Seven Xavier has practically seen the transitions of Ghanaian music through the years as he spent his time producing music when it all started. Boarding Pass 2 is filled with knowledge, juice and a very vibey playlist!
Balla et ses Balladins – Paulette
First who is Seven? What does he do?
Seven is this guy who used to make beats, but later developed an obsession with the business aspect of music. At the moment I’m not dabbling in anything music…but if Uber can be the biggest taxi company in the world without owning taxis…then I could own the biggest record label in Ghana without having any artist. I recently worked with J-town and then Chase as an artist manager, but when you get into this you realize you are everything-in-one; you are the record label, the booking agent.
Also built a studio to make it easy for the artists that I work with to record. I am currently working on an agreement to manage one of the talented new young producers out there.
Who have you produced for? And what songs?
Well I lived in the states for sometime. It was at that time I started producing.
Mp3.com was huge for upcoming producers…with instrumentals leasing, sales etc. Not to mention the site pays you when people stream your instrumentals. You could make some good change on that. I sold a lot of beats to underground artists that I never even heard the finished products.
Then Wanlov hit me up sometime. I knew him from Ghana as Emma through some mutual friends but he was “too known”. So he wasn’t my favorite person. He told me he was into music. At the time he rapped! Like actual ‘yankee-fied’ rap!
So I worked exclusively with him. We could have about two albums together from all the stuff we recorded but circumstances happened and Spooky (as he was known then) became Wanlov…and he didn’t want to put any of the old songs out. So we embarked on Greencard (his first album)
All this while I had tried to reach out to some Ghanaian artists, but back then their mentality was very awkward. There were about 3 producers they will only work with; Hammer, Appietus and JQ.
I was in Ghana for sometime and my friend Mantse (of Chale Wote fame) introduced me to some new hungry acts. He was at the time recording his mixtape featuring these unknown artists: Asem, Trigmatic, Ayigbe Edem, Mazoni, Kochokoo…and oh I had just met Efya then and had to convince Mantse she could be on the mixtape (It was Efya’s first time in a studio)
So we put some work into record this mixtape…and poof! The studio claimed they lost all data!!!
Haha! It happens…but in the day studios were shit. We even recorded with Jay Foli too. He was a sound engineer then…don’t even remember what happened to that song.
Anyway, I left later and continued to finish up Greencard with Wanlov. After that, he came down to Ghana to do what he had to do. We haven’t really worked together since then (mostly because I don’t really produce much)…but we are still good friends.
I think I’ve had tracks with Trig, Tinny, kwaw kesse, Sarkodie, Akwadaa Nyame Mr. Maxx, Mutombo, and oh I can’t forget Shaolin Monk Funk and their extended family and a few others.
Some of these came about because I send some beats to some people and they end up passing it around. Some of these artists I never even really had a conversation with but my beats got tossed around and got to them.
Wow. You’ve practically seen the transition of Ghanaian music from the late 90s to now. Do you think it’s a good change?
I’d say in a way yes because I was definitely one of the people who wanted more diversity; some infusion of hip hop. So I was for it…and not to mention the unknown artists that I knew then that needed that change to become relevant. So when Asem’s ‘give me blow’ became a hit, I thought it was a wrap! All the boys in their little corners came out. Jayso and the skillions had all been pushing. There was a lot of talent. New “beat makers” who were all waiting to explode if given the chance.
Now there’s even more talent coming out. And even more variants of music. Trap, house, trap house jazz etc and new school Ghanaian acts are jumping in this
Do you think it’s something Ghanaians will accept easily?
Not at all. It took years for that JQ era to move to the new era. So this might take some years too. But the thing is, these days I don’t think like a creator, producer or whatever you want to call it. I’m thinking ‘how are they going to make money of this’.
Some of the best rappers I knew didn’t make it and are irrelevant now. Can u sustain being “different”? And for how long?
Not all these new acts will make a dime off what they are doing. Creatively we all love it but how will you rake in profit?
