Ghanaian rapper Kwesi Arthur appears in VIPER’s AW22 print issue to talk about Gospel influences and baring his emotions in his lyrics…
Kwesi Arthur’s rise to prominence on the international stage almost never happened. If the artist was able to afford the school fees to join the Ghana Institute of Journalism, we may have never got to experience the eclectic brand of music that Kwesi has brought into the world. Instead of taking his place at the institute, Kwesi Arthur turned to music, releasing his first single,
‘Grind Day’, in 2017. Since then, his growth both in terms of fandom and within his own musical craft has been spectacular. It almost feels naïve to describe Arthur as an ‘Afrobeats’ artist, in the same way that every UK rapper was described as a ‘Grime’ artist a few years ago.
His music is sonically diverse, spanning multiple genres – including but not limited to Hip Hop, Amapiano and even Gospel. It would be easy for this melange of musical styles to become confusing or messy, but Arthur’s sound feels authentic and is informed by his own musical preferences, rather than being tainted by the hands of major record labels. In this umbrella genre of Afrobeats, it also seems as if it’s a prerequisite for artists to create music that is uplifting and catchy, yet Arthur is not afraid to delve deep into his emotions, as evidenced by his track ‘Silver Spoon’, where he explores his reaction to the death of his Grandmother.
What brings everything together for Kwesi Arthur is his affinity for his home nation of Ghana. In the music video for the acoustic version of his track, ‘Celebrate’, the artist is able to capture a real sense of community and belonging, which feels as if it is at the forefront of Arthur’s musical message. There also seems to be a conscious decision to work with international artists of Ghanaian heritage, such as Stormzy or Vic Mensa, showing that the music Kwesi Arthur creates goes beyond borders, but still has that sense of attachment to his home nation. VIPER spoke to Kwesi on the day his debut album, ‘Son Of Jacob’, dropped to discuss his musical influences, his journey so far and his relationship with the country he calls home.
How are you taking in the release of your debut album?
I feel like we’ve been working on this for so long and people have been at my neck for so long and now it’s out; I’m just soaking everything in right now. The album feels good to me, it feels good to the people I’m closest to and the people I made it with. I feel like that’s what my system was. It makes me know, “Oh, we did something right after all.” But like, we just keep pushing and I keep the music going.
How long have you been working on ‘Son Of Jacob’ for?
Since we started working on it, I’d say it’s been three, four years. I’ve worked on other stuff and I make music almost every day. The oldest song on this tape was recorded in 2018, ‘Paper’, and the last song was recorded in 2021 I think. COVID definitely played a role in the album because I was supposed to go to other countries and record but I had to use what I had at my disposal here. Me losing my Grand- mother in 2020, that also played a role in the album because if that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have had the album.
This is an extract from the AW22 issue of Viper Magazine. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Words by Joe Simpson
Photos by Sariel Elkaim