It's Ghanaian Independence Day and Stonebwoy, one of the biggest Afrobeats and reggae artists in the world, took the time out to speak to HOT 97 about his native culture, his new deal with Def Jam, new album, his input on Lil Duval's controversial “Afrobeats might be the death of hip hop as we know it" statement and more.
Oumou Fofana: First of all, happy belated birthday. I know yesterday [March 5] was your birthday.
Stonebwoy: Yeah. For real.
Fofana: I'm a Pisces, too.
Stonebwoy: Oh, for real. That's it. That's it. Nice.
Fofana: And today [March 6] is Ghana Independence [Day]. You just headlined the My Homeland Concert at the Palladium in Times Square. Congratulations on a successful event celebrating Ghana’s independence. Sure. What did that show mean to you?
Stonebwoy: I mean, Ghana Independence is actually a day for all of us as Ghanaians. Um, it's such a day that we remember the founding fathers of our nation, Ghana, which extends into the foundation. I mean, the independent foundation of Africa, basically because Kwame Nkrumah, who is the headliner of our independence actually says that the independence of Ghana is not complete until all the sister and brother nations are also independent.
So, 6 of March or March basically reminds us of how we as Ghanaians are always proud of our roots. of being one of the people to pioneer self-reliance, you know, self everything, basically. And that's spread through the continent of Africa. And so celebrating it is really important so that we can always remember such days, because if we do not celebrate the day, then people are going to forget one way or the other and there will be no history of such great strides that have been for the continent of Africa. To be born on the 5th of March, which always gives me a holiday if I was in Ghana. You know what I mean? I would always have a holiday the next day. So I can go partying all through until the next day, whatever, wherever. So it just makes me feel very connected. And I think, um, coincidentally, or, you know, interestingly, I'm so Ghana at heart, you know, and I'm so Africa at heart to a larger extent. I'm so black at heart, you know what I mean? I'm happy to have headlined that concert. Brought back the hit back to back for the Ghanaian patrons. And I'm sure, you know, there was African patrons in the crowd, basically even cuts of white, you know, the demography was widespread and they all came together to celebrate and enjoy such a memorable day with us. Though it was held on a third, the actual independence is today.
Fofana: Being that you were born and raised in Ghana, you do have a strong Caribbean accent. Where did that come from?
Stonebwoy: Beautiful question. It would be that, okay, let me just throw it this way before anything goes. Being that I was born in Ghana, I do have a strong Caribbean accent. This only tells you that Africans have strong accents. You know, because, you know, the blackness of the Caribbean community is actually rooted in in their Africanness. So therefore you find the accents being very strong and we all can relate straightforward. I mean, I love my Patois, you know what I mean? Which is also an extension, it has collective, it has indices of the African languages in there stemming from Twi, which is a Ghana language, probably Yoruba and etc. So that question only takes us into history and how we are one people basically. So to have a strong accent like a Caribbean and a Caribbean having a strong accent like an African is just because we are all, you know, if you find yourself to be black, then that's where it comes from.
Fofana: You know how everyone is now visiting or fantasizing about visiting Ghana recently? People like Chance the Rapper and Dave Chappelle have been performing in Accra. Other celebrities have also been buying property. Do you think this is some sort of trend?
Stonebwoy: Even if it's a trend, we pray that it never ends. It's really important to the culture. So I am really happy to see brothers who have heavy weight from this side, bringing that weight and adding it up to the narrative of the repatriation that we are speaking about as Africans. Repatriating in a sense of skill, human labor, human capital, finances, etc, to continue to build the continent as its people.
