Photo by WillPower
Unorthodox, yet universally endorsed, music is celebrated for its array of redemptive properties. Creativity embedded into the double helix, an organically gifted musician, like Selasi Duse, can easily twist words and sounds to summon wondrous art. Chronicling his life, the African-bred Duse has realized the American dream. Investing into his education and pursuing his passion, Selasi is reinforcing his calling. Everything from affliction to joy is offered by, The African Kid; the authenticity is what resonates with a global audience. When humility meets honesty life music is created; this is Selasi’s signature.
AllHipHop.com was the first publication to congratulate Selasi on “Call the Police” premiering on MTV Iggy. Since then the video’s popularity has demanded it be placed in regular rotation on mtvU. Within this exclusive learn more about Selasi as he opens up about everything from his celebrity-status to cancer.
AllHipHop.com: Even before appearing on the popular Bravo TV show, The Kandi Factory, your producing acumen has earned platinum success. You’ve worked with artists ranging from the GS Boyz to Nas. With the spotlight’s glare, how are you learning to erect boundaries, allowing accessibility to emerging artists and established professional relationships, while maintaining your personal privacy?
Selasi: Well, I own a studio in Atlanta, GA. So, I do production; I manage my artists, and myself. In Atlanta, my studio doors are always open to working with new talents. That’s something that I’ve always done; because, I like to see, new talented artists come up. That being said, I guess with the celebrity stuff, that’s still new to me. Sometimes I’ll walk up the street to the store—I was in Kroger this morning and the guard was like, ‘Oh, I saw you.’—it’s like, still new to me; it hasn’t really registered. So, I’m still learning how to deal with that part.
AllHipHop.com: If Coming To America paid homage to the film of the same name, to Hip-Hop and Reggae, in what ways does your latest EP Shades of Gray deliver both refreshing creativity and artistic growth?
Selasi: Coming To America was more of my first mixtape here [In America]. It was more of me playing a spoof of it. But, Shades of Gray is more of me. As in, my childhood impressions and what happened. I’m West African; so, my musical influences range from African music, Afro-beats, to Hip-Hop, to R&B, to Reggae. So, Shades of Grey is who I am. Musically, the sound that exists isn’t Hip-Hop, it’s not R&B, it’s not Afro-beats either; it exists in a shaded area. It’s not typically Reggae, not typically Hip-Hop, or that African sound; it’s in the middle. I look at Shades of Gray as more of who I am. Musically, it’s me.
AllHipHop.com: Having earned your degree in international business, in what ways if any, do you use your foundation of knowledge to assist you with your artistic endeavors, concerning both your business and your brand?
Selasi: Well, it helped me look at what I do as a product. The way I look at it is everything we do in this world is about demand or supply. From a business standpoint, If I’m an artist and I’m coming up with material — this is my music, but I still have to market it to my demographic. I have to make sure it’s accessible to my demographic. At the same time, it’s fine-tuning everything to what the fan-base likes. So, it’s me giving them more of myself—at the same time, trying to reach them at different channels.
Putting out music is one thing, but getting the music out to the fan-bases is where the work lies. You set up to market it, and advertise it, [using] forums such as magazines to get the word out; all that’s part of marketing. So, I just look at it from a business standpoint. Yeah, I’m the artist, but they taught me how to detach myself from being the artist and being the businessman.
AllHipHop.com: Many of your formative years were spent living throughout different African countries, you’ve been blessed to enjoy a worldly perspective, in relation to relocating from Africa to Atlanta, what political, social, and cultural aspects were the most challenging to encounter?
Selasi: Moving from one African country to another, the foundation of the cultural beliefs in Africa is the same. It’s all about family; it’s very family-orientated. So, in Africa, if you’re moving from Cameroon or to Malawi, everything is centered around family. Moving from there to here, where society is more like go-go-go-go, everything is moving fast and there’s no time for anything.
