ technique is impeccable, and Putin’s crowd control is unreal. Outside, Diplo (and Major Lazer) is/are my guy(s). DJ’ing and productions blend so many sounds and cultures together. It’s just beautiful. Not forgetting DJ Black. I listened to the ‘’Open House Party’’ while growing up and his consistency and keeping up with the times over the years has been amazing.

What does the future hold for you as a DJ?

I dey streets chale (I’m still grinding), I don’t plan on looking back anytime soon

Why should an event organizer choose Eff The DJ over any others?

I try to channel an experience through the music as much as possible. You know, umm, displaying as much complexity in simplicity.

What does music mean to you both as Eff The DJ and Franklin?

A tough question. Music is a form of self-expression. It means so much, ‘cos there’s a million things you pick up. And as a DJ, it’s a million things you express yourself with through the music, which connects with your audience and that influence their self-expression. It’s a million connections of emotions.

What advice would you give your son should he aspire to be a DJ?

Practice every day, Keep an open mind, Experiment more, Embrace Ls (losses), Mind your brand, Focus. Eat before your gigs. Drink water. Most important of all, have fun while you do it.

You’re one of the three stans of Kendrick Lamar I know. Can you share what exactly you like about him?

Ayy, who are the other 2?

@7Giocondo and @vinkyenkyehene

(Laughs) there’s @Kobby_Skywalker and @DaniellePrime_ also. But yeah, Kendrick’s writing, storytelling, feature and LP execution is just so great. You’d think it’s a different artist sometimes. Also love how well he stays out of the news. You usually only hear news about how well he’s doing with his craft, and has been able to achieve so much. Close to everything is thought through, through and through.

You listed some of your favorite DJs earlier on. If you should draft one to partner you in a DJ battle, who will it be? Reasons

Easily, my auntie. Keyzuz will play and I’ll be her hype man

Lastly, what don’t you like about GH artistes and the music out there? Last words

Your last question is a bit hard to answer. Apart from some artists making the same songs over and over (which happens everywhere else), there’s not much I don’t like about GH artistes. I like that the new crop are creating their own lanes, and aren’t necessarily playing by the traditional rules. And I love the new wave music out there. Can’t wait to peep the scene in the next like 4 years.

 

The Real Ones Are Never What You THINK: An interview with STRAFF

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”Simplicity is the hardest technique to pull off because it has to be simply beautiful in an artistic way plus it saves time and money”  – STRAFF

I’m inspired right now, probably because of Richard’s recent article or the euphoria in my eyes. Last two days have been a rush for me, it’s been a rush for the culture and I’m quite joyous and excited.

I met STRAFF earlier this week and it’s the best experience I’ve had in a while! I was so happy. I love what I do because I get to meet different people; it’s so fun being in the colorful world of Straff. I’ve watched him grow, admired his art, recently drowning in his music, with his self-directed video, he showed another edge of him that appealed to my film making senses, and lastly his ‘Thirst Merch’ coming soon (yes he’s into fashion too), he’s a ‘Thirst’ of creativity packed in one human body.

He’s completely self-confident in what he his, the ideas he creates with each project is a showcase of his mind, a bundle of himself sent to the culture to create. We’re having more minds in this generation doing what they love for the love of putting their expressions into the world. First odd thing was, Straff typed in all caps, “I JUST LOVE THE COOL APP TO TEXT IN CAPS” his response when asked why.

If that’s not enough to make you curious about other self-explained actions that built up his world I don’t know what will. The most I’ve heard from this squad man, (yes he’s always around with his mob ready to wave shit up) was an interview I read on Radr, it wasn’t enough but the visuals were incredible, a haven of his senses captured with his psychedelic use of colors. I’m lucky to dive into his mind, publishing our discussion is a pleasure.
(PS. I left all his answers in cap, yeah! I want you to feel his wave).


You’re visual aesthetic. Your music, art, production is all STRAFF. Tell me about how this aesthetic and persona was born?