Dave Chappelle definitely is black. I met a host of amazing, amazing, amazing other black people who touch base on the African soil through Ghana and probably other African countries. Interestingly, I think they have love for the continent and themselves as a people. So to add onto that is beautiful and everybody's invited every time, anytime all year round. You know, it's summer, so you can always pass through, whether from January to December. December is one of the busiest periods that you can find in Ghana and probably in Africa. When you come during that period, especially in Ghana, you're gonna have fun. You're gonna see a lot of shows. You're gonna see AfroFuture, you know, formally Afrochella. You're gonna see my BHIM concert, which bridges the gap between the Caribbean communities and then the Africans, which is Jamaica [and] Ghana specifically. I put up a show, it's been running for seven years now. [I] brought Beanie Man, Busy Signal Morgan. You're gonna enjoy cross section of shows from the roots. African music to contemporary to everything. Food, hospitality, knowledge, history. It's there for you. So, big respect, let's keep coming home, let's keep spreading the word of Africa. Because I think this might be a colloquial thing. I don't think people think like that anymore but if I get the opportunity, I'll say people do think that Africans are living on trees, you know, etc. That used to be a whole narrative. I think it's normal, but if it is, I need to say that so all these things add up to creating awareness and expanding the culture.
Fofana: What is your favorite thing about the Ghanaian culture that you recommend everyone get in tune with?
Stonebwoy: Ghanaian will show you hospitality. Definitely a lot of humility, a lot of warm reception, which is definitely what we are made of. We tend to actually love people from all works of life, to be honest. And I think it's a home to many. Ghana is one of the centers of the world, but close to the actual center of the world, just to be fair. I think this is not a coincidence, the energies that run the earth must be displaying out there. It's the center of the world, so why not? Why is anybody not welcomed to this end of the world and its cultures? We love people basically and that's the hallmark. We receive everybody. Humble people, loving people, caring people, hardworking people. Peaceful on top of it all. Peaceful.
Fofana: You've been repping very hard for the community. You were just at the Grammys. During that weekend, you said a statement in a prior interview that stuck to me. It was something like, 'Ghanian musicians need to work together to push the brand.' What did you mean by that?
Stonebwoy: Oh, that's cool. I said that? I say many things but that's a good thing to say because in unity we thrive. With every given opportunity, we have to remind ourselves of the importance of unity and collectivity. And that's how we can move numbers. I may have said that off of the head of probably the fact that we are minority in number when it comes to the influx of the artists in the Westing Hemisphere. You find out that our lovely brother, Nigerian nation, are huge in numbers compared to that. The reality is that put us on our toes to actually get together the more in terms of I am pushing this hard, another brother pushing that hard, another one pushing that hard. That's how we can be heard and also be able to continuously add our quota of the whole cultural narrative to the whole so that it's not really only Nigerians in the forefront doing it all. The beauty is in the diversity of carrying the Ghanaian indigenous sound, which has come a long way from African music to Afrobeat to Afrobeats, to today. We have the Bongo flavor from the Eastern Africa, the Tanzania, we have the Amapiano from the Southern Africa. We have diverse sounds from even the northern side of Africa. I was just saying that if all of us continue to push from where we come from, that's how we're gonna have a collective and even a more diverse sound pouring into the West and showcasing and building up on the culture. I speak for the continent, representing from Ghana anyway.
Fofana: You recently signed a global deal with Def Jam. What does that mean to you?
Stonebwoy: Yeah mon, it means a lot to me. It means the music is gonna get further wider. Def Jam is home to some of the world's greats so to actually get to a point in my career where it makes a lot of sense to ink a deal with Def Jam I'll pat myself on the back for leading my team, BHIM nation, Burniton Music Group. A little boy from the ghettos of ashyman coming all the way through the BETs, through whatnot, till this point still representing. I started quite early. So, it's really difficult to stay through and true to the craft till this point, you know, diversifying.
And at this level, like they say it's the beginning. It's the starting point. It's not even the limit. So, you know, Def Jam, Burniton Music Group, the world gotta get ready. We're about to give you guys more and more and more and more and more of what I am made of, the kind of sounds that I bring, the complexity and the complexity in code. Not that it's difficult, you know what I mean? But the collective style that I have of Afrobeats, reggae, and dancehall, that's what we have to fit to the world. You guys get ready, I dropped "Therapy," amazing tune, and I dropped "More of You" and I dropped "GIDIGBA." When you take a listen to all three songs you find dynamics. You know what I mean? So the album, it's about a hit you guys hard and I know you guys are ready for a dream. When music hits you, you feel no pain. So it's gonna be a lovely hit. Let's get ready for that.
