Kobi Onyame is a British-Ghanaian rapper, currently based in Glasgow. He has released 3 official studio albums under his current stage name. His style is greatly influenced by the Ghanaian highlife sound and he cites British rapper Sway and Kanye West as his idols. Ares Zerunyan caught up with Kobi Onyame before the List Hot 100 Party to talk about his music and artistry.
Ares: [Something different] you did with your album was be careful in the way you released it. You took inspiration from Kanye West with My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy, so you released different versions of the songs that were going to be on your album before the release so when people heard the singles on the album they wouldn’t just skip it.
Kobi Onyame: So the initial idea… the album was ready at the top of the year, in January last year. I could have put it out in January. In the past releasing Green Green Grasses and Gold, I found what happened for me is that the album came and went. The was a lot of hype to this album, comes out on Monday or Friday lots of hype and the next day everyone forgets about it… and I didn’t want that to happen for this album just because I wanted to do a lot more, I wanted growth between the other albums.
To take it a step further, I’ll let you guys know first is that the plan for next year is to put out the visuals. So what I plan to do now is do videos for the song that will have different versions. It means that the videos will be a different mix to what was on the playlist release and the album. And when all the visuals get released next year, I can combine that and turn that into a deluxe version of the album or just keep it as is. It’s the exact same plan as with the album, we’ll be releasing the visuals slowly. I’m super excited, I’m not sure what the first visual is going to be, but it might be ‘Kill the Body’ or ‘Wedadi’. I’ve been speaking to the director last night and it’s crazy! The idea is just sick, I hope we can pull it off, and start throwing it out the same way.
A: You have a strong afrobeat influence in your music and so is this influence from that general west Africa area or other places on the continent, or is it Ghana specifically?
K: The new album Gold is more Ghanaian influence. It’s more highlife influenced music that’s traditionally known to have a lot of horns, a lot of percussion and [similar to] groups like Osibisa. Osibisa were very big in the 60’s. Pat Thomas is another legendary Ghanaian musician, but then also along the region you have Fela Kuti, who’s Nigerian.
Ghanaians and Nigerians are pretty much cousins, but it all comes from the highlife sound which for me is mainly Ghanaian, Nigerian. The new album carries a lot of those undertones, it’s mainly the horn section behind the inspiration, the percussion and also the texture. I find that listening to stuff like Fela Kuti or Osibisa from the 60’s, the music wasn’t clean. The music wasn’t as digitized as it is today and you’d have a room where you’d stick drums and horns together and you’d play and there would be different faults and different mistakes. But it’s just part of the feel of the music and I just wanted to make something that carried that slightly distorted and dirty music. I felt music was going a bit too clean but for me it’s mainly Ghanaian.
A: you’ve got these music videos coming up next year. What does it look like down the line?
K: Great question! It’s weird, it looks like more albums as they come. I don’t like to say when an albums coming. It looks like living a lot more life- using my experiences and what I’ve been able to achieve and also passing it on to someone can actually do more. I’m a bit older now so I just want to look to other artists, help younger artists, whether that be in a management role or even in an advisory role. Just live more life and put out music.
After next year when the visuals are out, it looks like more tours. I’m super excited- one of the reasons [is because] the way I recorded it uses a lot of the highlife influences. Culturally it’s a lot of call and response type of music. In Ghana if you go to the villages, it’s such that when someone sings, the crowd responds. It’s community based music. So I’m excited to get on the road and perform this album as much as possible. I think a lot of people will understand the music more when it’s performed on stage. I think down the road it looks like a lot more shows and music, maybe just getting myself in other roles. A lot of people don’t know I produce, that’s the thing…. I love to produce for other artists and send music out.
Kobi Onyame will be performing at The Poetry Club/SW3G in Glasgow on December 2, 2017 and The Waiting Room in London, 1 February 2018. His most recent studio album Gold is out now.