‘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.
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.
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.
“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.