Fofana: Do we have a release date for the album yet?
Stonebwoy: I think the socials would have to say that, or probably by the time I get back here on your networks, I should have the final date. Just kidding. But the album has been ready. It is ready. The teams are putting together the technicalities to make sure that it reaches all to the end of the world.
Fofana: Do you have any features lined up?
Stonebwoy: Yes, we do. We do have some great, great features on there. From London to America, to Jamaica to Africa itself. I'm gonna try to keep it a little bit of a secret right now so that when it hits you guys, you're gonna appreciate it more, or should I let it out?
Fofana: Any other artist that you dream of collaborating with that are not gonna be on your album?
Stonebwoy: I do have dreams of collaborating with so many big names that you can think about. But my collaborative choice is actually based on the music. It's not necessarily the weight first. It goes the music and then the weight. Somebody like Taylor Swift and Stonebwoy, just imagine the vibes. Somebody like Rihanna and Stonebwoy, you know what I mean? Crazy stuff.
Fofana: But how do you determine that? How do you determine who do you wanna collaborate with?
Stonebwoy: By the creativity that I believe we can get together because when I pick a Taylor Swift song and I listen to Taylor and I listen to myself, putting these two together is just gonna bring some magic. It's going to push me to do more. And she's also gonna have to come out from a different levels as well. You can just imagine and shoutouts to Jordin Sparks as well. I love to explore. Shout outs to Muni Long as well. Wait, wait, wait.
Fofana: Oh, so are you throwing out the artists that's gonna be on your album right now? Shout outs to who else?
Stonebwoy: Those could be singles too.
Fofana: Your new single "More of You." Very dope song by the way. What was the inspiration behind that love song?
Stonebwoy: "I love what you giving me. Let's get one more baby." That's what I'm saying. It could be like an old relationship, it could be a new relationship, whatever it is. When I write I try to just expand it beautifully. I'm telling this woman "let's get one more baby." I don't mind if you have it with somebody else or whatever, or you are single, you don't have a baby, whatever it is, because you're fine. If you're feeling loved, if you're loving somebody put that song on replay. I swear to God, just play it three times. If you don't like it, I'll give your money back to you on whatever platform. It's doing crazy already though, it's like a million streams on Spotify already. It's only four weeks. The vibe is getting in.
Fofana: There are a lot of underground Afrobeats artists that look up to you. What advice would you give them as they try to break into the industry?
Stonebwoy: It's a long journey. I think music is a journey that transcends your physical form, even at a certain point in time. Cuz when you are no more, your music is still gonna be here and running. So it's a very long, long journey. Generations are gonna sample off it. Generations are gonna hear it. So coming on this journey, you should understand that it's not a nine day wonder. That kind of journey. It's not a journey that you're gonna want to only be famous and get to experience the things that come with being a famous person. There are advantages and there are disadvantages too. You have to be able to keep things together as a normal human being. You have to keep family, you have to keep friends, you have to keep businesses. Merging that with being a star or a musical artist is one of the most difficult things on earth to do because you are now public servant. You belong to everybody. You don't belong to yourself either. So the standpoint is that we have to find the balance so that you are yourself. Although you may not belong to yourself, there's a need to balance to be yourself. So that's one of the advice I'll give right now. Because in the end, there are million and million of us on this journey. Tons and tons of people ahead of me, a lot of people behind my back, you know? So we're just keeping music alive as a calling. So if you want to get into this trade, get ready and take it easy one day at a time. Hard work, push, find your niche, find your style, go all out. Don't be caught up in no box, be creative to any extent that you want. Whether you want to put R&B and Amapiano together, create that because the diversity is the beauty of it. The uniqueness. Be prayerful as well because it's a metaphysical world it's not just a physical world. You have to be on your toes as well in that manner. So that's all I can share with my fellow brothers and sisters. And tell myself as well, again, as a reminder.
