We live in an age where a producer’s name doesn’t only live on the album sleeve or cover of a musicians work. Producers are leaving their signatures (taglines) on songs, and it is rightly appropriate. With the ever increasing dwindling fortunes of physical album copies and more digital releases, producers are not enthused with just their name on a sleeve. They are trundling with the times, like the artists they work with or for.
That’s just one part.
The other part has to do with producers’ crossing over as artists themselves, through the release of albums or EPs. The reasons could run from angling for fame to recognition, depending on who the producer is. This producer-artist phenomenon is now part of the music culture and they are reaping the benefits.
But, there still are producers who don’t want to deviate from the old status quo. Of course, they are aware of the new paradigm. Yet, they choose to stay orthodox. They won’t leave their signature tagline on songs. Crediting them on the song/album credits is enough. Staying ‘ghost’ is enough.
That kind of producer is who GHOST (born Jerome Kojo Boateng) loves to remain. His imprints have been on many songs or albums, either on or under the producer credits or mastered credits. His recent work was on Bryan The Mensah’s excellent ‘Friends With The Sun’ EP, where he played the role of a producer and a mastering engineer.
Considered by some of his peers as one of the best producers around, 26-year-old Ghost, who also goes by the “LXXXVIII’ moniker didn’t jump into the world of music production at first. He started out as a rapper in high school. ‘Well, I began my music career initially as a rapper, later ventured into producing’. His decision to quit rapping and be a producer wasn’t motivated by the inability of producers to craft the perfect beats for him to rhyme on. Rather, it was a friend who introduced him to the field.
And when I asked if that friend taught him the rudiments, he answered in the negative. ‘Actually, nobody did. I kind of always had my thing with music from an early stage. But I was hugely inspired to venture into production by a producer friend named Lorshee, who gave me a copy of FL Studio at the time. So I went home, installed it and started experimenting till date.’
A product of Central University, Ghost began producing music in 2009, after high school back in 2009. He took it more ‘seriously in 2013 when I was in college (Central University)’. Since then, he has worked with both A-List Ghanaian and Nigerian artistes including EL, Ice Prince Zamani J. Town, Cabum, Dee Moneey, Scientific (LIB), Ankwanda.
Despite working with some well-known artists, Ghost, who produced EL’s trap anthem ‘Lalafalama’ still considers himself ‘upcoming’. And during our interview, one quality was obvious: his shy nature, which he’s conscious about. When I asked him to describe himself, a simple question that often solicits a winding answer, Ghost’s reply confirmed his shyness, something he describes as ‘a constant battle for me every day’. ‘So Ghost 88 is an upcoming producer/artiste, a huge bass head and definitely makes synchronized noise’, he punctures his comment with a laugh before adding, in third-person, ‘He’s a humble guy, mostly nervous and shy. Also hella goofy and jovial if you get to know him more plus he loves to give back!!’. That shyness was also a reason in him shelving his rapping skills from a lot of people even though ‘I could even spit some ‘bars’, Self-doubt also played its part, ‘I really didn’t think I was “Faya” enough.’’
Picking up names especially as an artist or producer (if you don’t want to go with your real name) takes a lot of consideration and are sometimes fueled by events or situations. In the case of Ghost, the latter was the case. He settled on his moniker because he wasn’t getting the expected recognition for his work. ‘During my early days of production, I’d worked, collaborate and helped other producers on projects without being credited in any form hence the alias “GHOST THE PRODUCER”. I later threw in “LXXXVIII” because it’s my favorite number. The number ‘88′ is believed to a lucky number in Chinese mythos’.
The lack of recognition left him feeling disrespected thus his decision to go out as a full time producer. He explained the situation further: ‘I wasn’t happy. I mean who wouldn’t be considering how much time and efforts you’ve spent into making their product lit. But at the same time, I looked at it positively as well because it gave my story so much depth and more experience. The exact reason why I’m full time producing (although) I was going to do that sooner anyways’.
