Kojey Radical is a rare and prolific talent. Defying the norms of modern artistic progression, Kojey has calved out an incredible space for himself in music and culture. Kojey is known for bringing us moments of joy, introspection and healing through his very open and honest music. His abilities as a wordsmith make his audience feel enthralled and connected to his perspective and sound. Musically he is creative, experimental and unapologetic. It’s truly is no wonder Kojey has developed a dedicated audience of committed fans through his timeless and distinct sound.
His album is vibrant, energetic and carefully thought through with each track and element of sound lending itself beautifully to this audio experience. Kojey is a creative by nature an authentic artist who oozes culture and connectivity. We sat with Kojey to talk about his journey so far, the album, what the future holds and much more.
So if we start with the project, from the very beginning… Beat selection! The production on this is vast and diverse. How did you approach selecting beats, what is that process like for you?
“That’s difficult to say because normally I wouldn’t select beats. I don’t even like selecting beats. I just like it being made but because of the pandemic, I had started two of the songs at home. That was “Silk” and “Solo”. I remember being on Instagram live pretty much every day just interacting with fans, telling people to send me music and I’m just gonna record songs on Instagram live. Namali from Blue lab Beats came on, he said that he had a beat pack for me, so he sent me the pack. I was listening to it and the last song was the beat for “Silk”.
“I was just rapping it on Instagram live. Literally, just more or less on the spot, I was freestyling and then midway through I just cut the live off. Then I sent it to Masego and he sent me back a verse in like two hours. And I was like… maybe this is a bit too good. I remember texting my team, then shortly after that I started the album. But I think what stood out to me about that beat was that it didn’t sound like a beat, I don’t really like beats. It’s very rare that I’ll get a beat and like it.”
The project is very interesting because sonically it’s very cohesive, how did you manage to weave the project together musically?
“Well, I had Swindle and KZ on executive production. They are two people that have been working with me for so long that I think they just get it, they know what I sound good on and what I don’t sound good on. They know the fact that I’m willing to try 15 things to get to one, so they’re patient with me. Where that cohesion comes from?
“Swindle always says to me, “You’ve got to remember, you’re the connecting dot”. If you put this song, next to this song it may not make sense but you are the connecting dot. You just have to remember who you are before going into any song, and it will be what you want it to be. So I can’t even really argue with him on that.”
How did you tackle the storytelling element of the project in terms of the order, is that kind of thing important to you?
“You’ve got to be a special kind of deranged to go into an album and press shuffle. As in, you shouldn’t even be allowed to have accounts on any of these platforms anymore. They should ban you for life. The order of songs is imperative, music in album form is the closest thing we have to an audiobook, or just a movie that you can’t see visually, you can only hear. If you’re not being taken through all the beats, and the pacing that a script would, or a story or a novel would, then you kind of just throws songs together. Essentially, it’s not even an album anymore. It’s just a playlist.
“I think, there’s a culture for that whole playlist thing. But then just drop your playlist. That’s no need to make a big song and dance if you haven’t really thought about what order it is or why it exists that way. You know for me, I wanted to make sure we carried on from Cashmere Tears energy-wise. But also message-wise almost trying to figure out where was next.
“For me, it was after a song like “Last Night” from Cashmere Tears. It was about me finding my bravado in the beginning. Then reality slowly comes creeping back in. It’s having to build up all of the things that you would face on a day to day basis. But yeah, it was definitely intentional.”
This is a big moment for you in your career. I’ve read elsewhere that this is the first time you have completed a project to the scale at which you see yourself capable. Where do you hope this album positions you after people get to take it in properly?
“I think for the most part during my career, I’ve been the type of person that doesn’t deliberately try and come into the spotlight. I make music, because I make art. My intention is to be the artist, to be behind the painting and let the painting speak for itself. Stepping into this album it’s like a part of me knows I have to step in front of the image a little bit and let people know who I am.
“I’ve always had the respect and the appreciation of my peers. But it needs translating that to a wider audience, so that way people don’t always have to go straight to the underrated thing. I think it’s more about appreciating it for what it is, rather than how many people haven’t seen it.”
And do you think you are underrated?
“Nah, because you know, I’m the kind of person to put things on myself. I can’t blame anything on anyone else, other than myself. When I got into music my intention wasn’t to be a big arse rapper or anything. I just wanted to make music. So my goal wasn’t to be seen in that way, it was to just execute my vision the best way I could. If I want to not be considered underrated, then I got to go harder. That’s what it is for me.
“If someone came to me saying they were underrated or whatever I would say just stop bellyaching, go hard and go again. I don’t think of it that way. I just go, if people do think I’m underrated, chances are it’s either one or two things. It’s a lack of vocabulary to say, I like this and I wish more people like this. Or it’s like I rate this so highly and again, it’s lacking the language to just be able to say I appreciate this.
