Worlasi is a multi-talented, award winning Ghanaian rapper, singer, songwriter and music producer who originally hails from Ghana. His music is expressive, thought provoking, soothing, uplifting and diverse. His genres range from Rap to Highlife to Afrobeat and everything in between. In short, it is authentic.
Bôhten was able to secure a one on one interview with Worlasi in time for the release of "The.rap.y", his first EP release in two years. A play on the word Therapy, "The.rap.y" acts as Worlasi's own therapy session as he shares his experiences through the highs and lows and constant battle of emotions of his creative process. Knowing he couldn't afford to go to a therapist regularly, and how uncommon it is in West African culture, Worlasi used his music to vent frustrations we all can relate to - 'Perfection', 'Jealousy', temptation (Luci) and many others named on the tracks list.
In this intimate conversation with the rapper, Worlasi opens up about his life growing up in a low income neighborhood in Accra, how he got started in music, and his creative process throughout the creation of his newest body of work, available on all streaming platforms today.
Tell us a little bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up and what did your life look like as a kid in Ghana?
I grew up in a neighborhood called Darkuman in Accra, Ghana. It’s a large area and has a mixture of people who came to Accra to hustle and make money. So there are some areas where buildings and homes were made with whatever people could find. Some may have just a chamber and hall, and others just a very small room. Some sections don’t have roads, some homes don’t have toilets or bathrooms. I went to a Catholic government school which was right in the middle of these areas. We used to call it “Kokonte & Ab3 nkwan” (Kokonte & groundnut soup). The government school uniforms resembled it and it’s how you know it’s a school for lower and middle class people. I was raised by my grandparents, specifically my grandmother, but their house was in a different section of Darkuman. We weren’t allowed to go out as kids, but because I went to that school I met a couple of friends who lived in these areas. I got a chance to experience other people’s lives and Darkuman made me understand there are different kinds of people in the world and you should respect everyone. It taught me that people are going through things and not everybody has it bougie or nice around you. It taught me how the government’s actions affect everyone, especially the downtrodden.
I grew up in a family house, but I was alone a lot. I wasn’t playing with kids outside or anything. My mom wasn’t around, my sister wasn’t around, so it was hard for me to connect with other family members as I was closest to my mom and my little sister. But I grew up with an uncle and a cousin, so they were like my brothers, and my grandmother raised me and other family members in the house.
A sample EP album cover featuring Worlasi's grandmother
When did you fall in love with music? If you can, paint us a picture of that exact moment.
I was home from school doing nothing for over a year, as I was waiting to hear back about university. It was very boring. But I always like to do something, so I listened to the radio a lot. There was a new station called YFM and they had come fresh. They were playing a lot of rap music like Lil Wayne, DJ Khalid and all these people. They played some Nigerian rappers [Amad back] Sak, they were playing Manifest. Just playing really really good music because they were trying to gain more audience and target the youth.
Listening to it got me curious as to how music was made. I was listening to some of the words and the lyrics and I thought it was extremely creative. You’re saying something very serious but very creative in a short period of time. You’re singing and it sounds good, and at the same time it’s making you feel good, but at the same time it’s also telling you something important. I thought it was a very artistic skill and was very impressed. I didn’t know anything about music, so I wanted to know how it was made. I called a couple of friends over and I started on a Pentium 3 desktop computer which was very slow. It was in my mom’s office. She was a seamstress. She had a room with a table and books that no one was using. So I started downloading all the softwares and began learning a production software called Fruity loops. I remember going to an internet shop in Darkuman where it was 1.50ghs for 30minutes to use the internet. The program said it would take 30minutes but it actually took 2 hours. I couldn't afford the extra time but the owner let it slide. I still owe him to this day.
But that’s when I fell in love with music. It was so easy and just made so much sense. Anytime I had difficulties, I would go on youtube and just kept practicing and practicing and practicing.
There was a guy in the neighborhood called Bulldoza. He was a producer and he heard that I was doing music, so he asked people to tell me to come check out his stuff. I went to his place and he showed me a few things on FL. He really taught me a lot about FX, reverb, delay and so much more. I kept going by his place for about two months until he moved and we weren’t able to stay in touch. What solidified my love was when I made my first song. We remade it later on and it’s what most people know as Focus today.
If you had to describe your work to someone who has never heard it before, how would you describe it?
I think I would say advocating, precise, emotional and timeless, because I’m touching on topics that will always reoccur. I don’t like mentioning Motorola 62 or Bugatti 92. I talk about everyday things that happen to human beings and that will always happen to human beings. Social problems. Emotional problems. Independence. Black independence. Black excellence. Self Awareness. I’d say it’s refreshing too because it’s always kind of different. It’s uplifting, eye opening, and philosophical. I always want to create my own philosophies.
Your last album was released in 2020. Your newest EP release is 2023. What was Worlasi doing during the two/three year hiatus?
Writing. Writing the songs that are going to be released in 2023. And also trying to connect with other people in other places around the world. And also dealing with covid 19, that slowed things down. Oh and also hanging out with friends and family.
How was this process in creating your newly released EP Therapy different to that of Worla - the man and the God and any others you’ve created?
My entire catalog is always me trying to use music to understand very serious things that are going on in my life. I use it to save myself from confusion and I also use it to learn. Once I pick a topic or it’s something that’s bothering me, I have to read more about it because I want to know more.
