NKRUMAHKROM IN THE CUT
What lies behind page 1 of your Google search? Why look beyond?
“Who called you?!” is what our old folks rhetorically ask when we get nosy about things. Maybe the system conveniently pushes “what we need” to the main pages but hey, I’m no conspiracy theorist.
If you were to put his name in your search and for some reason, want to serve your curiosity, you’ll come across doctors, graphic designers, judges, heck!, even Ghana’s former Vice President and others who have elements of his name. Nonetheless, he is not a man defined by other people’s paths. He, too, just like all of us, has his own road to travel.
Meet Kwesi Arthur – modern Ghana’s “rap sofuor” as far as we’re concerned.
A lot of you have known him from the greater parts of this year and for some, the latter parts of last. However, his journey began circa 2010. He recalled the first bars he wrote down and how he rapped them to his friends in school. His friends who chose to be Thomas’s for reasons I’m sure they currently regret, doubted his rap gift. Other people around him made claims that he bit off other rappers and jacked off their style. He credits Drake’s “Thank Me Later” as the main impetus behind his decision to start writing and even recalled remixing Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPoWeR” when it debuted. But the constant backlash caused him to not take rap serious and eventually shun the game.
Fast-forward a couple of years later, Kwesi Arthur is rocking shows and opening for major artists in the country.
You’re probably asking yourself – what happened in between?
Kwesi has a close-knit group of family and friends. Outside that, he comes off as mildly reclusive. Which is why we were surprised to hear some of the things he revealed to us.
When university admissions took place in 2014, Kwesi had difficulties in making the cut. His high school withheld his final year results because of unpaid fees, but someway somehow, he got a hold of them later on and applied to Ghana Institute of Journalism. He finally got accepted but was once again held back due to insufficient funds. A few months passed and yet still, there was no headway. He even recalled interviewing for a watchman post but encountered an incident at the workplace which made him turn down the job. It was at this point that he realized he had to make do with the rap skills he had, fend for his family and make something great of himself.
Next time you hear:
I dey want be free
Fighting for tomorrow
Make I find my way oh
Gyai me, me find my way oh
, at a show or through your speakers, know it’s coming from a real place.
UK band, “The Heavy” in their song, will ask – How You like Me Now
Allow me to reintroduce him. He’s Kwesi Arthur and in his words, “an artist from Tema, Ghana – Ghana, West Africa.”
You can almost tell the sense of belongingness or better, entitlement, with his introductory statement. Anyone who knows anything about Tema people will tell you that nobody brags louder than them (us). Shoutout Nkrumah and Sarkodie for making that happen.
A day in the life with Kwesi Arthur will literally be 24 hours in the studio. His dedication to his craft is something else.
Asked whether he was into anything other than music, he said – “I no dey do any “work, work” actually. My work is with GroundUp. I no dey do anything aside the music so I don’t have any other way to make money or fend for myself.”
As mentioned earlier, his support system is heavily close-knit. Friends and family serve as the constant voice in his head that urges him on to put in work every day. Those around him feed off his energy and work ethic and as a result, it’s something he holds very dear.
Coincidentally, as if to exemplify that, the interview took place on one of the mornings after he spent the night at the GroundUp studio, recording and remixing material.
No one ever said being an artist would be easy or that life generally prepares you for losses.
“Dem a su-su pon you…” regardless of where you are.
Kwesi shared with us how certain people in his life have grown distant and how that’s one of the most frustrating things about the business he’s in. He put it this way – “I no dey vibe with so many people like at first. They change up. Usually for no real reason. There are some people I’ve cut off. They see you differently. It be some way. Like I no dey barb. The fact that I’m out there trying to get mine doesn’t mean you should hate.”
He went on to humbly express his mildly reclusive self, saying that he never wants to be to praised or be the subject at a sitting. Hello, irony. We’re having an interview for crying out loud!
Many artists emphasize on the need to be “free” in order to be their most expressive selves. For Kwesi, his form of freedom obviously comes when he’s in the booth making songs. But most importantly for him, the world becomes his stage when he performs. Some of you may have encountered him topless while performing and in his regard, it is the best high ever. We asked him whether or not this mindset and attitude has an influence in his style of music and here’s what he had to say – “I’m a musician. I can rap and I can somehow sing. I don’t want to limit myself to just rap or be tagged solely as a rapper. Nah, I no go do that.”
It should be quite clear Kwesi Arthur doesn’t stand for creative limitation.
He expressed his wonder for the constant judgement and criticism from people for artists who are purely mainstream. He said that artists should be able to express themselves in any way they see fit and that they shouldn’t compromise their art for public opinion. “How we go be great?” is what he ended with. Psych! He further went on to say – “For all you know, that particular musician at the time of recording, was going through something or felt a certain way about life and saw it fit to make music that depicted that surrounding. People no for vex someone like Drake for switching up his style.”
I agreed with him on that for Drake himself once said – “On a mission tryna shift the culture.”
If you’ve listened to Kwesi Arthur long enough, you’d know he’s gifted. His style is multifaceted. It is one that he accredits to acts like Kojo Antwi, R2Bees, Sarkodie, Nasty C and Oskido from the local frontier mixed with influences from heavy hitters like Drake, JAY Z, J. Cole, Kanye and Kendrick from the international scene. He pointed out Efya, Adomaa and Cina Soul as the ladies he also feels the most.
“Live from Nkrumah Krom” – Kwesi Arthur’s breakout EP, was one that garnered a lot of attention. A lot of people took an instant liking to the music and that he’s sometimes stunned at how fans vibe with the songs on the tape, especially with the unpopular ones.
Lay away the need to tell his story. For him personally, the tape was to serve as proof that he was much more than the mashup or cover artist he was known for during his come up. Funnily enough, this tape was in mind around the period he began writing. He credits his friend, Sed who was with him at the time of conception. All that he needed was right timing.
At this point, it seemed as if Kwesi sensed the opportunity to channel his inner Master Yoda – “You no for rush the process,” he said. “That’s another problem with the current generation. Everybody wants to be the new thing so they end up copying and losing their uniqueness. In a short time, them go fade away.”
He described his music career up to this point as a miracle. He and his crew took a leap of faith about a year and half ago and up to this day, are constantly amazed by the reception and feedback they get. His fan base has crept out of Ghana and has begun amassing in other parts of Africa.
Kwesi casually joked that we’re not ready for the plans he has in store but that God will determine how things pan out eventually.
The future promises a lot of great things for Kwesi Arthur. He admits there’s more work to be done with regards to fully honing his skill and presenting himself but so far, he’s done a good job of seamlessly blending in with the new sound but also standing out by staying true to his originality.