Back home, my dad goes to work. He takes an hour lunch break and goes home. Then he goes back to work. But here it’s different. You’re working; during lunchtime, you grab something real quick and you go back to work. The pace of this society is more of a shock—things are moving really fast over here. Of course, musically, it’s different too. When I came here, in mind I had a demo that I planned to shop [around]. After I heard that music here [I knew] I had to revamp it to bring myself up to par with the industry. So, that’s when I really got into sound-crafting and getting my music up to par.
There was a difference musically as well as socially. For me, the biggest difference was the social difference. The respect level that people have for the elders—say I meet an elder in the street—and he’s older than me. Even now, it’s hard for me to disrespect him, just ‘cause. Back home, if you did something disrespectful, then my teachers or my neighbor could whop my ass. Then they would come home and tell my mom about it. Then my mom would whop my ass, too. You were raised by more than one person; you were raised by a community. So, the respect factor is higher. Here it’s not the same.
The one thing that was different over here are the opportunities that are available. Like here, if you really want to do something, and you set your heart to do it, if you have the drive you can go and get it. That’s one thing that I really appreciate about here, too. The opportunities are here, you just have to reach out and grab them. That’s one of the reasons why a lot of people gravitate towards this place.
The things that are the same are the inherent drive, of course. I can also say, we drive on the same side of the road.
AllHipHop.com: [spews laughter]
Selasi: It’s funny, I’ve lived in Malawi, which is a different capital country, and they drive on the other side of the road. From Ghana, I went to Malawi, then I came here. I went from driving on the right side of the road, to the left side the road, back to the right side of the road; that’s very confusing. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Now’s the time I want to delve a little deeper into your business, do you mind if I ask more personal questions?
Selasi: No, you’re good.
AllHipHop.com: Within your background, it seems as though religion and faith have been greatly intertwined. Your father was once a computer analyst, then he accepted the calling and became a preacher. Early in your music career, your expressed your faith though your group, The Gospel Warlords. Given that you’re part of a profession that often celebrates personal and spiritual debauchery; how do you reinforce your relationship with God?
Selasi: I’m building an ongoing relationship with God. I refer to my music as life music. At the end of the day, it’s about what people go though in life. Whether you’re Christian or you’re Muslim, you go through those up-times and those down-times, you fall in love and you fall out of love; you hurt. So, these are things people go through and that’s what I pursue in my music.
As with my relationship with God that’s number one to me. I really don’t think it changes –I feel, at the end of the day; it’s all in how you deal with people. Number one, it’s all about how you carry yourself. Number two, it’s all in your thoughts. That’s the major thing. Mentally, at the end of the day, if you have your mind set to where you’re continually thinking negatively, it’s bound to manifest. At the end of the day, you’ll achieve that. My belief is in my heart and in my mind, so I don’t have to try to incorporate it. It’s a choice that I’ve already made.
AllHipHop.com: Given that your mother succumbed to her battle with brain cancer, have you used your time or any of your resources to contribute to any cancer causes, or cancer research endeavors?
Selasi: Not actively yet, it’s something that I intend on doing, but I haven’t done. I intend on doing it actually out there [in Africa] more than out here. Because out there, when that happened, it’s like their avenues to treating cancer out there are not as advanced as here. With what she went through, she felt something was wrong and went to the hospital. They kept telling her nothing was wrong. The last time she insisted they checked it out. So, the doctors did a CAT scan and that’s when they found out she had stage four brain cancer. So, I feel like if she lived here it would have been caught at a treatable stage. I’m really looking to do something out there for that.
AllHipHop.com: Have you been able to release all of your anger associated with her passing?
Selasi: Yeah, I did. I actually did it the day of when I got the news. I vented on a song. I haven’t released it yet. It’s one that’s close to my heart. I vented on a song; I made the music and I wrote the song. It took me, literally, about two weeks to record it. Every time I tried to, I kept breaking down. To me, that was my venting, when I was done with it, you know what, I came to terms with the fact that she’s in a better place.
AllHipHop.com: Thank you for opening up. Until the next time, is there anything else you’d like to share with your supporters?