Entertainment of 2014-02-26

Interview: Doing hip hop in Ghana is not easy - A J Nelson

A J Nelson, an artiste making an impact in Ghana’s hip-hop industry, tells NEWS-ONE’s Francis Addo that surviving in an industry that hardly recognizes hip-hop musicians is not easy.
According to him, rapper Sarkodie had the street to himself but he is not doing enough to win everybody’s heart by singing about “positive stuff,” to influence the youth positively.
You have a good sense of fashion.
Hahaha , they call me ‘Kente Boy’ because the songs I do or my style of music is called hip-hop soul and it has value in the sense that it talks about positive stuff, encouraging, uplifting the youth to do positive stuff. Anything that has value is cherished and Kente is one of the highest cloths in Africa and the world, if I am not wrong. I think Kente and my music have something in common. That why I try to add a touch of Kente to promote African print and try to be different.
How is the music journey going?
Right now I am enjoying myself. It has not been easy, it is hard. In life there are ups and downs, so it is normal. But everything looks positive now.
How long have you been doing music?
Professionally, I will say since 2008 when President Obama came to Ghana. I will say I am in my fifth year now. I was part of a welcome song recorded for Obama by Okyeame Kwame, Madfish, Richie, Asem, OJ Blaq, Irene Logan, and Tinny. After that I went on to release my single, ‘Same Girl.’
What struggles did you go through?
Sometimes you get so frustrated and feel like quitting when you put out material and you are not hearing it. You expect the radio to be playing your song and you don’t hear it. And I don’t have the budget to be walking around and paying every DJ to play my song like some other colleagues do. I think I am trying. I am still trying but I am still not being heard. I mean the way I should be, it is not happening and it’s getting frustrating. Basically, that’s what it is. Aside that I am cool doing music.
Tell us about your works.
I have more than six singles in my upcoming albums. The album is called ‘Soul Food’ because my music has soul. What I mean is my music is the food for the soul. I released my second single, ‘Faith’ in 2012 and followed it up with ‘Won’t Give Up’ featuring Kesse the same year, as well as ‘Enemy’ featuring Jupiter and Ajalo. Last year (2013) November, I came out with ‘One to love you’ featuring Lady J. My latest single is ‘So In Love’ featuring Jay Ghartey.
What inspires A J Nelson?
Nature and God. Musically I would say 2Pac. I believe he put up more positive music out there. So we still enjoying him and we can’t forget him. 2Pac is still around even though he is dead.
Who is A J Nelson then?
I am just a young dude who hails from the Brong Ahafo Region but based in Accra and a hip-hop artiste. I am also an activist who believes in the future of Africa and believes in the youth as well.
How was growing up like?
It was lively. I enjoyed childhood days because I am my father’s first born child. He is a Muslim and Muslims treat their first born children special. They don’t play with them. Even though he was not rich, the little that he had, he shared among my siblings and I. So it was beautiful growing up. I grew up in the village.
What is your impression about the music industry?
What I am doing now, if I was doing it in Nigeria or even Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, I would have been a superstar by now because they understand hip-hop. They have grown enough, musically. They know what it is. They love their music; for instance, the francophone music, but they love and respect all other genres of music. In Ghana we only respect high-life musicians. Hip-hop is here but it is not here. It is here because the younger folk in the schools are listening to Lil Wayne etc and are enjoying it so they are making us feel like we are part of the industry. But the older folks who are sitting in the comfort of their house are not buying into our hip-hop music.
Why?
It is because they think we have nothing to say. But I have listeners. Okyeame Kwame has listeners. Manifest has listeners. Sarkodie has listeners, to some extent. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a green light for everyone to start saying that I am saying Sarkodie doesn’t make sense in his music. I am feeling Sarkodie because he really threw some light on contemporary hip-hop that we do in Ghana. When he went to BET, the world started paying attention to Ghanaian music. But I want to hear more conscious stuff from him. Jay Z said first I had the street, now I had their hearts. So Sarkodie had the street already. He is supposed to be having our hearts by now. He should start talking to us same way Drake is talking to us. When you listen to Drake, he is not just rapping or putting rhymes together or talking about himself all the time. No, you have to incorporate. You have to get into someone’s shoes a bit. You know you live in a community where you claim you have been through life but I don’t hear that in your music.
What do you mean?
I mean, he has been talking to the street and he has the younger folks to the extent that whatever he says, they listen. Whenever he puts out music, it is a hit; they sing along. So if he should change the things he is talking about right now and talk about something else they will still sing along. If he decides today that I am going to talk about stuff like something positive that is encouraging enough…something my mum will sit home and say, ‘aaah this gentleman is different and I will go and buy his music,’ it will change the perception about us the younger folks, we the hip-hop artistes. This is the fight I am taking upon myself now. I know a lot of people are not with me on that.
Source: Francis Addo-News One
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