Kwoli Black Is Shifting Expectations Of UK Rap

“I make music for people that like music...”

Hackney-raised, alternative hip-hop rapper, Kwoli Black, recently released his single, ‘Cotch Freestyle’ and is a reflective and heartfelt track, with Kwoli flexing throughout and contemplating some of the highlights from the past year including supporting Kojey radical on his UK tour and recently selling out his headline show.

His introspective and unique approach to rap, showcases his versability and ability to blend elements, shifting expectations of UK Rap. During this conversation, he speaks about his latest single, ‘Cotch Freestyle’, his inspirations and his upcoming project.

A lot of your music is quite poetic. Would you say spoken word and poetry is what most inspired you to start making music?

Yeah spot on. Started off as a poet and spoken word artist and then made the transition to rapping. I’ve never really lost that approach I guess.

What do you want people to think when they hear the name ‘Kwoli Black’?

I want them to think ‘he makes music’. That’s it. Someone asked me the other day, what kind of music do you make and I said, “I make music for people that like music”.

What inspired ‘Cotch Freestyle’?

I was in a period of reflection over the new year. This is probably what set it up. I was in the Dominican Republic on holiday, with my boy, reflecting on the year I had, supporting Kojey Radical on tour, supporting him on festivals, being invited to certain dinners and certain events, and having certain interactions, and I was like this is really fun. I became friends with Kojey start of last year, and just being invited into certain rooms and certain spaces, the universe started to speak, and people started to find out who I was, and I was getting invited to events with Puma, Gucci, and I became a Converse brand ambassador too, and everyone’s asking me “What’s going on?’, and I genuinely didn’t know. But you don’t question blessings. Everything started flowing, and I started writing. I was listening to ‘Middle of the Ocean’ by Drake and I started rapping over it. As I started talking, I thought let me start talking about everything that’s been happening, and I just started flexing, not in a braggy way but in a real way. This is the life I’ve lived in the last 12 months.

You collaborated with Lex Amor last year on ‘Wake Up’. How did that collaboration come about?

Again I don’t know haha! I met her in March last year at Kojey Radical’s launch party, and I just told her that I’d love to work with her one day, and ‘one day’ was the main thing. She told me to email her if I had anything I wanted to work on, and a month after that I made the hook for ‘Wake Up’. My producer was like ‘You good?’, and I was like, ‘No…but that doesn’t matter’, because the song isn’t a happy song, it’s quite a heavy song. And so I took the hook, and let it guide me, then I wrote the verse, recorded the verse, and was like Lex Amor would sound amazing on this. I sent an email and got no response, and the hook at the time didn’t sound the way it sounds now. So I went to the studio again with my producer JSTRNGS and his brother.

ATG Music and ATG was like, you need to drink, in order to get this hook done properly. The emotion really needs to come out and you just need to not care about what you’re saying and how. Then I put it on my story, “Lex Amor I need you on this one” and I @’ed her, and she slid into the DM and told me to send that. She sent her verse two weeks later and it was perfect.

What’s the first UK project that influenced you the most?

Wretch 32, ‘Black and White’. That’s what made me want to write. I was like, “I want to rap one day… I never did, but one day”.

What’s the creative process like when you’re making music?

Before I go to the usually I’m usually vibing to stuff in my head, like I’m vibing to the melody I’ve recorded, I’ve written stuff down, and I go the studio and I explain it to my producer and because me and JSTRNGS have such synergy, it’s so easy. I can hum something out and he’ll get it. If we have to do a couple takes then we’ll do that and if we have to redo the beat then we’ll redo the beat. And usually when we’re laying it down, I’ll start rapping over it. Maybe I’ll rewrite the verse or change some words and eventually we have the song. But I’ve found that when we have a good song already, it’s very quick. We go in, the beat gets made, the song gets recorded, and we leave. ‘Cotch Freestyle’ was done in one take.

What’s your favourite part of this process and about being an artist generally?

Just seeing everything come together. From the production to the words flowing on the beat and how it sounds when the whole song is done. Getting the song done is my favourite part. My favourite part about being an artist is performing live. I love it, I feel like I’m at home when I perform live, it’s the best feeling.

Speaking of shows, you recently supported Kojey Radical’s sold out show at Brits Week and had your headline show, are there any plans for another performance or show?

No unfortunately. I had my first ever headline show two weeks ago, we sold out! It was a really good moment for me, for friends who helped me. But nothing is coming up right now, I’m really just focusing on my project.

If there’s any artist in the world that you could interview, who would you choose? You can only pick one.

Tyler, the Creator. He’s my favourite artist, and I feel like it would be a very funny conversation.

Tell me a bit about your upcoming project (not sure how much you can say), but what can we expect from it?

Real music. This is hard food not fast food. But also, you can expect to pay attention. The whole premise and idea behind this project is to make people pay attention, like they have to tap in. they have to hear me after this one. I’ve been on the precipice of being known, not blowing, but just being known for a while, but after this one… yeah.

Words: Yohanna Delaportas

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