Kojey Is Still The One

Words: Yemi Abiade

As fluid as the UK music scene continues to be, no one occupies their position quite like Kojey Radical. The East London poet, rapper, visual artist and proud Ghanaian has morphed from his humble beginnings laying down poetry over aggressive soundscapes to become a master of his domain as one of the best rappers of his generation. Refusing to be boxed into the ‘poet’ category, he has continued to be daring in his execution while never losing his essence of producing bodies of work that benefit the culture, recognising his purpose to enlighten, to educate and to be successful without compromise.

When Kojey entered the scene with his debut EP, Dear Daisy: Opium, in 2014, he resembled no one else. Serving up stanzas that unapologetically looked outward to the Black experience—inspired in no small part by the work of esteemed UK wordsmith Suli Breaks—he channelled the fervour of Malcolm X in musical form. Through projects like 2016’s 23Winters and 2017’s In God’s Body, he produced sprawling opus after sprawling opus of unabashed prose steeped in topics of love, hate, politics, race, youth and manhood. He would eloquently break down the systemic injustices dealt to Black people with his commanding vocals, transporting listeners to an otherworldly dystopia of chaos and disorder, but never too astray from reality.

With eloquence, the 28-year-old lamented the lack of care for Black lives in In God’s Body opener “Utopia”: “If a nigga kills a nigga, that’s one more nigga for the profit, one less one less body in a prison, one less one less story ‘bout a victim.” His vocal energy met the innovative imagery of music videos for “Gallons” and “Open Hand”, with Kojey often leading an army of would-be revolutionaries physically enacting change. Each are mini movies speaking to upheaval, a shaking of a system in which Black people are seen as inferior, materialism is rife and injustice all too common. Despite such visceral music, which in no way leant itself to the bright lights of the mainstream, Kojey’s commercial stature ballooned, notching up partnerships with the likes of Adidas, ASOS and more as his brand started to shine. Not to mention three MOBO nominations to his name so far in his career. But having the freedom to express himself unapologetically would continue to manifest.

2019 project Cashmere Tears began to display an element of versatility in him as his focus shifted towards refining his bars. Lyrically, he had unleashed another side of himself that could put him on par with some of the best new generation spitters around, a skill that continues to soar with every release. Trading his free form delivery for tighter flows—the title track of Cashmere Tears a shining example of this elevation—Kojey has condensed his previous work into a punchier package, unlocking a new layer of his artistry, all for the purpose of finding comfort in his art for himself and his fans. No musical statement Kojey makes ever feels bloated or overwrought; his composure and poise in constructing his art has only amped up in recent years.

This artist’s genius lies in the fact that you can never guess his next move; he could be demanding social change in one instance then, at a stroke, go bar for bar with the likes of Ghetts, Che Lingo and Loyle Carner the next. In a scene where a number of artists hone in on what works for them, forsaking a level of balance in their music, Kojey is adaptable. He seems to be having fun with it in the present day, but the more things change, the more they stay the same, and recent drops “2FS” and “Woohaa” prove that he continues to retain that outspoken, militant steez that has absorbed the scene since 2014.

A full-length album, whenever it drops, would be the next piece of his puzzle—a screenshot of his current state and a declaration that he is here to take over. But he has still done a great deal to uplift his voice. Shaking off labels such as ‘conscious’ and ‘alternative’ that threatened to limit him in the beginning, Kojey Radical has become a renaissance man—capable of delivering an immersive listening experience whatever mode he’s in—all while staying true to himself.

Posted on July 20, 2021