The West African nation of Ghana exhibits a love for hip-hop that is unlike any other in its region. You see, Africa is a continent where home-grown music genres like Afrobeats occupy the spotlight. In Ghana, however, hip-hop not only rubs shoulders with the local genres, but it also competes with them for popularity and commercial success. Moreover, hip-hop has given rise to some of the biggest success stories in the country.
Over the years, rappers such as Sarkodie, M.anifest, and more have achieved both national and continental success—winning BET Awards, touring Europe, and crafting discographies that could go toe-to-toe with any rapper in the world. Today, we see a more niche movement in the Ghanian music scene, where the youth have taken keenly to a particular subgenre of hip-hop: trap.
In the past two years, trap music has risen in popularity in Ghana with meteoric speed. A sound once reserved for A-list rappers and musically adventurous up-and-comers has become a full-blown movement. A tight-knit crop of emerging rappers and producers approached the game with a unified front and had one agenda: Make music that people think can’t pop in the country, pop in the country. And they did it. With concerts marked by mosh pit style dancing and lyrics recited in soccer chant fashion, the enthusiasm is undeniable.
Earning credit for the rise of this movement are artists and producers such as Joey B, Kwesi Arthur, Medikal, BRYAN THE MENSAH, Kofi Mole, the La Même Gang collective, and Altra Nova, among others. One of the most notable figures in the scene, however, is La Même Gang collective member Nxwrth.
Nxwrth (pronounced North) is a 23-year-old producer, DJ, artist, and Naruto stan who makes a unique and progressive flavor of hip-hop. Trap may be his forte, but boxes don’t exist as far as his art is concerned. Nxwrth’s sounds are forward-thinking and futuristic, influenced by his love of space and extraterrestrials. His productions blur the lines of traditional hip-hop structures, making him the go-to-guy for the new age of hip-hop artists in Ghana.
In a short period, Nxwrth has amassed numerous production credits. Several of those songs have become anthems in the Ghanian trap scene. Be it the adrenaline pumping La Même Gang cut “Godzilla“ or the piano-laced trap anthem “Digit$“ by $pacely, productions by the self-proclaimed “rager” seem to be the key ingredient responsible for new age hip-hop hits.
DJBooth speaks with Nxwrth about his art and the concept behind it. Lightly edited for content and clarity, read the interview below.
DJBooth: How long have you been producing music?
Nxwrth: I’ve been making beats all my life, but I started making beats professionally when I was 17.
You’re from Africa, and hip-hop and trap aren’t African genres of music. How did you get so good at producing them?
Trap happens to be the genre that sits with my spirit. Trap was there for me when I had no one—through the family problems, the school problems, the social anxiety problems, and through the life-is-messed-up problems. Trap made me say, “Hey, forget your problems; we’re going to be turnt!” Trap makes me feel turnt all the time, and I feel like every human being in this world should feel turnt all the time, because life is short, you feel me? It’s mere influence.
I didn’t choose trap, trap chose me. I’m still on the come up, but I’ve been making like six or seven beats a day. If not anything, it has to be at least one beat a day. That’s practice, keeping the skill God has given you at your fingertips. If you don’t practice, you’re bound to fail. I spend as much time on it as I spend on anything else.
Who are your influences?
If you listen to my sound carefully, you hear the influences of Kanye West, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Wondagurl, Hit-Boy, and Mike Dean. These are the people that motivate me. I also love Calvin Harris and Metro Boomin.
What’s the idea behind the spacey, futuristic vibe?
It was inspired by a movie directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar. It’s a movie everyone should watch; it’s a game-changer. It changed my mentality about life. I believe that space is for all. Space is unpredictable, space is the beyond, and it’s the end of the world. Space is something humans haven’t put their hand on yet, and that inspires me because I want to be extraterrestrial in my being, in my existence, you feel me? And most of us might not have the opportunity to ever go to space before we die. So I want my music to give people the illusion or the feel like you’re going to space or lost in space, even if it’s just for a split second. I want my music to make people feel something.
How does seeing the rise of trap in Ghana make you feel?
I’ve been riding for trap in Ghana since day one. It’s crazy ‘cause here, the masses don’t understand it. ‘Cause it’s not from here, I don’t think they appreciate it that much, but I feel like I still have a message and a calling I have to fulfill for the kids that love it.
If everyone in the world could listen to just one of your records, which song would it be?
I don’t think I’ve even made that song yet. I’m too young, bro, I won’t lie. If I mention a song right now, I’d probably regret it.
Why wear the forehead protector?
Well, I’m a huge Kakashi sensei fan. His discipline is amazing, and I wish I had such amazing discipline in my life. I feel like it would take me far. And his fashion sense inspires me a lot. That’s my brand and what represents me. That’s what all the kids here are wearing to represent their love for me. [Kakashi] is the man and everyone should aspire to have that amount of discipline in their life. Me wearing that headband represents me trying to be a better person, trying to be disciplined for this game, for this music shit, for my life, for my family, and my fans.
How do you feel about La Même Gang being billed to perform at Afro Nation 2019, one of the biggest music festivals in the world?
I want to give a big thanks to Afro Nation for selecting us. But I feel like we deserved it because we’re some of the best performers in Africa. It’s time for the whole world to hear about us. This stage, it’s a big platform for us to prove ourselves once again, why we’re the best.