Kwazi Cort interview: “all this gangster sh*t is cool, but it’s not a reflection of my entire life”

Kwazi Cort interview

Kwazi Cort has many stories to tell. There’s the musical journey that he’s on right now, with songs that are captivating audiences, touching on a variety of different subgenres around a core rap sound. Then there’s the story of a young artist in London, harmonising the expectations around him as a human being with his true expression.

I talked to Kwazi Cort about identity, music and how audiences approach Black British artists.

How have things been for you recently with the lockdown?

Actually lockdown has accelerated my career. This particular time has seen the biggest growth spurt I’ve had as an artist. I guess the question of lockdown almost leads people into “Oh yeah, I’ve been in the house and it’s raining and dark” but for me, it’s been great, realistically it’s been really good for me. Of course, there have been things I’ve been affected by, like everyone else, but generally, for my career, it’s been great.

So you’ve got the ‘silver lining’ approach to lockdown?

Yeah, I’ve done that throughout my whole life, I’ve had to. The silver lining, gold lining, diamond lining, every type of lining to keep my mind in line (laughs).

So, talking about your upbringing then, what kinds of artists helped shape your sound and inspired you?

So the kind of blatant ones are Kanye, Skepta, Dizzee Rascal etc., but deep down it’s really like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix. When I’ve been asked that question I’ve kind of always tried to relate it to something that makes sense, but a lot of my inspirations have made no sense, there’s Luther Vandross, Prince; obviously I am from a different country and a different age, so my expression came out how I am, and those are the ones that really influenced me to want to do music.

So it’s a mixture of rap, but then also singer-songwriters…

Yeah. Going towards my next project I’m trying to be more heartfelt; all this gangster cocky shit is cool, it’s alright, but it’s not a reflection of my entire life. I think British Black artists from London are sort of in the bravado, arrogant lane. Which is cool, but we all go through so many different ups and downs, so I want to make music that reflects my human experience.

Kwazi Cort



So what is that human experience? Maybe it’s too much to ask you to summarise it, but how does it fit in with your music?

I think the experience is kind of like: half roadman, half intellectual, off the grid, recreational. I don’t know, it’s weird. Obviously I’m a Black guy, so you’ve got the typical ‘walk across the road if you see me’ type shit, and then if you talk to me it’s a completely different thing. And then I have the road experience, the intellectual experience, it’s been a mixture of that; how people see me and how I see myself, and I think once you begin to define yourself based on how you see yourself, you realise you’re just a human being in the world. There are certain conditions people kind of put you towards but that doesn’t define you. So, yeah, I would say half roadman, half intellectual to summarise it.

When you talk about identity, that makes me think of your song ‘Trill Fairy’. I was watching the music video recently, and you’ve got the conscience on your shoulder, if I’m interpreting that right, and you’ve got how people see you vs how you see yourself.

Yeah. I mean, first of all, the title makes no fucking sense. It’s been a mixture of a lot of different experiences and that was me embracing it, embracing that duality of my life in London; young artist, someone that’s had multiple experiences, and I tried to embody that in the title, so Trill is obviously a sound, and fairy is what we typically know as a fairy, the sound is kind of funkadelic, and there’s a good conscience, bad conscience and everything in between.

I think I’ve just come to a point where it’s alright to embrace your confusion. There are a lot of people who are confused, there’s definitely the confused generation, the unknowing, so I like to embrace that kind of reality.



I agree, and I think there’s a lot of need to label as well. I noticed that sounded different from your other songs, and I think there’s a lot of temptation to try and pigeonhole somebody into one genre, do you kind of feel that?

Yeah, 100%. I think obviously from a marketing standpoint, It’s kind of easy to put people into the same box, it makes sense, and I guess a lot of people want to push a certain character narrative, but the reality is there are a lot of us who have so many esoteric experiences, where one moment and one experience doesn’t match the other, and now as a young artist I’m trying to embrace that duality more. So yeah, I can see in London there is sort of like that straight “I’m this, I’m that”, but maybe there is room for a mixture of a person to say “Hey listen, in five years I was in a trap house, and I was in the houses of parliament” and this is what it is. So sometimes I have those flashbacks of both, and I have to exist in both societies and conscious of both realities. So I think I’ll probably try and be one of the first artists to kind of embrace the duality, embrace the difference, embrace the experience.

What kind of music are you listening to at the moment? What’s driving you?

Donny Hathaway — a complete throwback.

I listen to ‘The Ghetto’ at least once a month as a requirement.

I’m listening to that. No matter what happens to me, I understand I’m a Londoner, my expression is always gonna come out in a certain way. So, I’m not inspired by people just talking shit. Because every time you hear something, it gets filtered out and you start to express yourself and then it turns into something else. So if what you’re listening to is potent, it’s naturally gonna get filtered out and get diluted a little bit, and what I think is that if you listen to trash, you just become more trash. Because now you’re regurgitating trash, as opposed to listening to the best and trying to find your expression within that. But yeah, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, just different type of cuts, just trying to approach music from a different kind of angle. And taking inspiration from TV programmes on Netflix as well, Umbrella Academy, I May Destroy You, Money Heist. I’m looking to all these different propositions and finding a way to express myself through it.

Kwazi Cort’s music is available on YouTube and Spotify. Follow Kwazi Cort on Instagram.

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Daniel Cody

Daniel Cody is SEO Editor at the New Statesman, and the creator of No Majesty. He is the host of the podcast Britain on the Rocks.