Kojey Radical is multi-faceted in the truest sense of the word. The Hackney native and child of African diaspora lives and breathes art. He’s a visual artist, turned poet, turned musician and he’s even premiered the visuals for his track ‘Open Hand’ at the Tate. (Serious goals). His music is deeply layered in drums and bass with a slow, hypnotic backtrack. On his newest track ‘Gallons’, it almost feels like Kojey’s raw, powerful voice is leading us down a dark labyrinth of sound. We dig it big time.
Wonderland caught up with Kojey before his performance at Boiler Room x Saul Williams, part of Black History Month UK. The gig was a marriage of poetry and music. The first half welcomed guests to a darkened theatre space full of wooden benches.The room was filled with a palpable awe as Kojey took the floor alongside other renowned artists like American poet Saul Williams, Kate Tempest and Klashnekoff. The slam took the form of a spirited conversation between the audience and the performers, for every verse there was an answering whoop or gasp, each rhyme and metaphor was matched with cries and laughter. The second half of the set took place in the main bar lit only by swirling yellow and pink projector lights, no stage, no barriers, just a sea of spectators jumping around Kojey and co. While the space felt very much like it belongs (rightly) to people with a particular experience and story to tell, it didn’t feel exclusive. Performers like Kojey aren’t trying to keep people out, they just need to be heard and understood.
So how did you get into writing?
I got into it after art. I was doing art before, I had an idea for like an art project and I was kind of dabbling with poetry here and there and I think it got to a point where I was like let’s just do it. Yeah just kind of said I’m gonna do it and gave myself no trace, that was it, I gave myself no trace.
You were like, this is the route I’m going down?
With art I could put a lot of meaning into an image but it’s dependent on the viewer being in front of art. With music I can get things out a lot more quicker and a lot more passively. You still have audiences so it was a way for me to kind of create and be free and try to put myself out there but it could reach people more quickly. Art gave me mad anxiety. When you’re drawing if you make a mistake you’re aware you made the mistake on the spot. With writing if it’s rubbish I can just delete it, but if I mess up in a painting or a drawing it’s messed up isn’t it? I used to get really tense every time I was drawing and my escape from that was writing so that’s what I thought I’m going to write. I still paint and draw but it’s for me now.
You must have that visual aspect though because with your latest video it’s clear that you are also a visual artist.
Yeah I deal with the creative direction in my visuals. I’ve got an amazing team that allow me to express that art side of myself. I come to them with that background context and all these drawings and these images and then it’s kind of up to them to interpret it. It’s weird like the video concept started from a painting I did in like 2013, like an old ass painting and I’ve still got it in my room, and I was like yeah, let’s make it a video.