A bio is sort of interesting now that I think about it...
What point do you start it from?
People are so obsessed with whatever version of Kojey they’ve been introduced to, that’s all they want to hear about!”
Kojey Radical is best described as a contemporary artist who uses music as one of his creative outlets. The 25-year-old East Londoner Explores his ideas with a mixed media approach: in his world content is king, and everything else is the vehicle. Drawing from his art school background Kojey views his career as a work in progress, each song, EP, video or fashion piece is a stimulus that carries him to the next idea, propelling him forward as a human being. His creative versatility has lead him to collaborate with a list of esteemed partners including Apple, Tate Modern, Adidas, SoundCloud, Places + Faces, Boiler Room, SSence and The British Council.
While the term “project” is used loosely in music, Kojey uses a more literal “project” approach when it comes to creating. Far beyond a collection of songs, he’ll take a starting point - such as the conversation with his father that sparked 2016’s ‘23 Winters’ exploration of generational diaspora - and pull the idea in every direction, each thought deconstructed and rebuilt as songs, films, shows, images, items of clothing and whatever else serves the message he’s trying to articulate.
Once a subject matter has been exhausted, he moves onto the next topic that arises from his subconscious. The day after ‘23 Winters’ was released into the world, he found himself back in the studio with a blank canvas and began an unlearning of masculinity and an exploration of womanhood, birth and self-reflection that became ‘In God’s Body’. “My main intention with anything is actually your ability to relate to another person’s perspective,” he says. “There’s a voice of wisdom that speaks to me every time I need to do a project. With ‘In God’s Body’ it was women: not necessarily as a person I’m into or a love interest, but the idea of another perspective that I have understanding of, but my experiences don’t match to the point where I can speak for.” The 13-track collection centres around the theme of God as a woman and the struggles that Kojey shares with her, despite his masculinity telling him that he’s not supposed to relate.
As part of the project, Kojey performed headline shows across the world throughout 2017. As well as his first UK headline tour which included a show at London’s Village Underground, Kojey performed in Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Brazil, Germany, France, Copenhagen, Ireland and Bulgaria, with festival appearances at Afropunk, Love Saves The Day and The Great Escape. This year his live plans include sets at Outlook, Bestival, Applesap, Little Simz’s ‘Stillness In Wonderland’ and the first instalment of his own live platform ‘Endless Nights’ at Jazz Cafe in April, which sees him curating a line-up of his favourite rising talent including Ego Ella May, Caleb Femi and Mugen.
The careful assembly and attention to detail behind Kojey’s music sets him aside from many of his peers. In a time when viral hits and overnight successes are the norm, his music requires time and thought to really catch on. However, when fans do dedicate themselves to it, the pay off is immeasurable and it connects on a deeper level. Kojey observed in real time as his ‘23 Winters’ project - released a year prior - began to really connect across the globe, and his final show of the year in Johannesburg, South Africa ranks amongst his proudest achievements to date. “It was my first time in Africa since I was 10; a country I’ve said I wanted to perform in since the beginning of my career,” he reflects. “Oh my God! That’s when it set in. The music is taking affect on a world stage.”
Onlookers would be forgiven for believing that there is some kind of major label machine or organisation behind Kojey’s work - the level of production and quality certainly match the standard, if not exceed it - but for the proudly independent artist it’s a myth that needs to be squashed. “The details create that illusion,” he explains. “They help people look into what Kojey is and say ‘This is a finished picture’, when really, at every point you’re looking at Kojey, you’re looking at a work in progress.”
His creative freedom is a vital part of his identity, and he’s comfortable admitting that in some cases his integrity may have held him back for the short term - but it’s a long game that he’s playing. “The freedom in my music needs to maintain,” he states. “Being able to say that I’m in control of it, to know why I’m making something and what I’m making it for, then using the business of music to support that rather than influencing or changing it. That’s the compromise. You give certain things up in order to get the opportunities. I don’t want to give those things up.”
Throughout his endeavours, Kojey is the director that also happens to star in the show. When it comes to collaboration he tends to allow his contributors a large portion of the limelight, again pushing the idea front and centre, with his own ego remaining backstage. “I know I have the skills too creative direct anything, whether it’s a garment or a show,” he states confidently. It’s unsurprising, given his outlook, that he’s collaborated with a diverse cast of characters, including the likes of Wretch 32, GoldLink, Ghetts, Ray BLK, AJ Tracey, Poppy Ajudha, Shola Ama, Miloh Smith, POTÉ and Collard.
Unsurprisingly Kojey has been attracting attention across the media including plaudits from the likes of The Guardian, Dazed, Mixmag, Clash, Notion ,GQ, Sunday Times Style, Pigeons + Planes, Hunger, MTV, Hypebeast, High Snobiety, i-D, Crack, Afropunk, Redbull, MILK, Dummy, Independent, Music Week, Earmilk, Mass Appeal and a cover feature for Notion Magazine. He’s also excited radio tastemakers such as Mistajam, Guy Garvey, DJ Target, Mary Anne Hobbs and Gilles Peterson - the latter recently included Kojey in a feature on the artists he’s excited about this year, declaring “Everything he does is really interesting, I’m desperate to play it all on the radio.” His music can regularly be heard playing across 6Music, 1Xtra, Amazing Radio, Radar Radio and Rinse FM.
In the fashion world Kojey has made a name for himself as the creative director of London fashion label Chelsea Bravo. It’s a role that he continues to occupy, but as the company relocates stateside he’s also beginning to plot his own brand, based around the theme of collaboration, which will launch later in the year. He’s also collaborated on advertising campaigns with brands like Dr Marten, Clarks Originals and New Era, and walked for Maharishi, Blood Brother, Oliver Spencer and River Island.
As Kojey Radical continues to progress and break new ground, fans and critics will have to accept his refusal to stay creatively stationary. “Musically, it’s like, I’m not going to keep harping on about politics,” he says. “But if somebody wants to sit down and have a political conversation I’m here all day. If you’re looking for another ‘Kwame Nkrumah’ or ‘Bambu’, those songs exist and they’ll exist forever. If you need to hear songs about those subject matters then go listen again.” New tracks like the live-improvised ‘Love Intersection’ see Kojey exploring his voice as an instrument in a way that he describes as “alien” to the listener that was introduced to him as a poet who speaks on political matters and social issues. “I’m a commenter of life; the intricacies of life and all of the details that come within,” he explains. “It’s all about what I need to resolve, because my music and my art are how I think and feel, they’re how I communicate.”