Fofana: Speaking of artists behind and in front of you, who are your top five African artists right now?
Stonebwoy: Boop Boop. Boop. You know the vibes. Top five African artists. I am telling you, honestly speaking, there are more than five. There are more than five in no chronological order. Is that how you guys say? I am just gonna state it and I might go more than five cuz I should be allowed. When you see the fans, you ask them, they can tell you. I'm a fellow creative, so I see many more of my brothers and some of the people who have really touched and pushed the door for our generation and even before. Before I even start mentioning names, big respect to the founding fathers from the 60s. They really started shifting the whole block till today. 2Baba being one person who's inspired me a lot from Nigeria. He's had that style that I do basically because you can find the swing, the reggae, R&B [and] the dancehall outflow in there. He only did it more in pigeon than in English. I sort of like got more interested in patois. So I kind of mastered it a little bit and I had Jamaican guardians.
Top five Africans. Today I go for my Davido. I go for my [Wizkid], I'll go for my [Burnaboy], I'll go for Stonebwoy. I'll go for Sarkodie, in Ghana he's a rapper basically but he kills it. I'll go for Khaligraph Jones in Kenya. I told you I'm not gonna just mention five, I'm just shooting all the brothers. Yo, make me a list. Let me shout out all the brothers. Nasty C from South Africa. Big respect to one of my brothers Shatta Walle, keeping it alive, same way. Across the continent. Congo, Zimbabwe, family is big man. I can only mention all of us. Big respect to all those who have not even mentioned
Fofana: Comedian Lil Duval recently started controversy when he said, “Afrobeats might be the death of Hip Hop as we know it.” And once he started to receive backlash, he added, “I wasn’t saying hip hop is over i said 'hip hop as we know it,' meaning like it evolved into something bigger. Meaning giving Afrobeats props. I don't like how some people take offense.”
Stonebwoy: Well, I respect the way he coded it. I respect the way what he said. Even the second part of how he explained it, I've been saying some things quite similar to what he said. It's really important what he said. Anyway, big respect to him. From where I stand, he didn't really say anything wrong. He's just stating a certain kind of fact that it might be evolving into something else right now, isn't it? But in my opinion, hip hop is a hip hop. Hip hop has its own sound when you hear it. Even hip hop itself has evolved when it comes to sound, structure, lyricism arrangement, even the looks of hip hop. Music is not stagnant even within one particular musical journey. It evolves every now and then because people have different tastes. People want to change things, but it has the core. Afrobeats is very broadened in the sense that it encompasses so many other styles, especially of black origin. So when you pick hip hop, when you know the history of hip hop, when you know the history of jazz, you know the history of R&B, we wouldn't be able to deny the blackness or the black contributed factor culture wise on all these musical genres that I mentioned and even more, maybe rock and roll. Pick elements from all of these, add reggae, add dancehall, add African sound, African melodies or African styles and approach and you have Afrobeats. That's why every little single person can relate to that sound. Because if you strip down a typical Afrobeat song, you'll be able to find everything in there or you can be able to even add everything in there. So the beauty of it is that we have gotten to a very handsome place right now where everybody's coming together in the same room to feel that, to get that feeling they will get from hip hop R&B.
Nas did a show the other time, crazy. What did you get? Hip hop, you know what I mean? And so the same crowd, I bet at least a quarter of that crowd will pull up for Wiz or Burna or Davido, or Stonebwoy. It is more of the unity of it for me than the division of it. I second what he said over there, because to me as a creative he didn't mean no harm. To the fellow fans and listeners and patrons, I want everybody to realize that it's more of us more than the singular kind of vibe to separate and segregate.