While hip-hop has been long associated with its roots in America, there is a new class of African artists participating in the genre. Leading this new wave is 24-year-old musician Kwesi Arthur, from Tema, Ghana.
Kwesi Arthuris currently the youngest Ghanaian to have a BET nomination—in the viewer’s choice category for Best New International Act in 2018. He exploded onto Ghana’s rap scene in 2016 with the bass-heavy trap anthem “Grind Day” which, two years later, won Hip-Hop Song of the Year at the Ghana Music Awards for its remix with Sarkodie and Medikal.
He has since them released Afro-swing tracks like “Anthem” and records like “African Girl” that explore afro-fusion sounds. Kwesi raps in both Twi and English and, in many ways, uses his music as a vessel to tell the tales of what other young Ghanaians face.
Kwesi was discovered through the Tema-based music platform Ground Up Chale, which harbors young talent across Ghana and gives people access to studio time and support. “Ground Up is my foundation,” he says. “Ground Up helped develop my talent as an artist.
Ground Up is about elevating. Most of the artiste in Ghana are from Tema. In Tema, you’re given the freedom to express yourself in whatever way you find comfortable.”
While hip-hop doesn’t get the same level of support in Africa as afrobeats, Kwesi believes there’s a space in which both can coexist and support each other. “I started off rapping more,” he says. “At some point I realized I could sing, and express myself through melodies.
So that’s when I started doing more of the singing. I think it’s just boils down to my story and how I want to tell it. So, if maybe a melody would best get my story out there, then I express myself in melodies. So it’s just my talent, I can’t let it go to waste. I have to make good use of it.”
Speaking to Amarachi Nwosu of Okay Africa, Kwesi Arthur has come to understands that his story and his approach to hip-hop are different from other rappers’ but believes people should welcome diversity in the genre.
When touching on the difference between hip-hop in Africa and America, he says “With hip-hop in Africa, it’s deeper here because we talk about so many things.
The hip-hop most people are used to talks about guns, about ice, but here in Africa, I don’t know anyone who has those, you get me? So here we tend to talk about our story and express ourselves. Like what we’re goin’ through. That’s what makes it unique, our story’s different from the world.”
Kwesi will be releasing his EP in the first half of the year, and it features artiste like Wizkid, Nasty C and Mr Eazi and performances in the U.S, U.K and across Africa.
While Kwesi always knew his vision was bigger than where he was in Tema four years ago, his advice to young artists coming out of Africa is to stay true to themselves and put that in their art.