Straff: THROUGH THE THIRST WHICH LEADS ME ON FOREVER AND EVER. YEAH I DO A BUNCH OF COOL STUFF. FIRSTLY THE VISUALS, IMAGES, VIDEO EDITS AND THE FAMOUS GRAPHIC DESIGNS. MAKING MUSIC OF COURSE, AND THE COOLEST OF CLOTHES. I GOT LIKE SCATTERED IDENTITIES AND REPUTATIONS BUILT AROUND THESE STUFF I DO BUT SOON COME TOGETHER AS THE BRAND BUILDS TO THE MOON AND BACK, IT’S SUPERLATIVE. THE WAY I FEEL IT SHOULDN’T BE IS THE BEST WAY I APPROACH STUFF

What draws you to approaching your art in ways not normally accepted?

Straff: CAUSE I HATE RANDOM SHIT, I LOVE TO LEAVE YOU THINKING AND GASPING TO THE LAST SECOND YOU GIVE UP ON HOW I MADE SOMETHING, ITS JUST WHO I AM. I CANT CHANGE IT. HOW & WHY*^ I MADE SOMETHING.

How did you get the name Straff and what’s the story behind your style of music?

Straff: STRAFF IS SHORT FOR STRAFFITTI, JUST A NAMED NICK BY A FRIEND I LIKED. NO STORY BRO, CAUSE THERES NO PRECISE STYLE YET. BUT I LOVE TO LISTEN TO THEOPHILUS LONDON, FRANK OCEAN, JOEY BADASS, POP STAPLES, AND LOGIC
Talking music, your last body of work was a brilliant piece of unorthodox yet perfectly curated sounds with a guest feature from MI. Tell us about vanilla sky and working with MI?

Straff: YEAH WUSS COOL. WORKING WITH M.I IS ONE OF MY MILESTONES ACHIEVED AT A REALLY EARLY STAGE, NOT TO FORGET THE FACT I WAS INTRODUCED THROUGH ICE PRINCE, LOVED THE WORK FLOW.
You’re very vocal about being different, being yourself. Do people find it hard accepting your art or music?

Straff: I FEEL BEING YOURSELF IS THE BEST FORM OF COOL. I MEAN PEOPLE THAT FUCK WITH ME AND LOVE ME, ENGAGE CAUSE I’M DOING STRAFF, I’M CREATING STUFF OF MY OWN IDENTITY & ALL.
Do you feel offended when people compare you to Tyler (The Creator)?

Straff: ME AND TYLER ARE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. I DON’T SEE ANY REASON FOR COMPARISON. I MEAN, HE’S A GENIUS NOT TO DISPUTE THAT FACT AND I LOVE WHAT HE DOES, HE INSPIRES THE THIRST IN ME.
You use a lot of colors?

Straff: CALEON FOX, ASAP ROCKY, JADEN SMITH, PHARELL WILLIAMS USES A LOT OF COLOURS. WHY NOT COMPARE ME WITH THEM? CALEON FOX IS ACTUALLY THE GUY TO CREDIT FOR MY COLOURFUL, INTERESTING LIFESTYLE, LOVE THAT GUY MUCH MORE. HE INSPIRED ME AND ADDED TO MY CREATIVE JUICES.
What’s the vision of your cinematography?

Straff: TO CREATE AND CONTROL VISUAL ELEMENTS IN WHAT YOU SEE FOR A VIDEO PROJECT, ALL IS STILL IN PROGRESS TILL THE GRADUAL TEAM DEVELOPMENT IS COMPLETE.
What will such videos look like?

Straff: BRAIN SUPPLEMENTS, EYE MULTIVITAMINS.
How would you define the creative scene around you presently?

Straff: UGH, I REALLY DON’T PAY SO MUCH ATTENTION HERE. BUT FROM WHAT I SEE THERE’S DEAD VIBES OVER HERE AND NOBODY IS REALLY READY TO CREATE MIND CHANGING STUFF. PEOPLE JUST WANT TO GET AWAY WITH PLAYBACKS. BUT IT’S COOL THERE’S ALOT OF COME UPS AND THE RESPONSE IS LOW.
Response is low?

Straff: ART INTAKE IS REALLY LOW. POOR STREAM LEVELS, CURATED SHOWS MUSIC/ARTS, POOR RESPONSE FROM THE CROWD, POOR FEEDBACK.

