The Break Presents: Kweku Collins
From a suburban town outside of Chicago, a fresh new artist is making waves. That artist, Kweku Collins (pronounced kway-koo), is a biracial rapper whose sound can't be categorize as one thing. That can be credited to his upbringing. His father is an African and Latin percussionist who taught Kweku how to play the drums when he was four. His mother is an Evanston schoolteacher who fostered Kweku's passion for words, which would eventually lead the budding rapper to become a member of Evanston High’s poetry team.
While still in high school, he was signed to Chicago label Closed Sessions. He would decide to skip college and drop his Say It Here, While It’s Safe EP in 2015. Last year, he would see his stock rise when he released his debut full-length, Nat Love but his recent Grey EP is starting to turn this local artist into a budding star. Grey showcased Kweku's versatility and honesty in his lyrics.
"This goes back to the tour I went on. I was given the opportunity to go around and to take the music that I made, and perform it in front of thousands of fans and I got to observed how they reacted to music," he tells XXL while in New York City. "I got to observe everything. I took all that information over the last year and compounded that with the things that I went through in my personal life and transferred that into Grey."
Collins wants to make music for a wide range of people to listen to, he adds, "I wanted to make music that would make people jump and also music that would make people feel. In a lot of these songs I just tried to find a common thread. I think I come from this interesting position. I know its super corny when mixed people talk about how they’re mixed. But I think I do this in a way where I understand that equalizers are very important. The two opposing sides in this country are very polarizing, Black and White. So being mixed, I feel like I learned how to be that middle ground and finding the common thread and I apply that to my music."
With his Grey project still going strong, get to know Kweku Collins for The Break.
Hometown: Evanston, Ill.
I grew up listening to: “I grew up listening to everything. My father is an African and Latin drummer. I grew up doing Capoeira and playing my kpanlogo drums, so a lot of Brazilian and West African influences. Bob Marley, the Beatles and a little bit of Led Zeppelin. As I got older my sister got me into hip-hop. I heard 'Jesus Walks' on the radio and that’s started the beginning of that. That led me to like Will Smith and his Lost and Found album in 2005. That’s one of my favorite albums [laughs]. I found Guru and Gang Starr and it all started from there, a lot of Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix, too.
"I was really young when I started making music. We lived in upstate New York for the first five years of my life. I remember my dad would be the one that would stay home with me and there were drums all over the house. The first thing I can remember is playing drums with him. He would teach me. He made these instructional videos on how to play and he’ll pop it into the VCR when he left for shows and I would just sit there with the drums and practice all day. I was probably like four.
"I started rapping when I was young. I was still in elementary school. I wrote and I knew I really like [my raps] and I started just freestylin’. I would make my bed that morning and just rap. It didn’t even rhyme. I really started making music my freshman year in high school. That’s when I really started taking music seriously. I thought I was good at it, not great but better than some of my peers."
My style’s been compared to: “I would say bohemian hip-hop, kind of everything and it can morph into whatever. I get a lot of Kid Cudi comparisons. I get compared to Chance The Rapper a lot, I think at lot has to do with the melodies. I grew up listening to Kid Cudi and I came up after Chance. There’s also like, with Lil Wayne, when he started singing on the autotune shit, I got recordings of when I was in middle school over little Garage Band beats with the autotune not even working trying to sound like Lil Wayne and it just same came out as a prepubescent Lil Uzi Vert."
Most people don’t know: “I’m allergic to nuts. [laughs]"
My standout records or biggest moment to date have been: “My favorite moment was [when] I did a show in London last year, and it was a really intimate venue and it was a lot of people there and they all knew the words. They were jumping around and singing and having a good time, more energy than a lot of shows in Chicago or stateside period. That was really cool. I’m from thousand of miles away and they fuck with me."
My goal in hip-hop is: “I just want to make a career out of this for decades until I’m done. I don’t really have goals on what I want the music to do or what I want to say. I got things I want to say and I got things that I need to say but ultimately it’s never up to me. It’s really up to the people. So I want people to take what they can from my music. There’s plenty of room for all of us to be out here and to shine."
I’m going to be the next: “I want to be the continuation of the Hendrix’s and the Bob Dylan’s and the Marley’s and the Basquiat’s and the Sade’s, those people were all about the art."
Standouts: Grey Days
"Aya" featuring Allan Kingdom