Kojey Radical’s work is more than merely accomplished, it is a meticulously curated gift for generations to come. Sat in one of East London’s sun-soaked studios Radical beams out a contagious sense of serenity and his choice of words deliberate as we go back and forth over topics that dot his past, present and future.
It can require a lot of guts and skill to shoulder the burden of being honoured as a vanguard to your generation. But Kojey Radical takes it gracefully in his stride. “The only pressure I feel is to make sure that if I see somebody in the industry, or someone that has a strong cultural status… If we have a conversation, just make sure it’s guided, so they understand the power of their influence. A part of me feels pressure to do that because I feel like I’ve seen a lot in my time in the industry; I know what pitfalls people can fall into; I understand the power of words. What you choose to represent is what people emulate.” he acknowledges.
“There’s a generation now which I’m super excited by. They’re gonna be the new voice of the generation, because the generation is the youth. I’m an adult, so I ask myself: how do I now create the music that keeps the younger generation interested? And if not, with everything that I’ve been afforded, how can I help? If it’s not just words, then it’s monetary. So where can I put the money that makes the most sense.” This determined outlook is in the name: someone who has continuously advocated for open-mindedness and advanced with constant progression, Kojey is undeniably radical. As an artist, he eschews any easy categorisation, and to think he only makes music is to miss the point. He is someone who has taken his time to carry out each piece of work with such poignancy and mindfulness that he can keep taking steps forward without glancing back.
“I think a legacy is a byproduct of work that you’re going to put in anyway” he adds, “and it’s never for me to look at or judge, my legacy is in the hands or the eyes of the beholder, to a certain degree. For me, my mission is just completing what I want to do, having an idea and executing it. And the more of those that I have, the more of a legacy that will build up… And I’m trying to stay consistent and not missing. I don’t want to miss”
Radical’s songs circle around his thoughts and feelings, pairing tender thoughts with funky, bouncing rhythms that allow his vocals the room to vent. From early on, Radical was an artist with profound potential, even from the time of his first EP Dear Daisy, which he presented as his final project at university after transitioning from illustration to music. Radical has now gone on to share a myriad of lauded EPs, singles, projects and, of course, his latest – a dazzlingly singular album titled Reason To Smile, released in 2022. It would be unfair to pinpoint the album to one genre, it’s a stew of Radical’s take on R&B, grime, funk, jazz and rap… the list could go on, his creativity truly unbounded.
A large part of this album’s undertaking was driven by Radical’s aim to pull together some of the UK and US’s most prodigious talents. “That’s an important concept in itself – appreciating the talent that comes from this country and how deep and plentiful it is – Tiana Major9, Shaé Universe, Ego Ella May, Knucks, Cashh, Lex Amor, Shakka. Wretch 32, Kelis, Rexx Life Raj, Masego. All of whom really respect the art”. His original title, inspired by the words once spoken by Nigerian luminary Fela Kuti was Cannot Be Regret. A phrase which rang true as he navigated his own ups and downs. Even as we touch on what thoughts bring him peace of mind, he keeps it simple, surrendering to the process “It shall pass.” he lilts, “you’ve got to keep it short and sweet when you’re dealing with words to do with healing. For me, it’s always about reminding myself that it’s okay to go through a moment. Because it’s a moment.”
Often, it’s those he chooses to surround himself with that contribute to the 29-year-old’s enduring suit of armour. “Either in a literal sense or a metaphorical sense, everybody’s family. My sister is one of my managers; my cousin Rita does my makeup and hair and she’s with me all the time; my creative director is more or less a childhood friend. It’s all family. And if we’re not directly related, I guarantee over the years we’ve built up a family dynamic. Like Swindle is like an older brother to me. KZ is like an older brother to me. This so many people around me that I’ve just been fortunate enough to have met early on in my journey which has been positive.”
Reason To Smile developed from an initial moment of writer’s block to then having over 200 songs to pick from, “I thought to myself ‘I’m going in there to make an album’. And with that came the personal expectations and natural anxiety… At this point, I remember Swindle said something really simple to me when I was outside just having a moment. He looked at me and goes, ‘remember who you are’. I then went back in the booth, scrapped writing and opted for a process that was to essentially play the music and then record and repeat… We had upwards of 200 to 250 songs; easily. And out of that 200 or so, we had to find the best 15 or 16. There’s a lot of songs that got worked on to a point of being genuinely ridiculous and will never get heard by anyone.”
And if the result of all of this arduous work, despite all of Radical’s accomplishments, is still fraught with anxiety, his perception is reminiscent of a truism once spoken by Plato “Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” Or in Radical’s words “Minding my business is a form of meditation. I’m not concerned with what you’re up to. And I try and lean away from comparison because it’s a killer of joy. Although I’m probably the most guilty of that… But ultimately, I don’t care.”
Photographer – Sami Zubri – @samizubri | Creative Director/ Stylist – Gloria Iyare @g__l__o__ | Producer/Journalist – Sophia Hill – @sophia.nh | Movement Director – Maycie-Ann St-Louis – @maycie_x0 | Videographer / Video Editor – Sam Adjaye – @swrv.adj | Videographer / Video Editor – Ola Aileru –@ola_finesse | HMU – Rita Osei Kusi – @kwaveyhair | Nails – Adena Gordon – @amg.studiosss