KEEP THE POSITIVITY VERY TIGHT AROUND YOU ALWAYS, LEARN MORE. DO ALL WHAT YOU CAN DO BEFORE YOU DIE, YOU DIE ALONE SO NEVER LET ANYONE DRIFT YOU.

What influences do you think can increase the acceptance?

Straff: THERE’S A LOT LEADING TO THE PROBLEM: POOR SYSTEM, YOU CAN’T EVEN CHANGE FROM THERE, IT’S AFFECTING EVERYTHING. NO INTERNET FOR PEOPLE TO STREAM. IT’S A LOT, MOST ON THE ROLLS IS ON ONLINE AND PEOPLE CAN’T EVEN GET IN HERE. JUST THE RESPONSE TO DOPE ASS STUFF OUT THERE, VERY POOR.
In the shit storm which is Nigeria, how do keep focused on doing your art regardless?

Straff:  IT’S WHAT IS, IT’S WHAT I LOVE SO I DO MY SHIT REGARDLESS. Y’ALL DO YOUR SHIT. KEEP THE POSITIVITY VERY TIGHT AROUND YOU ALWAYS, LEARN MORE. DO ALL WHAT YOU CAN DO BEFORE YOU DIE, YOU DIE ALONE SO NEVER LET ANYONE DRIFT YOU.
What is your aesthetic as a fashion lover? And plans do you have for maybe your own brand?

Straff: I LOVE PLAIN COLOURS MIXED TO THE PERFECT PALETTE. CLEAN WARM WHITE NICE SOCKS. ALSO PERFECTLY DESIGNED SHIRTS OF PATTERNS OF AN ELEMENT ARRANGED WELL. SIMPLICITY IS ALSO KEY TO MY DESIGN, BASICALLY OLD HELLS KITCHEN (NEW YORK + ITALIAN) FASHION RECANTED WITH COLOURS TOO, REALLY COOL. NEW THIRSTY MERCH OUT NEXT MONTH.
What’s your take on African fashion from the youths’ perspective?

Straff: AFRICAN FASHION? I PAY MORE ATTENTION TO OTHER ROOTS ROUND THE WORLD. I SEE AFRICAN FASHION EVERYDAY. NOT LIKE IT SUCKS BUT ITS NOT JUST WHAT I FUCKS WITH DEEP DEEP.
You talk about simplicity,  why does that play such an important role in your design?

Straff: SIMPLICITY IS THE HARDEST TECHNIQUE TO PULL OFF BECAUSE IT HAS TO BE SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL IN AN ARTISTIC WAY PLUS IT SAVES TIME AND MONEY.
What’s really important to you in life?

Straff: GOD OBVIOUSLY.

Exiting the land of hues that is STRAFFITTI makes me think this is what it feels like coming down from an LSD trip, awed by the spectacle, downtrodden by the monochromes of real life and definitely eager to pop another pill of STRAFF. Interview by @AdedayoLaketu for @MoreBranches

Interview: Music producer Likwid Ice talks about his craft

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‘A fan of music period!! Beat maker, Patriot. Entertainment’.

This is how Likwid Ice (Kobina Amoah) describes himself.  A couple of months ago, I was sent a link to an EP and upon listening, it was the production that got me screaming. That EP was Kwadjo SPiRi’s ‘’FLY EP’. An IT guy by day and producer by night, Likwid Ice’s production blends sampled classic highlife and hip hop. A self-taught producer whose interest for making music was inspired by the legendary RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan), Likwid Ice has been producing music since 1999. Mainstream success isn’t something Likwid Ice craves for at present. 

According to him, most attempts at creating commercial music had left him feeling empty: ‘I switched to the commercial side but I had no feel for it’. In the words of Kwadjo SPiRi, Likwid Ice’s major competitor when it comes to chopping up smaples for songs is DJ Juls. Few weeks ago, I caught up with him at the AccradotAlt organized ‘Sabolai Radio Set’ where we spoke about a wide range of issues-mostly about his craft.