A lot of people might be surprised to hear me say this, but we killed Azonto off too quickly. We could have been eating off this for a few more years. Now Azonto is credited to Nigeria… Sad days indeed. Some “yoyo” artists were condemning Azonto rather harshly. But it was just dance music…stay in your lane and do what you do, Azonto artists will do azonto.
But it seems Records nowadays are implementing a lot of old school hi life beats. For example, Teef teef and some of the tracks off African Crates from DJ Juls, and U x Me from Joey B.
5’5 had been doing way before in ‘Mugye baya’, but nobody seemed to notice. And that song by ROB “Make it Fast, Make it slow”….was sampled for Mystikals shake it fast.
ROB – Make It Fast, Make It Slow
In ’05-ish when we were working on Wanlov’s Greencard album, we did a lot of sampling so I was open up to more of African stuff because that’s what he wanted. Prior to that i was just interested in Motown records soul music stuff…not knowing africa had some great stuff too. That relationship with Wanlov influenced a lot of my music and this playlist.
I have personally given some producers some of these afro funk stuff. It’s not really new to me, but you young souls don’t have a good attention span to realize it’s not that new.
Unfortunately, we don’t have artists to make it as commercial as DJ Juls has with Eazi, but they are a great team
Apparently this new generation has ADHD. Which is why no album can be termed iconic or legendary IMO.
In the past 6 months so many great albums have been released but not one has been a constant, They all just fade away. This has kept artists on their toes, but made music “Uniconic”. We’re our own blessing and curse, this generation
Hmm… Maybe the marketing too, because it’s just twitter releases I’d say. For Ghanaian music you most often can’t find these albums to buy anywhere.
With this upsurge in reclaiming our roots and the west’s sudden interest in Afro beats… Could this be a good breakthrough for music?
Well well… I don’t think so. The world is just waiting for the next new thing. I hope this trend stays for a while but people are so unpredictable… I wonder how the marketing industry is able to survive here.
Let’s move to the business of music.
How do Ghanaian acts make money, because it’s definitely not from album sales
Most don’t and the little that they could make there are about 1000 middlemen and I hate those middlemen. If an artist tells you they got a 100k deal you can bet he is taking home 10k or less.
Shows make some money, but artists that can actually make money off their shows in Ghana can be counted on one hand. About 5 max. And I am talking their own shows… not the ones by some of these media houses. Those folks pay three months after the show and peanuts too.
And on management….there’s nothing like a solid system for Ghanaian musicians. No labels, A and R or anything. It’s a blessing and a curse.
It’s a blessing because anyone can wake up and hustle to become somebody. A solid system will somehow vet people and then some people won’t even have any type of business being in music
I’ve recently seen “labels” spring up and signing artists. Truthfully, I think some of these artists aren’t good enough to be signed. But these labels don’t operate as solid label rules or principles so they can “sign” just about anything. If this industry was set up where u need hits, you need to hit targets, numbers etc like any regular company things wouldn’t be the same.
Maybe that’s also a reason why our artists can also experiment with sounds now….so a blessing and a curse.
With the sudden interest or surge in creative is making a living off art something you feel will change for the next generation or in a couple more years to come?
It will definitely help the creatives as long as it’s not some fad. We need players to push it more. That’s where business minded individuals need to come in. Creatives create, businessmen monetize. Like an artist and a label.
Some might yell…’Cheating!!!!’ But the truth is, without the businessmen your art might be worth GHC 0.00
What 5 things would you advise young creatives to do in order to make money from their art
- Get thinkers around you. I believe every bad situation presents itself with an opportunity. Get people who can turn the negatives into positives.
- You as a creative need to keep working, keep working and even work some more. Build a portfolio. I’ve met “artists” who swear they are the next big thing and don’t even have 3 songs to their names.
- Be professional. That’s the only way the corporate world will take you serious. They are the source of creatives’ income in these parts of the world.
- There are hundreds of platforms you can market yourself as a creative these days, be it visual arts or other forms of art. Use them. You never know who will come knocking.
- Concentrate on the art if that is all you have. Make it work. Learn, seek advice, there is nothing new under the sun, chances are people have been through same.