Ghanaian-British Spoken Word Artist Kojey Radical's Menacing 'Bambu'

Ghanaian-British spoken word artist Kojey Radical releases "Bambu," the lead single from an EP due later in 2015.

"Bambu" by Ghana-rooted, London-based spoken word artist Kojey Radical could be called a piece of industrial hip-hop, but its genre-conflating nature and oral prowess distinguish it. The song follows the artist's 2014 EP Dear Daisy: Opium, which told an intriguing romance and spawned a beautiful music video for"The Garden Party," in which Radical searches for his lover in a vast forest. "Bambu," the artist's latest beguiling single, frighteningly joins scenes of a ravaged city with existential philosophy over guitar pangs and drum zaps. In a recent talk with the 405 about the song, Radical mentioned:

"The original track was recorded in March where at the time I was just starting to release music and felt like I was already caged to the genre I was making at the time. I've always used genre to describe emotion and just as no human belongs to one particular emotion infinitely no artist should be confined to their genre. I wrote this piece as an ode to the thoughts about society people often ignore. As soon as we wrapped it up we were instantly met with this feeling that this record is important."

Almost sounding like a rap version of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," the Lupus Cain-produced song thrillingly continues a tradition of street poetry while showing Radical's own vivid lyricism. The artist, who cites Jean-Michel Basquiat as an influence and founded creative arts collective PUSHCRAYONS, is releasing the song as the lead single from an EP due later this year. A music video for "Bambu" is scheduled to come later this month. Listen to Kojey Radical's "Bambu" and watch the music video for "The Garden Party" below.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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