The Renaissance Man: Kojey Radical
The artist has many sides to him. Many of which stays hidden. The artist is good at that you know. Keeping the most glorious parts of themselves out of sight. Out of mind. But as the artist begins to create, those parts are suddenly revealed to us like sound bites from season finales. He who dwelleth in the secret place of the most high. The man. The artist. The prodigy. Kojey Radical.
Let's play a game of pin the pressure on the poet
Is it poetry or rap, I found rhythm inside of poetry
Let's play a game of pin the pressure on the prophet
I wonder what my younger self would've told the older me
Walking through the park at 2am – somewhere in East London I’d presume is 23-year-old Kojey reciting these very lyrics to himself over and over as if to form some sort of loop pattern in his mind just long enough to lock the words into memory.
Are you judged on the question or the answer?
Those prophetic words would soon become Footsteps the opening track on Radical’s latest EP 23 Winters.
Born in East London to Ghanaian parents, 4 sisters and 1 brother, Kojey took to the arts at a quite an early age. While he would tell you that he didn’t quite come from a musical background, his brother’s knack for spinning Ruff Ryders records as he sharpened his disc jockey skills would say otherwise. His sister was a dancer and Kojey followed in her footsteps and took on contemporary dance for 9 years on a competitive scale. As Kojey got older he merely added new mediums of art to his arsenal.
“I wanted to be a cartoonist. I feel like my mom was with it because she heard –ist and she just thought –ist meant money. I was in year 5 when my poetry got published. I didn’t take it seriously.”
The Renaissance man tells his story like buffering Netflix videos. You refresh the web page, step away for a moment and suddenly you pick right back up where started and it all seems to make sense.
“I was one of those kids that was always intelligent but I never vibed with education as a system. I think instead of rebelling, I understood it for what it was and any opportunity I had to go off and do my own thing I would.” In order to stay away from the gang life, Kojey immersed himself in a lot of extra curricular programs. “My cousins got real deep in it which meant I was always safe. I was around it but never got mixed up in it.”
Kojey took his love of the arts to university. “When I was picking universities, I picked a different course at each school: animation, anthropology, psychology, and illustration. I got into all of them. He ended up at the London School of Fashion on a scholarship offer studying illustration with a minor in cultural studies and finished top 6 of his class.
In his final term, he decided that his final project would be a book that he illustrated with a soundtrack to go with it.
“I had an idea for a book and I wanted to illustrate it but I also knew I wanted a soundtrack to go with the book. I didn’t necessarily trust anyone to make music for me but I’d never made music before. I went to my lecturers and I said to them as the artist if I decide to present you music and I tell you to market it like a drawing you have to do that. They were very resistant. So was I. I did it anyway." I sit in awe as Kojey tells me that he simply made up in his mind that music was his next calling and upon graduating he put out his first EP, Dear Daisy: Opium.
“I remember getting an email a couple of weeks after putting the EP out from GQ asking me to do their campaign with Gap.”
“It all sounds really weird but this is just how it happened. I remember thinking to myself this is moving pretty quickly. A couple months after that I had my first headline show and we sold it out twice.
Kojey the Illustrator.
Kojey the Poet
Kojey the Rapper.
Kojey the Creative Director.
Push Crayons is Radical’s creative media agency that he alongside his friend Craig created as a “platform that allowed us to work collectively with someone without locking them into the structure of a collective. It was a way for us to put creative stuff out under an umbrella that wasn’t just based on me and my name. At the moment it operates as a creative agency and within that we have a film and production company.” Most if not All of Kojey’s riveting visuals from Garden Party to Bambu were directed, shot and filmed by Push Crayons.
While making music he was still trying to figure out what sort of artist he wanted to be. Dear Daisy had gained a cult-like following at this point and “it was apparent that the blogs were trying to make me into this bubblegum rapper.” Anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to this man speaks will tell you there is nothing bubblegum about him. Kojey managed to successfully create Dear Daisy while being active in the poetry scene and gaining some love from all those who partook. Is it poetry or rap? I found rhythm inside of poetry.
Following the success of his EP, the Radical released Bambu.
I wonder why we choose to stay in the dark
Like the pigment of Stevie’s vision but some
Love the blind folds of ignorance
Kojey had found the rhythm inside of the poetry stringing together these words alongside a haunting melody and carefully placed snare drum to paint a photo so vivid you couldn’t bare to look away, even for a moment. From debuting Open Hand at the prestigious London art museum The Tate Modern to about 900 people to breaking records for his turnout at his solo shows Kojey is as humble as one of those rappers that walk around the mall handing out demo CDs.
I am no martyr for a message
I’m no better but know better
Following the success of Dear Daisy, Kojey began to work on his sophomore effort. “It was more love based and a lot more instrumentation but subconsciously I knew it was wack."
It wasn’t until he had a conversation with his father about all which he had accomplished over the course of the year and played him the record Kwame Nkrumah, an ode to Ghana’s first president who lead the country to independence, that his father expressed just how proud he was of the work he was doing.
“There’s a lot of children from the Diaspora that don’t know how to connect with their roots. I thought if there was a project that showed both sides and explored all of the topics from a generational standpoint it could work. I scrapped everything I was working on and started 23 Winters."
23 Winters has to be one of the most captivating tales of a young black man simply trying to make sense of it all. His father takes center stage on Mufasa’s Outro as he recalls the moment Ghana gained its independence from Britain. It’s such a heartwarming story. Seriously, I cried on a plane listening to it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Kojey the Illustrator
Kojey the Poet
Kojey the Rapper.
Kojey the Creative Director.
Kojey the Wordsmith.
Kojey the Intellectual.
Kojey the Comedian.
Kojey the Singer ( did I mention the boy can sing? He can. )
Kojey’s 5 fave things right now
1. World Star Hip Hop
2. Broad City
3. Adidas’ Boost technology
4. Fresh juice presses
5. Young M.A’s OOOUUU
Follow him on all the socials @kojeyradical and tell em to put out an R&B album. For the culture.