Exclusives Interviews 28 May 2024

Sarkodie talks ‘The Championship’ EP, fatherhood, Africa’s next gen & more

28 May 2024

As December 25th approached, the holiday season was bestowed upon us as the massesaround the world joined for celebration. In Ghana, it was the date stamped for the return of a living legend, as Tema’s very own Sarkodie entered Accra for the rebirth edition of his annual Rapperholic concert.

On a night which revisits 2012’s iconic body of work, it’s also an opportunity to showcase the promising potential the Black Star’s next generation behold, as they look to tread the same hallowed footsteps as Sarkodie.

Longevity breeds success if you stay passionate and consistent with your talents, this blueprint has kept Sarkodie’s mindset ahead of his competitors as he returns to his hip-hop roots for an eagerly anticipated summer. Bolstering a strong fanbase dubbed the Sark Nation, it’s been used as a motivational tool for his latest project The Championship Mixtape. In his words, “What I’m known for is hip-hop. I felt like if I had some hip-hop records, why not give it to the fans?”

Ahead of his mixtape release, Sarkodie has unfolded another gem in his new single “Brag”, which serves as a reminder of where the culture shift commenced and how he has so much to still offer musically.

We spoke to the Ghanaian king on the process of The Championship Mixtape, fatherhood, the next generation of African artists ready to go global and much more.

How are you finding your experience in London so far?

“Great as always, it’s work mode and it makes sense that I’m out here.”

Tell us about The Championship Mixtape, what can listeners expect to feel when they listen to the project?

“Literally like the artwork, it’s all fire! It’s giving back to my core fanbase, Sarknation. They always love it when I rap. It’s about giving my core fanbase what they want.”

What made you come up with the title for the mixtape?

“It was one production on the tape that made it feel like a championship. When you hear a sound and all you think about is the grand finale. That birthed the energy for the project.”

You’ve not released a body of work since Jamz in 2022, why is now the right time to drop something new?

“When I feel like it, I just drop it! I just have to feel it. I wanted to put something out that made sense. Especially coming from Jamz, those were super commercial. What I’m known for is hip-hop. I felt like if I had some hip-hop records, why not give it to the fans?”

You’ve been in music for over a decade now, what would you say is the key to success and longevity when making music a career choice?

“Loving what you do and the passion for it. It has nothing to do with records or awards, it’s just that I love music. That is my number one push. I think if that is your focus, it’s hard for it to be broken. I love the art of writing, listening to my music and listening to others. The passion for it organically makes you relevant. I don’t think there’s a plan to staying consistent. If you love something, you’re definitely going to be consistent with it.”

Do you find any differences when working on a mixtape opposed to an album?

“I don’t really see differences because I don’t approach any project like I’m about to do it. I’ve never been successful saying ‘I’m about to record a project’. It never works. I will just be there and realise something is happening. There will be a certain energy and I’ll be recording a certain type of music. That will tell me an album is happening. I’ve never woke up and planned it.”

When it comes to creating a new song, what is your musical process? Do you hear a sound or is there a topic prior when entering the studio?

“Both ways. Mostly, in the past five years it’s me being moved by production. The music has to be made already, then I’m inspired to write. When I didn’t have access to producers or money to go studio, that’s when you write a lot in your head. Now, I’ll have the track sent to me. The beat will tell me what to say. I always go to the studio when I’m about to finish what I’ve done. That means I’ve written, practiced and now I’m sure I can go studio. I go there when I’m ready to record. I don’t go to the studio that much, I stay in my room, or write in a car when driving around. By the time I get to the studio, I have to be very sure that I have the basis of what I want to do.”

You’ve previously performed at the O2, Kentish Forum in London. How does the atmosphere from a U.K crowd compare to those from different continents?

“I think the U.K is not far from the feel back home in Ghana and Africa in general. Even with bashment, we can relate because it’s dance music. When I perform here, it’s not that different and the energy is as great as Ghana! There are people who understand afrobeats. It used to be the states because I do hip-hop but if we’re talking about turned up crowds, it has to be London!”

