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King Promise: ‘Entering the Promised Land’

Ghanaian highlife & afrobeats musician King Promise talks candidly to Vivian Iroanya for SCTR, on how he has ingrained his name as one of Ghana's leading music icons.

Story by Vivian Iroanya

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Photography by Hamish Brown

At the beginning of King Promise’s career, not everyone was convinced he could become an artist. This was depicted as an unrealistic dream for a student in Ghana and many doubted he could make it this far. “When I started, my friends were like ‘bro are you serious about this music thing.’ In Africa it is mostly about going to school, doing your degree and a white-collar job. Showbiz and entertainment is not really a thing. But I was like ‘nah fuck the degree, I love doing this.”

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“Showbiz and entertainment is not really a thing (in Africa). But I was like ‘nah fuck the degree, I love doing this.”

Indeed, there was no seed of doubt in pursuing his passion. His first entrance to the music scene was in his friend’s recording studio at Central University in Ghana and since then, his music career has flourished. “I never thought I was going to be an artist. I wanted to be a footballer or real estate agent. At university, I ended up featuring on a song my friend was working on and from there, I kept going back and the passion kept growing. So after university, I was like ‘yeah this is definitely what I am doing.”

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“What truly kept me going was the fact that I loved it and I had the passion for it. It is something I feel I was born to do"

His first single Thank God featuring Fuse ODG marked the beginning of this journey. But it was his 2019 debut album As Promised that established him as one of the leading icons of the Afrobeats genre, a fusion of sounds from West African music. The album has now over 100 million streams on all digital platforms, making it the highest streamed album in the history of Ghanaian music. His first official single of 2021 Slow Down has already entered the Billboard charts at the 14th position. He said the song is a perfect example of what is to come in his upcoming sophomore album dropping this year. “This album is really special and it is the best thing I have ever worked on. I feel like I am making the best music of my life right now. When it comes out everyone is going to say ‘yeah now I get what he meant.’ So I really cannot wait.”

But Promise says it takes consistency and perseverance to drive a long-lasting music career. He also credits his supportive family for encouraging him along the way. “What truly kept me going was the fact that I loved it and I had the passion for it. It is something I feel I was born to do. My parents always had my back. The only thing they told me was to finish school, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t pressured into doing so. I am thankful and lucky for that. Till today they are my biggest fans.”

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“We have really wonderful music here (Ghana) and it is a matter of sharing it with the world."

When asked about his creative formula, he adds it all comes down to simplicity and having fun with the music. “Don’t force the process. I sing my soul out and sometimes I finish a song in under 30 minutes or even in one day. It comes to me naturally. It is not planned or calculated. You have to have fun and when you listen to my music you can feel it. So the process is different each time and varies from how I am feeling at that point in time.”

Afrobeats continues to reach new heights in popularity in the music industry as it travels beyond borders. Promise sees his vocation as an ambassadorial role, following the likes of his peers such as Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Shatta Wale. “It is a blessing to be in a position where I can represent Ghana and Africa on a global scale. We have really wonderful music here and it is a matter of sharing it with the world. Afrobeats is becoming one of the biggest genres and I’m just here to contribute my quarter. My music brings good vibes, no stress and chop life. I am making sure to bring joy to people’s lives and if it wasn’t for my fans I wouldn’t be here today. You make me live my dream.”

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“You have to enjoy it, both the good and the bad. I am taking everything as it comes my way. The music has to speak for me above anything else."

Platforms like TikTok, Spotify and Apple Music have given African artists the stage to showcase this global reach. Promise elucidates how these are helping him promote his music even more. “Even before Spotify came to Ghana this year, I was already making crazy numbers on there when it wasn’t even available in the country. So you can imagine the influence and impact it is having on my music now. When I go on tour, you have people listening to my music as far as Asia and the Middle east. Music is travelling these days because of these platforms and it is something I am thankful for.”

Despite all the successes, the award-winning artist explains how failures are just part of the process. “You have to enjoy it, both the good and the bad. I am taking everything as it comes my way. The music has to speak for me above anything else. Before putting any music out, I make sure I am giving it my best shot because the more high-quality music you put out, the more recognition and attainment you get. So, I just do my thing. If it goes well, we go again next time.”

“If you love it, give it your best shot... The world is at your doorstep, you just have to believe it.”

Thus, his advice to young African artists is to always stay focused and determined. “If you love it, give it your best shot. There is a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into this. It is also a beautiful experience and you have a great time. The world is at your doorstep, you just have to believe it. Keep pushing and it will work out eventually.”

Promise is looking forward to collaborating with international artists such as Drake and Chris Brown, as well as tapping into the french music scene working with rapper MHD and singer Aya Nakamura. In the meantime, he says he will continue to ingrain himself as one of the greatest forces in the music realm. “In five years from now when they ask you ‘who is your favourite artist?,’ you won’t have to think twice and just say ‘King Promise’. That’s the plan. KP is coming and the world should be ready. Afrobeats to the world, Africa to the world. The world is ours. Let’s get it.”

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