In 2017 when Ghanaians became aware of King Promise off the back of Vision DJ’s summer jam ‘Double Trouble’, the singer had been seeking a way to make an impression on the music scene. Two years prior to his appearance on ‘Double Trouble’, he had joined forces with producer Jayso on his single “So Special”. Comparing the two songs, one clearly recognizes the difference in respect of growth and style of King Promise. “Double Trouble” did not only exhibit his musical talents; it did shape his musical path, to an extent.
What is remarkable about King Promise is the fact that he seized the moment and incrementally grew his own popularity; something many have tried without much success. There has been an uncountable instance where new artists have not been able to stay airborne after a successful debut – full song or feature. Another advantage for King Promise is surrounding himself with experienced individuals who have deep knowledge about the music industry – what would or would not work, both in Ghana and across its borders.
For that dream to come to fruition, King Promise had to vary his music and style. In a press release after accusation of contractual breaches by Yasmin Behzadi, his one-time financier, King Promise’s camp alluded to something very telling: that he was being forced to be something he wasn’t. ‘’King Promise being a creative person was stifled and restricted from working and producing music under the EP’’, the press release stated in part. The true calling for Gregory Promise Bortey Newman aka King Promise is this contemporary music style dubbed afropop.
From holding music fans fixated with his singles to penning hits for some of his contemporaries, King Promise has demonstrated both ambition, creativity and to an extent, business savviness. He does not flood the market with too much music. Neither does he kick up drama to fuel his profile. He serves the market with the right quantity (and quality) of music, fades into the back, comes back when the fans want more; Frank Ocean style.
Thank you big bro! E be you make i start dey write songs differently! God bless you for the grooming 💚🙏🏾 https://t.co/fbd7DESTLM— King Promise (@IamKingPromise) July 7, 2019
These qualities are exhibited on his debut album, “As Promised”. Packed with 15 songs, the afropop leaning album breezes with melodic enchantment, good songwriting skills- King Promise is arguably the best among his peers- and complimentary features. With love as a clutch, King Promise excessively celebrates the joys of falling in love; bemoaning its sorrows just a little.
Songs like ‘’Commando’’, ‘’Hangover’’, ‘’My Lady’’ brim with such glow – both vocally and in composition. His songwriting brilliance, noticeable on the album plus his well-nourished vocals and pop toned productions from Killbeatz and Guiltybeatz exemplify how to make a pop record with replay value.
What I mean is this: ‘’As Promised’’ is a record with many hits that overplays a particular trope yet never get boring. King Promise’s laid back, temperate tone is the magic that holds your ears glued to the album. You could clearly note he is a good singer who does not need to do much to impress you. He’s a natural. He croons with panache. On stage, his cool drip flashes like a smile of a baby.
In an era where provoking nostalgia is the go- to scheme for many afropop acts, King Promise deviates majorly from this template. Each song thrives on its own strength and quality. Old hits like “Abena”, the Wizkid featured “Tokyo” and the gospel “CCTV” is kept on the album for obvious reasons.
Another strength of “As Promised” is evidenced by song sequencing. If the songs were sequenced to evoke a sonic vibe, then King Promise and his team succeeded. The guest features on the album is handled excellently. Pae Dae (Omar Sterling of R2Bees) offers a performance that does not leave the listener cackling. Raye’s whispery, soulful delivery on “Odo” is amazing. “Selfish”, one of his earlier hit songs is apprised on this album, drafting the amazing Simi who laid a mesmerizing verse that leaves the listener desiring more. (Simi possesses one of those unique voices that brightens your mood, the subject of the song notwithstanding). The featured guests complimented rather than overshadow King Promise on his own records.
One may criticize the artist for not being daring enough in diversifying the content on “As Promised”. The discussion on love was overbearing; a bland topic sweetened by his brilliant crooning. (“Obee esh3” mirrors the downside of love relationships). My disappointed with “As Promised” lies in the fact that King Promise was not daring enough to define a new template for afropop for his colleagues to follow. Even though his songwriting is undeniable and his decision to eschew the “nostalgic template” is a great idea, he could have done for afropop what Mr. Eazi and Runtown did for the culture. King Promise has the talent to do that without beads of sweat forming on his clean shaven head. (I’m jealous of his head).
Perhaps, I’m asking for too much. After all, why change what is working for you. Afropop has overtime evolved, developing its own “unique” features. And, when has the subject of love not worked? King Promise, Killbeatz and Legacy Life Entertainment are very much aware of that. Noting the direction R2Bees’ “Site 15” took sonically and having Mr. Eazi at earshot, King Promise did the needful: satisfy the fans with melody and love matters. Considering the bland outings by his other contemporaries, King Promise had to do just a little to be ahead of the pack. “As Promised” is testament.