Back at the beginning of last year I spoke about the frighteningly good Kwabs in my Future Flavours section and I stated that Kwabs was so hugely talented that it made other artists look decidedly mediocre- I further added that Kwabs was going to be absolutely huge.
Well a little less than a year later the Atlantic signee is proving all of that potential and more with his wonderfully constructed songs and his dark, ambient soulful production which draws you into the emotional and intelligent world of Kwabena Adjepong.
“It did feel destined in a way” he states as we discuss his initial drive to sing, “it is part of my being. I think I always knew that music would be my path. I was always the loudest at school assemblies and I had a few teachers that pointed out to me that I had a good voice. I am not sure if it really mattered if anyone liked it I think I just wanted to do it because it felt really natural for me.”
Since he announced his talented self to the music world in the early part of 2013 his ascent has been steep. With his deep resonant vocals he stands head and shoulders above (in my estimations) any other male UK singer.
“I love real soul singers and I love just real honesty and so my voice has come out of me listening to the greats like Donnie Hathaway and Aretha Franklin and spending a lot of time getting familiar with my own voice”.
It’s a voice that harks back to an era where on point vocals displays were important but were never allowed to trump the emotional aspect of the vocal-Kwabs taps into your emotional spectrum with unnerving ease.
“I think my music is deep. I would like to think that when I talk to people or when I am talking on radio or singing on stage that people know that I have something real and genuine to say.”
It is the authenticity of his music that has seen so many people catch on. His cover of Wilhem screamed out ‘organically fresh’ as a bare footed Kwabs surrounded by his band members had us feeling like we were sat right in that room.
“The Wilhem Scream performance was just at someone’s house a homegrown vibe. We kind of rocked up and we just played through the songs and it was just more or less one take. It was nice to do something like that that felt that organic.”
It was indeed a seminal moment; from that and other cuts like Lay Down, the fever for his brand of soulful modern day brooding was indeed born. An intimate performance in Chiswick at the closing of last year allayed any doubts that he was the real deal (if there were any) as he enthralled with all the guile of a seasoned professional.
“I am just enjoying the buzz and the attention” he chuckles as we talk in the Atlantic offices. “I am enjoying the affirmation that I am doing the right thing. It’s funny because when I signed to Atlantic I was still actually studying –it was actually three days before I went back to music college. I remember thinking at the time this so surreal. Since I graduated last June the last eight months or so it has been me just writing at full blast towards eventually the album”.
The signs are good as we look forward to that album. Musical output has been steady and there is obviously a clear intent to put out just enough to keep the fans eager and waiting for that industry anticipated debut album.
His EP Wrong Or Right is the three track precursor and it’s a special bit of niceness featuring two tracks from the cultured mind of the producer Sohn and a cut from David Okuma (The Invisible / Jessie Ware).
Wrong Or Right as the first of Sohn’s productions is slightly more upbeat.
“I wanted to write a song about refuge. The song is asking someone who hurt you and if you are hurt there is somewhere that you can be safe and that is with me if you want that. When Sohn and I were talking about how we love RnB we wanted to make something that had more hooks to it or more up-tempo basically”.
For me however Kwabs excels in his introspective darker but evidently honest emotional explorations and while Sohn’s production on the second cut Last Stand is stupendous David Okuma’s productive savvy on Spirit Fade is a personal favourite bringing a soulful almost gospel sound colliding into modern RnB sonic yearnings. It’s an older cut of his but there is no denying class. It’s dangerously good as Kwabs’ song writing holds you in awe-the anticipation for that full album is intense.
“throughout my lyrical content there is a sense of wanting to find personal progress, breaking boundaries within myself. There are also sentiments of love and understanding and what that means to me but also I want to make a connection to the man on the street.”
In this era of the Macdonalisation (George Ritzer) of music, Kwabs is a home cooked meal!