Read on:

On Meeting With Kwadjo SPiRi

I listened to his first album, ‘Restitution’, which I think was good. ‘I AM’ was the first song he recorded and when he sent to me, I was shocked. To me, it was like a jump or a strong leap compared to what he did on his first project. I felt he couldn’t match ‘I AM’ but he proved me wrong. He’s a good artiste.

On Sampling

I love sampling. I don’t know how I do it sometimes. The Kojo Antwi ‘Medofo Pa’ sample was the first beat I sent him (Kwadjo SPiRi). Initially when I created it (the beat), I was thinking of getting a mainstream artiste to jump on it, but, I started listening to SPiRis album and as company mates, I felt he should have the beats instead. The creation was spontaneous. I was listening to some old tracks and it came on. I immediately chopped it up and slowed down the tempo and that was how I it come to be. Same went with the creation of ‘Ogya’. When the tracks are too low or high, I either increase the tempo or show it down to get what I really want.

 

How it started

I’ve been creating music since 1999. It’s a hobby; self-taught. I used to listen to Wu-Tang Clan a lot and my favourite producer was RZA. He amazes me with his work. KG (formerly of hiplife group KG & PM) had this software called EJ, which was the first software I used for production. I used EJ for probably a years and PM (The DJ) also sent me Fruity Loops (FL) 2. I started sampling probably in 2003 and the first sample I made was Osibisa’s ‘Welcome Home’, which SPiRi will probably put on his next album.

Producers Earning Respect and Money

Producers should be unified and demand what’s due them. They shouldn’t always be giving beats for free. Artists, after earning a hit off a producers beat will continue to live off it, yet the producer gets nothing. There should be an established structure to earning a beat as an artiste because the producer is the most important next to the artiste. Artistes I have worked with include Enek (he’s on Hitz FM now). He had a song with Wanlov and it’s off one of the very beats I gave out. I’ve also worked with Flippa as well as a gospel artiste called Billy Graham B who’s about to release his album.

Inspiration

I listen to a lot of old school music like those by Wu-Tang, Nas and Dr. Dre. Producers like RZA, 9th Wonder, J.Cole inspire me.

Achieving Balance

I can go five months without making a beats. After work, I pull my laptop, listen to old classics and try to create. And on weekends too. It doesn’t always work out good. I had a studio but dumsor (the energy crisis) forced me to shut it down.  But, anything can happen in the future.

Future Plans     

EL and Jayso were the people who inspired me when I started making beats. I admire them a lot because they went for what they believed in, so I always listened to them. I sent EL a DM (on twitter) even though I’ve never met him following the release of the FLY EP. He gave us a good feedback, probably he gave us the most positive feedback. I’d like to give him thumps up for that. I really like what he’s doing. I’m hoping for something positive to come up later.

 

The Interview: Kwadjo SPiRi reveals

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‘I dey fly high above the clouds/ You can always keep talking/ A brother gonna keep dropping hits after hits’

The above lyric is a declaration of intent. It’s a peek into the ambitions of Kwadjo SPiRi: a young rapper with a dream to become influential; to use his position and music to influence thoughts and inspire his fans-both old and young. These two pillars are the cornerstone of Kwadjo SPiRi’s musical odyssey. He considers art to be a powerful medium towards attaining this purpose. ‘You are doing nothing if your art can’t be assimilated’, he tells me. ‘I have come to a point where my art should make sense, should be able to shift someone’s conscience’, the trained chemical engineer adds.

A fortnight ago, after his set at the Sabolai Radio Set, an AccradotAlt initiative that provides platform for some of the city’s budding talents-rappers and singers-to share their works with an audience and generate conversation, Kwadjo SPiRi and his producer Likwid Ice gratefully accepted to speak to Culartblog about their collaborative album, The FLY EP.

Boasting just five songs, the well-crafted “FLY EP” had Kwadjo SPiRi and Likwid Ice creating some admirable piece of art. The sample-heavy project saw both Kwadjo SPiRi and Likwid Ice placing their foot at the door, announcing themselves to the ears who’d listen while making a forcefully claim that they are worth casting an eye towards. Blending classic hiphop beats and old highlife samples, courtesy Likwid Ice (the producer) with Kwadjo Spiri’s hard hitting, conscious littered rhymes, the EP is an exhibition of their creativity. The “FLY EP” is a precursor to an album- Akwantune (The Traveler) which the two are currently working on.

