Kwesi Arthur; The New school of Ghanaian Music

5th June 2020 BY Ivis Ngwenya

With sold-out shows in London and New York, it’s pretty evident that Kwesi Arthur not only dominates the music scene in Ghana but worldwide too! At the age of 25, this man has accomplished so much in his career and as an African Woman I could not be prouder – he is currently the youngest Ghanaian to have a BET nomination, in 2018 he won Hip- Hop song of the year at the Ghana Music Awards and can I just also add that he only entered the rap scene in 2016!! Deep it, he accomplished all of that in the space of 2 years, so I think we can all imagine where his career is going to be after 10 years in the game. This is the man to watch.

As the new school of Ghanaian music, Kwesi Arthur is making waves with Ground up Chale claiming that “This year is set to be his biggest year yet. Turn on the Lights is the stop-gap before he disrupts the global music industry. We’re excited about the expansion of his brand in new territories such as South Africa where he’s looking to make a mark,”

If that statement didn’t give you chills then I really don’t know! Turn on the lights for me really set the benchmark for his upcoming album, I am so excited to hear it. Rapping in both Twi and English Kwesi, like any other artist uses his music as a way for him to tell the stories of young Ghanaians living in today’s generation and we got the chance to catch up with him!

What was it like growing up in Tema?

Uhmm like just normal. I’d spend days playing with my friends and going to play football at the park, gamble and just play video games. Yeahh it was just normal.

You completed secondary school in 2013, then exploded onto the rap scene in 2016 – what were you doing for the three years in-between?

Within those years, I was recording, I was working. I was working at the studio in 2013, so I was basically recording people so that I could get a chance to record myself because after I finished high school I couldn’t go to uni because my parents couldn’t afford to pay my fees so I had to find a way to continue making my music and make money at the same time. So I went to this studio in my neighbourhood and spoke to the guy and he gave me a chance to work for him – like manage the place and when no one was recording I could record myself. I was doing that up until 2015, then I met the people at Ground up Chale and we started working together, they helped me develop my talent even more, then in 2017 I dropped my EP and the rest is history.

What was it about Drake’s debut studio album ‘thank me later’ that made you want to pursue a career in music, more specifically rap?

Listening to that mixtape, he made rap seem so simple, he made it seem so simple to do. I don’t know but it just caught me – I was just like “Yo, I should be doing this too, I need to start doing this.” So from ‘thank me later’ to ‘show me a good time’, it was just crazy. I just love the whole thing and from then I just started writing raps.

Which song would you say made you Kwesi Arthur, which song allowed for you to be one of the best artists in Ghana?

Uhmm I wouldn’t say a specific song because it’s all been a process. There have been songs, I mean from the freestyle videos we used to do to my first EP to anthem, so it’s all been a process. However more people started to know me in 2016 from the grind day remix which had Sarkodie in it.

How did it feel to be nominated by BET for best new international act in 2018?

It was crazy, so crazy. I was so surprised when it came because I didn’t expect it. Like I was shocked, but I guess it’s one of them where if it’s meant to happen, it will happen. We worked for it too!

Why do you think hip-hop does not get the same level of support as afrobeats in Africa?

I feel like now people are starting to accept it, more than they did before. I never got why it wasn’t as appreciated but now like Africans are more open to new sounds and hearing new things so they have really given us their ears and it’s amazing. It’s a great time to be alive.

What would you say is the main difference in hip-hop in Africa and America?

There isn’t really that much of a difference but I’d say maybe the language, that’s the only difference – the language; like the stuff, we rap about. But music, you have to understand that music is all about feelings, a vibe so the feeling for both is usually the same.

Who has been your favourite artist to collaborate with and why?

The most favourite artist? So many, so many people, like Sarkodie because he always sends the verses on time and we don’t go through too much stress. Everything just flows when we’re together.

Your new single ‘turn on the lights’ – can you tell us what it’s about and does the song relate to your personal life in any way?

So you know sometimes you feel a certain way, like you need someone, sometimes but not all of the time I kind of feel like that, because I’m usually alone working and stuff so I felt like that at a certain point so I had to put it in a song. The thing with turn on the lights is that it was originally meant to be a completely different song and I forgot about it, like I forgot about what I did on it earlier – we started working on it last year and I did something on it but I forgot so I had to do a whole new thing and that’s how I was feeling at that certain point.

You said that you’re currently recording your new album – can you give us a hint on what this album focuses on – are the songs similar to turn on the lights? And is there a potential release date?

I don’t think that the songs will sound like turn on the lights but they will be about my growth so far, what I go through as a human being, as a person, working on myself and stuff like relationships with people, my friends you know? As I am growing in this field I find myself seeing things differently.

It will come out this year, definitely this year, we’re still working on it. For now, the only feature I’ll mention is NSG – they’re so fun and are a bunch of amazingly talented people.

What are your goals for the rest of the year?

Make an amazing album, that’s my goal. Release better videos, like really good videos. Just keep it going. Keep recording. Like just grow, I’m trying to develop more skills as a human being too, like dealing with people.

Where do you see as the future of African music?

I see African music becoming so big, being on the same platform as western music. I think we’re getting there, now people are paying attention to Wizkid, Burna boy, Davido – people like that. Then last year we had afronation host the year of the return here in Ghana. We’re getting there.

Listen to his new single;