Kojey Radical is a rare artist – one you imagine will keep evolving, not because he isn’t extraordinarily talented already but because he’s incredibly driven. From writing music, to creating visuals with his avant-garde collective Push Crayons and designing menswear for contemporary independent brand Chelsea Bravo (where he’s creative director), Kojey is a true polymath.
In the last couple of years he’s released two accomplished bodies of work that have put him in a league of his own – 23 Winters (2016) and In God’s Body (2017). The latter is an especially inimitable listen, showcasing the Hoxton born-and-raised artist’s knack for writing meaningful and substantial stuff – in that case, a reflection of sorts on religion – in a way that never feels laborious, while the former earned him two MOBO nominations: Best Newcomer and Best Video (for “Footsteps”).
He’s a man of the people too, with his collaborations running the gamut from similarly forward-thinking newcomers like Obongjayar and Mahalia to UK OGs such as Ghetts and Shola Ama. His talent and affinity within the UK scene has earned him a nickname too – ‘King Kojey’, which he sees as a mark of respect rather than a pedestal to be put on. “It’s not a sense of duty that I feel like I have to take on, because the idea of King comes with a lot of ego,” he said in an interview with us last October. “There’s not one King, do you know what I’m saying?”
In partnership with NTS and YouTube Music, Kojey and I caught up to hear about the musical discoveries that have provided the inspiration for his sound. No two songs he makes are ever the same, so it’s no wonder the palette from which he draws his taste is broad. It also made all the sense that each one of his inspirations had a flair for putting on a show too, since Kojey is someone you have to see live. Follow through here to see his picks on the YouTube Music app.
Noisey: What was the first musical thing – whether an artist, song, album, live performance video – that you can remember someone recommending to you?
Kojey Radical: It was a lot of new jack swing. I remember vividly being given a Tasmanian Devil Walkman as a kid and I had an A-side and B-side of new jack swing – all of the classics were in there. I’m in love with this shit because it was cool, colourful and a vibe.
That was a brief but memorable era, especially with the LeVerts, Keith Sweat and Teddy Riley.
Definitely and because it was so close to hip hop, it’s a style we still celebrate so widely today.
What’s been the most iconic performance you’ve seen?
There’s two. One would be the first concert I ever went to – a Kendrick Lamar show at Electric Ballroom in Camden, and I remember being nervous because it was my first rap show. There was this moment when he slowed everything down and went into this spoken word poetry piece. I remember it as clear as day, everyone being sucked in. It meant something. I was doing spoken word at the time, so to see it being done in a rap context was really, really dope. The second one would probably be a show I saw recently called Misty, and it made me think of interesting ways you can tell a story and incorporate music at the same time.
Who is the best artist that your parents have recommended?
My dad recommended this artist called Amerado and when I got to Accra, he came to the studio where I was working and we just rapped for hours. It was dope meeting and working with someone from my dad’s generation.
What's been the most obscure discovery you've made on your own?
I got into this Christian rock-rap band called Family Force 5 and they had this song called “Love Addict” which was my favourite song at the time. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Tenacious D, Jamie T and indie rock songs. This song came out of nowhere but it’s written in a way where you wouldn’t know it’s a Christian song.
What's a music obsession of yours that you think people would be surprised to know you were into?
I don’t think anybody would be surprised because I listen to everything. But the other day, I found a Brazilian version of “You Make Me Wanna” by Usher and it sent me on a rabbit hole of Latin American music.
Which old artist have you discovered recently, and somewhat belatedly, who you now absolutely love?
Lex Amor. She’s a poet and rapper. She does everything but she hasn’t come out and claimed it all yet. I was going through writer’s block and it was her ability to tell a story and effortless approach to writing that inspired me.
Tell me about an underrated and rare YouTube video by someone very famous.
There’s two, again. Mos Def did a live version of “Say You Will” by Kanye West and it was ten minutes long at a jazz cafe in New York. It was one of the first moments I was eager to hear someone rap for that long on someone else’s song and do it completely different. The other one would be a video called “Lonely” by Amaarae, from Ghana. Her voice is so angelic and piercing, I keep going back to that video.
What’s the first music discovery you made that stands out in your memory?
A Japanese producer who’s since passed called Nujabes. I remember he did the soundtrack for Samurai Champloo. I fell in love with his take on jazz fusion hip hop especially from an Eastern perspective and I remember listening to his album Modal Soul religiously on the way to school.
Is there a release that you would say changed your life?
Yeah, Gil Scott-Heron’s We’re New Here, because it came into my life at a time where I was trying to figure out what to do with poetry and music. With the Jamie xx collaboration his approach to poetry and it being nonlinear was intriguing.
Which three albums accurately capture you as a child, a teenager and an adult?
Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Andre 3000’s The Love Below, and Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool.
The Cool is pretty old now though. Is there a record that you feel defines your adult years?
That one’s more difficult but it has to be good kid, m.A.A.d city.
What remix or sample sits in your mind?
Anything by 808INK. Charmer is easily one of the coldest producers because of his ability to flip a sample. It’s out of this world. He’s been doing this for years too, and he keeps getting colder.
What song have you discovered recently that you want played at your funeral?
Play my song “97” at my funeral and I’ll jump out of the coffin. We’re not done.
Haha. I wouldn’t expect anything other than your own music. What's the strangest genre you've come across, and enjoyed?
I don’t know what to define them as but Bloc Party and that type of sound. I guess it’s rock. When I was in college, they opened my eyes to a whole new world of music.
And what about the worst genre?
Anything screamo, I’m out. I’m not a big fan of house, ‘house’ house, fist pump music – get it out of here.
If someone hands you the aux cord, what’s your go to track?
If I’m trying to get the place hype then I’ll play Blaze YL’s “Boss”. If I’m trying to set a vibe, there’s a girl called Kaiit from Australia, who has a song called “1992”.
You can find Jesse on Twitter.