Kojey Radical is all about making connections.
Catching him live – like on the VEVO Stage at The Great Escape, for example – is an explosion of charismastic ideas, a union between audience and performer. It’s a conversation, for sure.
Earlier, we had a conversation of another kind. Sitting down with Kojey Radical, we spoke about his influences, his techniques, and his early love of comic books.
“Still got all my signed pieces there,” he grins. “I don’t get a chance to go to as many conventions as I did when I was a kid, but I still have a massive love for comic books.”
It’s something we share; comic books place frame by frame on one page, making each reader experience something unique. How we fill the spaces between the frames belongs to us, and there’s more than a hint of this in Kojey’s own work.
“Music allows me to communicate with a larger audience quicker than art would have,” he muses at one point. “I feel like that with hard work and patience you can achieve anything, so with hard work and patience my art would have allowed me to get to this point, but you can reach more people faster with music. Always.”
“I think actually once I’d figured that out, that this is just another art form, another way of communicating, then that’s the best chance you have of using your music to really communicate something. Something real.”
And Kojey has certainly been connecting. The ‘23WINTERS’ and ‘IN GOD’S BODY’ projects elevated his art to a new level, sparking an incredible series of live shows that took him all the way to Johannesburg and Accra.
“Last year was crazy!” he exclaims. “I did everywhere – Russia, Australia, New Zealand. This year I think we’ve got some things planned more towards the winter.”
“We wanted to focus on making sure we can get the festivals done this time. Which has been fun – I’ve booked some great festivals, and that’s going to be sick because I don’t really go to festivals unless I’m performing. So it’s nice to go to some of the ones I actually want to go to.”
Right now, though, Kojey Radical is focussed entirely on the music. Recently heading into the studio for a number of collaborations, new single ‘Water’ finds the London artist crossing swords with vocalist Mahalia and producer Swindle.
“It’s probably one of my most favourite records to work on,” he admits. “Swindle is on a different level of genius, to the point where I don’t think he is even aware of how far it can go. Which is crazy because he says the same things about me, and I think it just makes a very dangerous combination.”
“We’ve definitely got more on the way,” Kojey continues. “I try not to make any collaboration just a fleeting moment. Anyone I collaborate with I’ve got a working relationship with, and we end up making a few records, it’s just that what people end up hearing is a different story.”
Still barely out of her teens, the Leicester vocalist made a huge impression on Kojey Radical. “Mahalia is amazing,” he smiles. “She’s probably one of my closer friends in music. In terms of just being able to chat to someone and call someone and just find out if they’re OK. Legitimately, it’s that kind of vibe. Mahalia’s just good spirits.”
“I’ve actually been a fan of hers for about four years, but we’ve only really been speaking for the past six months. She’s crazy young. Which sometimes I forget because of how mature she is when she speaks.”
Kojey’s work ethic means that he is perpetual motion, forever visiting the studio to lay down something new. “Constantly,” he says. “I started ‘IN GOD’S BODY’ maybe two days after I finished ‘23 WINTERS’. I never really take breaks.”
“I think, as an artist each project takes something away from you. You can work on it until you die. I remember when I would paint people would have to physically take the canvas off the easel before I’d stop… I’d just keep painting! And that’s the same with music, I find.”
A multi-disciplinary artist – he’s also involved heavily in the fashion and design world – Kojey Radical wants to embrace music’s many dimensions. “I feel like at some point there’s got to be something introduced that really re-focusses how we look at how we interact with music,” he explains. “I feel like some things are for a purpose.”
“For example, if I’m just releasing a single I’m not going to make it a convoluted experience, you can just listen to it. But I think if I’ve gone out of my way to create something I think the future of my releases will be more about how do we physically include people in the experiences. I think that’s my next step.”
The exact details of this step, though, is something he’s a little more reserved about. “I’m working on something special,” shrugs. “Album is a very strong word. It’s the ‘a’ word in music. With an album, mentally I have to be so much more confident than with an EP or a project. I feel like you can rest on that. You can rest on the fact that it’s just an EP or it’s just a project. Even if it’s great.”
“Once you’re assigned the ‘a’ word it’s like… make or break, really. That’s the one everyone starts judging you off. You can have eight great EPs, or eight amazing mixtapes but one bad album and everything’s like…”
His voice trails off, and the sentence ends almost with a sigh. We can’t help but think Kojey Radical is simply being hard on himself, though; given the supreme excellence that drives ‘23WINTERS’ and ‘IN GOD’S BODY’, the ‘a’ word is another challenge he can turn to his own impulses.
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