In this two-part interview, the two shared details on the making of the EP, their influences, the future, what holds them bonded and their objectives as artistes.

The first part of this interview focuses on Kwadjo SPiRi: the man, rapper and artist.

 Self-Introduction:

My name’s Kwadjo SPiRi, a hiphop artiste. I make conscious music. I blend science, philosophy and some comedy in my music (deep stuff). I read mechanical engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where I graduated in 2007. After KNUST, I went into Aviation engineering. Currently, I’m a Fuel Retail Engineer.

Inspiration behind the FLY EP:

The beats inspired the EP. I didn’t really plan the EP, like planning the concept, tracklist, number of songs; features. Everything was very casual from day one. My friend and producer Likwid Ice drops the beats, I hear the samples in there, I get inspired and write accordingly – whether it’s about love, life, political or pan-African samples. The inspiration basically came from the beats. The name of the EP came after recording everything and listening to it. I can say the Likwid Ice inspired the EP.

 Working Together:

The chemistry has been there right from the start. Even when I didn’t know he made beats, I felt something striking about him. I told him I made beats and he rolled out his credentials as a producer too. That’s how we bonded musically. We also work together in the same corporate office-me as a fuel retail engineer and he, an IT person. So, after sharing with him my previous albums, he realized he does the kind of beats I vibe to-those 90s hip hop beats we both grew up on. That’s when we became very close.

When I dropped my first album- Restitution-the reaction I received wasn’t quite exciting because the album was strictly hip-hop. I didn’t localize the contents and that affected the reaction I received from fans. Also, I didn’t have money to promote it. The low response made me lose a little bit of enthusiasm for making music. But, Likwid Ice brought me back.  He played me some beats and challenged me to rap over them. So, I told myself, why not work with him, after all he makes good beats, he samples well, I fed him some ideas and he obliged, creating some beats along those lines. We initially wanted to do a seven (7) track project. But realized this was an EP so five tracks was enough.  Our meeting felt like destiny.

Growth:

“Restitution” and “The Journey”-my two earlier projects-were all hip hop albums. This EP took a different route. It’s more diffused in terms of sound. We incorporated a lot of African rhythms. And that’s why I think people are vibing to it more. I have grown a lot in the sense that, I’m trying to adjust my music, my art to suit people; the listeners. I believe you are doing nothing at all if your art or what you are saying can’t be assimilated. I’ve come to a point where I think I must make art that makes sense; that can shift someone’s conscience; that can make someone think differently. I should do art people can vibe with in their heart.

 ‘When its good music, dem dey choke am/Starving it of oxygen/ Dem dey dream say the junk go die/ so dem go fit spread dema trash/ radio became thee rubbish dump – We Go Fly/We Go Shine’

 If I compare the project with what I did in the past, I can see why people didn’t vibe with me back then. I was caught up in my own world, doing my own thing and thinking it sounds good to me so it’d definitely sound good to everyone too. You should be able to break things down because he who breaks things down for others to understand complex ideas is a grown or wise person. Those who are able to say the most complex things in the simplest ways are the grown ones. Looking at what I’ve done, I know I’m not there yet, I have a long road ahead but I think I’m coming to a point people will understand complicated things on a simpler levels whiles vibing with it.

‘I AM, a free spirit walking the earth/ I Am, a manifestation of life/I AM, intelligence wrapped in a black body/ I AM, magnificence’.

Themes on EP:
I talk spirituality in my songs. I try to inspire people with my music. In fact, the “SPIRI’ in my name is from Inspiration and not spirituality. I’m also a Pan-Africanist albeit not political. I vibe with those who laid their lives down for us like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Ghaddafi, Steve Biko. I’d love to see young guys like us take over the mantle and make this place (Africa) a better place. And I think the arts is one of the tools we can actually use to progress. The story can be best told through the arts. That’s why I fancy hip-hop since it affords you the platform to talk-say a lot of things within a short space of time which people grasp faster as well.