“Everyone wants something to be underrated. When stuff is underground and you know about the brand or whatever it’s your ting. It’s the best thing in the world. As soon as you step outside and everybody’s rocking it It’s played out. So I’m constantly trying to sit in the middle of that. I don’t wanna get rinsed.”
I’ve read this project is a musical love letter to all of your influences…Who are those influences?
“It’s crazy the people I had around me during the album making process. Goats that understand what I’m trying to do. People also appreciate the fact that I’m trying to do it differently. I think part of that love letter is the appreciation of that. Wretch happens to be on the album, but Wretch was around because he just wanted to be a guiding figure. He was just in the studio with man just making sure I was staying focused and I was on the right track. I’d get on the phone with Ghetts all the time and just talk about his album process and what he went through and all that kind of stuff.
“While I was getting into the idea that we were making an album I was also on tour with Kano. All of these people, I essentially grew up on their music and their sound, but also I grew up on on a lot of southern Hip Hop, and a lot of Blues and Soul, some Ska music, and a little bit of Indie. I grew up on so many things when I was trying to discover who I was as a teenager, what I liked, and my sense of identity was that. The range of influence goes from everything: Ghetts, Wretch, Kano to Justice League productions, Pharell to DMX. There’s literally a shout out to Manga on the album. Manga for me has been one of those artists that I’ve consistently seen, represent, whether it was appreciated or not.
“Those little things are what help drive you forward as an artist when you’re looking at people’s careers and again, actually, it’s just about not stopping, because if you don’t stop, you’ll be here forever. So there are loads of influences on the album.”
Now you mention peers just being around in the studio, which brings us onto collaborations. How do you pick who goes on a song? Did you already know who you wanted to work with on your album or did you send stuff around?
“No! I never send. The only thing that got sent was obviously the international feature. But no, we gotta get in. I’ve been in the scene now for long enough to know everyone before everyone knew who everyone was. You know, we were all on the same open mic circuits we were doing the same acoustic events. We were hustling for the same SoundCloud reposts back in the day. Being able to just get on the phone and say, Yo, come down to my camp and Ego comes down, or Wretch comes down, or Shae comes down… all the producers came down.
“The track with Knucks we made at Swindle’s camp. There’s so much that happens in a studio session that’s like, they’re just magic moments that can’t really even be labelled as a feature. Maverick Sabre and Emmavie are on the album, singing background vocals on a disco song… How does that make sense?
“Only I can do that. Only me. I am him. So when it comes to the music-making process, it’s literally like giving a kid crayons. Just saying draw what you want. And whatever comes out, comes out. There are people that were around during the album making process that have leant their spirits to certain songs that might not necessarily even be down as a feature. It’s just that connected point of everybody genuinely loving music and wanting to make some dope shit.”
That translates very well too. So, Sticking on the lines of your creative community, How important is it for you to give advice and support to emerging artists?
“I think the honour is, people caring about your opinion. Because there’s so much influence that’s happening daily. You know, there are new people that command that attention in that way. I always think to myself, do people even care what I’ve got to say? But at the same time, the new generation is going to be what they’re going to be, so the best thing to do is to help guide that and nurture that.
“I’m a believer that we’re ultimately just here, any creative anyway, to contribute to art, and what art is and all the umbrellas of it. It’s gonna keep going with or without us. But let’s see if we can contribute. If we can add something to it, then we’re helping them move forward.
“For me, that is the same thing when it comes to helping the new generation, or just sitting down talking to people whether it’s like kids on the estate, somebody trying to make a mixtape, someone with 200 monthly listeners on Spotify that I just found on a random shuffle… I’m just the type of person that will reach out before anyone because I can hear or see the potential.
“I know I didn’t immediately get that my career. My shit was weird, people didn’t really get it. So I didn’t get that guidance at first. It took me a while to earn that. So I like to make sure I help out… a lot more than the people might even know. I don’t even mind that stuff being behind the scenes.”
Do you know or appreciate what it is that you represent in “The Culture”?
“I don’t know because I’m just living and breathing in the now. When people say it to me, I go, okay. I just get on with it. Because I’ve never thought about it. I’ve never made it the goal of what I do. I’ve just tried to be myself as much as possible. And I think being yourself nowadays is easier said than done. We’re in an age where everybody wants to fit in, and everybody wants to be included and assimilate. I think going against the grain has always been my biggest challenge. But then also, the biggest lesson I can give to anybody is just don’t be afraid to carve your own path because, however long it takes at the end of the day, it’s yours. It’s your journey it’s your story, your moment.