That quest for respect is one reason Ghost is planning on releasing his debut project with fellow collaborator and producer Chris, together known as Synchronized NoiZe. The four track EP- Miusnderstood-is, as he describes ‘an experimental project that leans heavy on electronic music. It’s a mix of Bass music (which I make) with Disco funk(Chris’ specialty)’. For Ghost and Chris (whom he clicked with after a studio session together), they chose to go this route with their project because ‘we wanted to break away a little bit from the usual trend in West Africa, where it’s either trap or an afro pop thing. You know, to be more experimental’
Bass music isn’t huge in Ghana or across Africa so it was curious for me that Synchonized noiZe would choose to produce an EP that leans towards that genre. So, when I asked him how he became interested in Bass Music, Ghost revealed where it came from. ‘I first fell in love with bass music back in 2014 when I first discovered Flosstradamus, an electronic duo. Man! They were killing everything out there at the time’. Aside Flosstradamus, Ghost is also influenced or inspired by producers like Drvmroll, Sosa, LeMav, Rvdical the Kid, 7th Artist (Chris) and IllKeyz. Internationally, Quix, Fabian Mazur, Getter, Monxx and Luude are his inspiration. When I told him I didn’t know most of the foreign producers mentioned, he let out a guffaw before answering, ‘I know you wouldn’t be familiar with them’. He further added ‘everything about their work: creativity, sound design, structure and their personalities’ are the flicker that light up his creative path.
Ghost, like some of his producer friends have been vocal on the subject of how artists treat producers, which are mostly contemptuous. The subject ranges from no payment to not properly credited on songs. When the issue was broached once again, Ghost was straight forward with his views. ‘Man, they just playing themselves at the end if they really wanted their brand to grow (which most don’t even have brands to begin with). It’s mostly common among the mainstreams and I’m disgusted by it truth be told. And only if you knew my hustle with it because it’s a daily source of income for some of us. We got bills to pay, mouths to feed and isn’t a game for us but I wouldn’t be fair if I only pointed at artistes only for this. Producers aren’t valued for their work because of the saturated market of young producers who want to get famous so bad that they throw beats for free left and right to artists. The major reason I‘m not an artist producer anymore. I AM THE ARTIST!’
Even though I had seen his handle on my timeline, it wasn’t it until I saw fellow producer Drvmroll mention him in a tweet that awoken my curiousity. Within the same period, I saw another favourite producer of mine, Yung Fly comment on how Ghost’s 808s could shatter studio speakers. For Ghost, he regard such compliments as coming from friends rather than competitors, ‘’I will like to start off by saying these guys are awesome. Plus it’s definitely a great feeling to have guys like these not only giving me props but supporting me in anyway. No pressure at all because I’m originally dope (laughs). Just kidding. They are real close friends to me. We goof around. One of the few people I open up to’.
How did he, a producer on the come-up, managed to earn production credits on the albums of some of the artists mentioned earlier and the experience that came with it. ‘Few of them did contact me. Some, I had to reach out to make it happen. But, some of them were possible via recommendation by close fam who were also in their circle or knew them personally. The experience is an awesome one! Let me use this example for instance, it’s like this kinda high, once you achieve it, you never wanna get back to being sober again because it’s boring (laughs). You always wanna be that high, constantly!’
How do you prepare for such studio sessions with the likes of EL and Sark for instance? Do you have sleepless nights till it’s done? I asked. (Another laughter) ‘I Just bring my A game and laptop along with me like I normally do. I’m willing to do any amount of work on the project till it’s done irrespective of the artist. I’m mostly active at night so no biggie’
Although no date has been fixed for the released of Misunderstood, Ghost has released three songs that foreshadows what he and Chris may be offering. On what the future holds, Ghost outlined three things he wants to see happen:
First, ‘West Africa being recognized not only for our afro beats or sounds but electronic music as well.’
Second, producers should experiment some more, something they aren’t doing. Currently, the ones who are, are being slept on. It’s shocking!’
Third, ‘more releases, more collaboration, more moves and prayers. With time my hard work will be rewarded’.
There are a handful of producers who have helped changed the soundscape of our time and from the conversation with Ghost, he has the ambition to not only introduce a new wave of sound but also push his name within the ‘who is who’ canon. Pushing the envelope of sound, experimenting with other musical influences is one of the foremost tools of creativity within his production vault.
Ghost knows a producers’ death knell is when they become static. And with the evolution of sound happening faster than a blink of an eye, one has to catch up, and fast. Hence his rhetorical question: ‘If you aren’t experimenting with your art as a creative then what are you doing?‘
Listen to his latest single ‘Entirely Sho’ feat Ansah Live