The first project I did was Nuse3, which separated me from my masters. Basically, I grew up feeling like white people were my masters so the project was about Black people and White people and us thinking white people are superior. That separated things and made it clearer for me. The second project separated me from God or people that claimed they saw God or act like they have the power of God. So Worla, the Man and the God helped clear that up for me. This new project however is different because in this one I’m separating me from my own self. I separated myself from my thoughts, from my confusion and from my own understanding. I shared personal things and opened up to let people understand how I felt, but it was difficult for me to do it. But, it also brought me closer to myself. To love myself more and fight for myself too.
You’ve stated this EP acted as a therapy session for yourself. What was the moment you realized there was a theme about therapy for you?
Honestly speaking, I didn’t even know from the beginning this album was about therapy. I was writing an album that didn’t focus on any other thing but my personal life and so I chose topics that bothered me. Luci was the first song I wrote and I was like “Ah. This is actually therapeutic.” While writing it, I realized I’m trying to separate both mindsets, feeling like I’m doing something bad or wrong when I’m actually not. As time went on, I wrote out all the thoughts that were bothering me and there were similarities, there was a thread. It’s therapy.
This is a full rap album where you rap in English, your native tongue Ewe and Ghanaian Pidgin. Why did you decide to use these three languages specifically?
I did not decide. These were the languages that came easily to me. The whole album is for me to express myself, so the best way I can say certain things and for it to be perfectly clear for myself and perfectly describe how I feel were in these languages. They were the languages that rolled easily off my tongue or I understood better. So I didn’t decide, I just went with the flow.
Tell us a bit more about your album cover. What was the inspiration behind it?
The album cover was actually inspired by therapy. I thought “Okay, if you’re talking to a therapist, someone is in a chair, the other is on a couch and you’re having a conversation with each other. So since I’m having a conversation with all these 6 ideas or personas, then we might as well all sit at one table and have a discussion and talk about it.” Then I thought the last supper would be perfect because it represents friends coming together, eating, feasting and understanding each other. Because at the end of the day, the whole point is to be happy with yourself and your thoughts and understand them and make life better.
The album cover is also a tribute to my grandmother. She passed away suddenly during the time I was making the EP. I found this picture of her a few months before and I always loved it because it had so much character. When she passed away, it was a lot. But the very next day I decided to switch things around and integrate it into the cover as a dedication to her.
You not only wrote all of the songs on this EP but you also co-produced all of the beats alongside Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist producer David Hammond. What was that process like?
The process was beautiful honestly. Working with him is magical. He’s an extremely talented producer. There’s nothing he would not want to attack or try. And when he tries and it doesn’t work, he knows and admits “Okay this might not work for you”. And he listens, and I also listen to him and we listen to each other. It’s very easy to work with someone who understands it’s a collaboration and that it's not about ego or forcing ideas or anything. It’s about what’s best for the idea that’s put down. Before we do anything, we understand what the song is about and we make sure whatever we are producing matches the idea and how we want people to feel about it. Our whole point of making music is about making people feel a certain way. That was the goal of production. It was a learning process for both of us. We found ways to work faster and be more disciplined. He brought some of his friends over to come and do some singing etc. It was very easy to work with him. He’s inspiring and very productive. We are extremely happy about the end result of what we did.
Which beat was your favorite to create and which song your favorite to write on “The.rap.y” and why?
I can’t choose one. “When I’m gone” was solely David Hammond. He produced everything. I didn’t want to change anything about it. The rest were all produced from scratch. Jealousy was initially produced by myself and it was an Afrobeat in the beginning then switched to rap. The whole idea was to let people know we could make you dance or do something catchy and lively but please listen to this rap because what you are about to hear is serious. And David came and changed it to Amapiano instead and the beat was way brighter than mine. That one was extremely difficult for us to make because the beat switched not just by genre but also tempo and it was his first time and my first time doing it that way. The most fun was "Perfection". I wanted it to have a highlife, salsa, danceable like OG vibe. It was the first beat we ever did from scratch together and I think it was fun seeing the end result. It’s not something we feel someone has done in our industry so it was very refreshing to hear and we were proud that we could actually make it work.
In terms of writing, the hardest one I wrote was Jealousy. I had to record the song the same day my grandmother suddenly passed away. The second verse of Jealousy, the second verse of Luci and then the whole of When I’m Gone were all recorded after my grandmother died. So those songs were very hard for me to feel. All the songs were due to go to my sound engineer the very next day after she passed and I wasn’t even finished writing them. That next day, when everyone was crying at home, I had to just shut the door and shut myself out and write and record the remainder of the songs to try and finish.
What’s one thing you hope people take away from listening to this EP?
I hope they gather courage to be honest with themselves. I hope they pick each topic and write about it or think about it. I hope they are honest about the things around them and they are honest about the possibilities of changing the things around them. I hope they don’t stay in the darkness for too long and they can find a strategy for getting out of it. I hope they become more fulfilled and happy with everything they desire to make them happy. I hope they get productive. I hope it motivates them to create and do all the things they were scared to do. And I hope they tell people about the project because it will be of help to a lot of them, as it did for me.
Can we look forward to any music videos on this project?
Yeah, there are two music videos so far, both animated videos. One is from Poka studio (Poka Asamoah) and the other from Kanzo studios (Johann Setorwu). They are both Ghanaian animators and I look forward to seeing what they create. These are music videos that I can confirm.
What’s next after this? Do you have any projects that you’ll be working on once this one is out?
I have another EP project coming out in three months and another EP coming out three months after that. This year I told myself I’m releasing three projects. They’re all EPs. I’m also an artist, so I plan to do an exhibition in Accra for The.rap.y where each painting represents each song. So keep an eye out on my channels for that event as it’s happening soon.
Thank you so much Worlasi for your time and sharing insight into your life and your newest EP The.rap.y - out on all platforms from today. If you're keen to listen to his work, check out the latest album here: