The Break Presents: Blackway
As the child of Ghanian actor-satirist Kwaku Sintim-Misa, Blackway vividly remembers the day he chose to pick up a microphone instead of a script.
That moment came about 16 years ago, back when Blackway was just a middle school student. His brother's friend—a high schooler who he'd impressed with a freestyle one week prior—asked him to make a rap that would encourage students to vote him into a position in student government. The dilemma was that Blackway had rehearsal for the leading role in his own school play at the same time.
Naturally, Blackway snuck over to the high school and delivered an impressive freestyle over Freeway's "Flipside" instrumental, earning the respect of the high schoolers (and helping his friend clinch the election). While ditching his play cost Blackway his role, he knew he'd found his true calling. "That was the day I realized," Blackway tells XXL. "Even walking back to the middle school I was like, 'Damn I killed that shit.'"
Since, the rhyming-singing Republic Records artist, who moved from Ghana to live with his mother in Long Island, N.Y. in 2006, has dropped off strong projects like Radiant Child (2013), Radiant Child Reloaded (2015), New Yhana (2017) and steadily made a name for himself with the rhyme skills of a certified rap technician and the vocal flexibility of a smooth crooner. His new EP Good.Bad.Faded is an exhibition for that versatility.
On "Bourbon Street," Blackway unloads a rapid-fire flow and a barrage of punchlines sure to perk up the ears of rap classicists. A song later, on "Save Me," he jumps into some singing as he tackles an Afrobeat instrumental.
With sharp rhyme techniques and smooth vocals in hand, Blackway is poised to make a lot of noise. Get to know him in this week's edition of The Break.
Name: Yaw Sintim-Misa
Hometown: Accra, Ghana/Long Island, N.Y.
I grew up listening to: "The first freestyle I ever fell in love with was the Big L [and] Hov freestyle—seven minutes. Big L has always been up there for me. Eminem has always been up there for me. Hov is up there, obviously. Biggie has been up there, obviously. More recently, I've been getting into [Kendrick Lamar], Drake, [J. Cole]. Nick Grant is dope. I like Tory Lanez."
People compare my style to: "As far as rap, more recently I've been compared to Kendrick and Eminem. In my younger years I was compared to Big L a lot. As far as music overall, I've heard weird things like, 'The African Kendrick' [or] 'a rapping Akon.' I had a few sessions with [Busta Rhymes] and he said I remind him of Drake a little bit."
Most people don’t know: "Most people don't know that I'm actually a very shy person. Most of the time I'm onstage I have butterflies. I don't seem that way to people. It doesn't affect my performance in any way, but I'm actually a very shy person. Most people don't know that I grew up on a lot of anime. I used to listen to a lot of Japanese raps. The old stuff—I haven't really caught up on the new stuff."
I'm going to blow up because: "I'd have to give credit to my versatility and my ability to adapt and adjust. And that applies to anything, not just music. But it shows more so in my music. I can step into any lane and give you quality shit, you know?"
My goal in hip-hop is: "When I was young I felt like everybody's goal was to be the greatest rapper to ever rap. When you in high school, everybody talks about being the greatest rapper ever. So subconsciously, even if I don't know it or say it, that's gonna be one of them. I want to be recognized as the person who has 'the greatest bars I ever heard.' I want a group of people to be able to say that about me. Internally I feel like that's gonna be my goal—that's gonna be any rapper's—any actual spitter's—goal. But as the mature me, I'd say [I want the] accolades, the Grammys. I'm going with the flow."
I'm going to be the next: "I'm going to be the first Blackway, I know that. I don't know what I'm gonna be the next of. We'll see [laughs]."
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