I want to touch on Ghana and Christmas day saw your iconic Rapperholic – The Rebirth concert. How was this moment for yourself?

“You know it’s been an amazing 10 years. Rapperholic was an album, and I was doing an album launch and that became a ritual every year that I had to do. I launched the album on 25th December and it was a success where people called for a show. I made it something annual. Just being alive and still having people pull up and buy tickets to feel the place is a big thing to me. When we marked the 10 years, we had another plan to celebrate it. We are about to go on another decade journey. We did the exhibition and a few pop-ups. Every year has new emerging artists and it’s a platform that they all want to be on. I thank God for that. Every artist that is out that year performs on that stage.”

What are your thoughts on the next generation of African artists making it internationally?

“The beauty of the music journey is that every generation is going to do better that the one before. What we have done will make sense when the next generation push the culture further. When the conversation go further, Sarkodie will be mentioned as one of the people that also was in there. It’s just getting started! When I see what Black Sherif and Rema are doing, you can just only imaging what’s about to happen in the next two-three years. I’m super excited.”

What moment in your career has brought you the most happiness?

“When I had my kids. First my daughter and then my son. These two times in my life made me appreciate everything. Your ego comes in as a rapper where you want to win awards but when I had my kids, I realised what is more important in life. I’m super proud of that moment. I thank rap for giving me an opportunity to take care of these kids. That moment when they came into my life, no award can be compared to that. That’s the biggest highlight of my life.”

How do you find the balance with fatherhood and music?

“When my daughter came, I blacked out! I was so into her that nothing else mattered. It got very serious when I was being booked to go on tour. I started to think how long am I going to be away? I wanted to cancel it was that serious. I then realised the same person you’re so into has to be proud of you, so you have to get back on the road. It affected me in different ways, even how you write and the things you want to say. You want to be responsible for what you are saying. I used to get away with a lot of lyrics but now you can’t! she’s very inquisitive so will ask everything that I say. It puts me in check when I’m writing.”

What do you think of the current U.K talent out there?

“It’s great. I’m an old soul and I’m always stuck in time. I’ve been stuck on Giggs for a very long time! That sound. He has been one of my favourites. Everybody has their strength. My strength has always been about delivery and flow. Giggs’s delivery for me, I’ve never seen someone do it that smooth and actually sound so dope. I hosted him in Ghana, we went to have food and he’s a person with great energy. I think he doesn’t take music too seriously as other artists. He’s a real person. He focuses on being him rather than a celebrity. That’s what I like about him. He’s also about his kids. I see a lot of similarities when I see him. I now understand why I liked him before meeting him. I could sense the energy. I’m a big Giggs fan!”

What has been the best advice given to you throughout your career?

“It was an OG in Ghana. I think a highlife musician. He said I should grow before my fans outgrow me. You have to grow, and they catch up with you! They see you as someone who knows something, so you have to always be ahead in what you’re doing. Don’t wait and be comfortable till your fans outgrow whatever you’re doing. You have to be 10 steps ahead.”

Talking about fans, music will always change. How do you keep your music staying relevant with your supporters?

“I stay true to myself. The sound is always changing. I love music, so even if it’s changing, it’s still music and I love it. I don’t criticise new sounds. I can jump on it and still be myself. The only thing hard for me is to dumb it down! I came from an era where you had to say a lot. I try to find a way where I still say a lot and still appeal to the new crowd. I can change my sound a bit, but I don’t lose myself totally.”

Finally, what advice do you have for those that are trying to make a career in music?

“Take it very serious. Not just music, whatever you’re doing. It can only make sense when you take it serious. You have to be stubborn about it. Nobody can tell you how you’re going to make it. You are the only person that sleeps at night and sees what you see. Not even Sarkodie can tell you what you are going to do! You have to be very stubborn about your own dream. It takes a lot of discipline and sacrifice to be able to get it. You can have it in and out, but you have to be all out to make it. Whether good or bad, if you put a lot of energy into it, something is going to come out of it.”

Sarkodie’s latest single “Brag” is out now on all digital and streaming platforms.