“For example me and Little Simz go back to when we were like 11/12. I remember seeing her perform at Hackney Empire, back in these times I wasn’t even doing music, I was doing dance. So to see that journey from as young as that age through to becoming a young teenager, still spitting doing mixtapes, EP’s, album, album.. to now getting her flowers. No one can’t show me a road longer than that. Well, that I’ve seen personally. And now when it’s time to get her flowers is the biggest bouquet in the world because of the time and the graft. So as much as I inspire people, there are people that are my peers that I’m surrounded by that I’ve seen and I’m inspired by them. So everyone’s just following footsteps.”
Where do you think your level of introspection comes from?
“Where did that come from? Fuck Knows…..I think, that everybody talks about this stuff anyway, on a day to day, and then we get to our art, or what we consume, and we forget about it. I’ve always just been a person that talks about life. So like, let’s say if there’s something deeply affecting me or deeply affecting somebody around me or my family or whatever. I’m going to be conscious of that. And figure out a way to now make that part of the healing process, because music is healing you.
“Even down to talking about mental health and depression and states of anxiety and stuff. I’ve been through that, but coming out the other side of that, having conversations with friends of mine or family members and knowing what they’re going through, it makes it more important for me to put them in the music. Just like making specific efforts to reference the struggles of blackness, in particular black women, and make them part of my art in a way that’s real.
“I just hate false allyship, either you’re down or you’re not down. Get in or get out. So as much as a pat on the back for everything would be nice. It’s not why I do it. And that’s just what I keep going back to. I do this because it’s important to me, and it’s what I want my art to represent. I want people to understand that of me as an artist when they listen, and they’re trying to figure out who or what I am or where to position me. I don’t mind being over here in this corner. But I know I’m not alone. I know there are so many other people that are doing this, adding a new level of introspection to their work that makes the topics more important.
“I think it’s just delivering it to people in a way that makes them want to listen too. I could have done a song about mental health in a very sombre tone but instead, I did “Can’t Go Back”. I made it essentially like a celebration song. Because there are moments where you realise that your music is a part of peoples lives, rather than just something that they’ve heard. Looking out into crowds of people and seeing some people literally in tears, singing that chorus as bright and as happy as it is, is because there’s a joy in that pain. There’s a joy in that overcoming that makes the music a lot more sincere.
“Now, It’s very easy to rhyme words about your chain, or your cars, or the bando. There’s a million random words, you can get a song done in about 20 to 40 minutes without even thinking about it. Just talk about some hoes. Just talk about, I don’t know watches and stuff and it’s like Bish bash Bosh done. Bob’s your uncle and it works. It’s guaranteed to work, it’s worked a million times. But at the same time for everybody now doing that there’s like, two, three a year that stand out.
“Out of the hundreds of thousands of people doing it. So what is going to make you stand out, what is it going to take to make people care once they’ve even heard you? There’s a lot of music I hear that I like. I want to sing about hoes and watches too? I do, I love that shit. That’s a good 30% of most of my playlists, just fuckery I love it. Is it going in my pot when I’m cooking my stew? No way. Will, I eat at your restaurant, maybe.”
So should we go and download the project?
“I think if you’re an enjoyer of music, in particular, black music and want to be taken on a journey, you’ve got that from start to finish. I think if culturally you have complaints, and you wish you saw more X, Y and Z from the UK, and you feel like everything sounds the same, you can press play on this and understand that it doesn’t.
“I think in terms of actually supporting it and buying there’s a lot to be said with the way that people view making alternative styles of hip-hop when it comes to the UK and how far it’s going to go. And I think one by one things are appearing and changing that conversation. Whether it’s Dave, Little Simz or Slowthai. There’s an upsurge in how this music is being received and how well it’s being supported. So actually getting out there and making sure that people know that is imperative. So if you are going to stream it, buy it as well, especially first week. I would love a top 10 and if I don’t get one I will cuss, so I think everybody should just make a young boy’s dream true.”
You mentioned wanting the album to go top 10. At this point in your career, do you have still have ambitions and milestones that you would quite like to do aside from the artistic fulfilment…what would be nice to have?
“I just keep saying put me in the game coach. I love everything. For the scene for UK Music, I see how well all my peers are doing. And I’m there like you’re just put me in a game coach. Let me play a couple of matches, let me show what I can do. Because there’s still so much untapped potential that everybody can see in terms of what I’m capable of doing.
“I know a lot of people want to see me acting. I know a lot of people want to see me writing. Putting out poetry books. There’s so much that I think once I’ve released this album, it’s gonna give me the freedom to be able to do those things and keep growing this empire in a different way where that’s a little bit more visible, that has a little bit more light on it. So yeah, fingers crossed.”