Kwesi Arthur’s just completed a clean-cut home run, his best one yet since his breakout single “Grind Day” popped off in 2017, officially marking the start of his professional rap career. Over the past year, he’s released a well-rounded body of work in the form of Live From Nkrumah Krom Vol. II: Home Run, played to sold-out audiences in London and New York, and bagged the Best Collaboration award at the 2019 VGMAs for the “Grind Day” remix featuring Sarkodie and Medikal.
When an artist blows up in everyone’s face like he has, and in such a short span of time, it’s easy to conclude that they just sprung out of nowhere. But he is quick to dispel the myth through his own re-telling of the journey thus far. Additionally, it’s clear that he’s an adroit student of the game – an emcee versed in the ebonics of his home country Ghana, through the tutelage of impresarios such as M.anifest, Sarkodie, Omar Sterling, and Blitz the Ambassador. In his own words: “They walked so that I could fly”.
As he readies for his next shot aimed squarely at global urban music domination, he’s careful to not forget the reasons why he picked up the mic in the first place.
“I’ve just been recording my album and stuff, trying to deal with this disaster happening right now,” he says from a pre-lockdown Accra. He acknowledges that these are weird times. But history’s shown, time and again, that the most revolutionary of art gets produced under testy conditions. The ‘disaster’ he’s referring to is the COVID-19 global breakout, a surreal, somewhat apocalyptic turnout of events by any measure. Yet, he sounds collected; calm, even.
There’s really no reason for him to stay on the humble. Masses of people, from his hometown Tema, to the international stages he’s graced, can’t get enough of him. Artists he grew up idolizing are fans of his.
“I had the chance to meet Tinie Tempah. I’d write his verses when I was in secondary school. When I met him, it was just all chill vibes; him telling me he listens to my stuff…I was just blown away,” he recalls.
“I started writing raps in secondary school. I listened to Drake’s Thank Me Later and I realised like, chale, he makes [making music] easy. At that point I thought, yo, I can do this too,” he says.
From then on, it was steady hustle and grind until he met the team at Ground Up Chale, who are currently one of West Africa’s largest on-line media platforms. That was in 2015.
“They groomed me, helped develop my talent. They started putting out videos of me rapping and stuff, and we’ve been dropping songs back-to-back. And here we are,” he says.
Kwesi Arthur meticulously paints a portrait of the coastal city of Tema, which is located some twenty-five kilometers east of Accra.
“I grew up in different parts of it. It has very organised buildings. People get to know each other more; it’s like a whole family in those communities. My father actually repaired electrical gadgets for people, so he always had the radio on; he always had the TV on. I’d suck up the music subconsciously. We never paid attention to the music ’til we realised that we can do this too,” he says.
From trading raps at the tender age of nine with his elder brother (“we didn’t take it seriously then, but I guess it groomed me subconsciously,” he quips), to the current day where he’s not only one of the dopest emcees out of Ghana, but also the most consistent melody technicians by any count on the African continent, the journey’s proving to be a wild ride for real.
But in the content-overfed mindset of audiences this side of the fourth industrial revolution, it can be near-impossible to rise to the top. Kwesi Arthur’s doing just that, and it’s a marvel to bear witness from the sidelines — as fans, as writers, as the rap and urban massive.
How he sees it, ‘speaking his truth’ is how he maintains a unique viewpoint.
“I’m just me on my songs, everyone else is taken. My story is unique as well. I talk about my come up and how difficult it was for my family and I growing up. There were days where we walked miles to school in the morning with no food in our bellies and no money in our pockets. I remember gambling with the kids in our neighborhood just to make extra money. I put all these events into songs and people relate to it. I don’t fabricate stuff or talk about some Lambo I don’t have or throwing money in the club, nah. I speak my truth. The real relate to it,” he says.
So, in as much as his talent sets him apart, his experiences are common pangs throughout the continent. Hence, he resonates on a level beyond the surface; he captures a mood, shapes a vision, and executes it with precise expertise.
Kwesi Arthur makes it a point to give props to those who put him on, from known legends such as M.anifest, with whom he recorded the effervescent “Feels”, to his friend Sedudzi, with whom he used to move at all times.
“He knew this producer at that time, Kayso. Kayso was working with Ground Up. He invited me come along. When we got to the studio, we were just having conversations, [and] they played a couple of my songs. When you’re young, you actually think you’re dope, but then you meet people who are older than you, and wiser. [Ground Up Chale] guided me. They showed me what to do, and what not to do.”
These encounters taught him to listen, and strengthened his belief in self.
Now, with an epic, as-yet-untitled project roving about in the multiverses, a rest-assured Kwesi Arthur stands tall, fully confident in his artistic abilities, and excited to expand his scope beyond what he’s managed thus far.
So, what’s next?
“I’m more into people getting in tune with what I’m doing. I’m more focused into making music that relates to people,” he says, and adds, “I want to be remembered for empowering people and lifting their spirits.”
Kwesi Arthur’s new single Turn On The Lights is now out and you can watch the lyric video below.