Kweku Collins: Rap's Wunderkid

AT FIRST GLANCE, Kweku Collins seems like your average 21 year old. On a normal afternoon, you can catch him skating through the streets of Evanston, Illinois, a suburb on the outskirts of Chicago, rap’s mecca. You may even catch a glimpse of the Thrasher tattoo on his left forearm - a nod to the influential skateboarding magazine. Kweku’s favorite TV show is The Office and, if you’re lucky enough, he’ll even do his best Dwight Schrute impression.

However, despite all the trappings of a typical kid from the ‘burbs, Kweku Collins is far from average. Recently making waves in the music scene, Kweku has won critical acclaim from publications such as Fader, Billboard, Pitchfork, and Stereogum. Without a doubt, Kweku is in a generation of young musicians to keep a watchful eye out for. Although he cites a wide array of artists from Black Sabbath to Kendrick Lamar for inspiration, Kweku’s style is uniquely his own. His melodic voice and gentle rhymes are refreshing in a growing culture of harsh, biting trap beats.

PULSE had the opportunity to sit down with Kweku and listen to his experiences as an up and coming rapper and what he hopes to give back to the world.

PULSE: Let’s break the ice really quickly with this very important question. What’s your favorite animal?

Kweku: PANDA… and a wolf. I don’t know why. I think wolves are just cool. They’re lonely and just look dope. My dad always wore wolf clothing when I was a kid and I loved all those wolf t-shirts.

P: Do you ever feel the need to conform to people’s image of a rapper?

K: Ehh.. not really because people don’t really know what the fuck they’re talking about. People that think they know what a real rapper should be don’t actually know what a real rapper is. It’s like trying to say what an artist is. You can’t do that.

P: Thoughts on the current state of rap?

K: It’s popping! I think it’s real tight. Everybody out here is trying to say things like “The art is dying.” But, at the same time, Kendrick Lamar is at the top of hip hop right now. He is probably the greatest MC of all time. I also don’t ever get mad at soundcloud rap. Smokepurrp makes hot ass music, first of all. And I can’t ever get mad at anybody trying to make money. Get it how you live.

P: Where do you see yourself in five years?

K: Uhhh, I’ll be 26. I have health insurance hahaha… But really, I want to make a career out of this shit. I want to talk to people about what I love and roll up blunts for the rest of my life. That’s where I’ll be at 26. I don’t really think like that. I take things how they come.

P: What do you want your legacy in the music world to be? What do you want to leave behind?

K: I don’t even want to leave a legacy to be honest. There’s a lot that I want to tell people. But really, I don’t want to leave a legacy in my own words. I think the most profound legacies people leave behind are the ones that do so quietly.

P: What new things can we expect from you in the future?

K: I have a lot of things coming actually. I have new music, always. I’m in the process of working on my second album, which will come out in a year or two. But, I’m just working, always. As soon as I get home, I’m going back to the studio. I’ve been working a lot with the people at my label, Closed Sessions. I like these deep questions though. Hit me with some more. Give it to me from the heart.

P: Haha we have a couple more deep ones for you. What’s the hardest part about being a rapper? I know there’s a lot of glamour behind it, but is there anything that you find difficult?

K: Hmmm. Imagine that you’re into fashion and making outfits for yourself. Every damn time when you put on an outfit, and look in the mirror, you’re trying to make sure you look good. If you get it right, then you’re like “damn! I look fucking good right now.” Same thing. I work alone in the studio and if I like what I’m making, I go “damn!!” Take the fashion example again. You put on a fire outfit and then get to the door. You realize now that you actually have to go out into the world and it’s not a mirror you’ll be looking at anymore. It’s other, real people now. And those people are going to see the outfit that you’re wearing and they’re going to judge you based on the decision you made to express who you are as an individual. That’s where it’s hard for me when I make my music. It’s that anxiety you get when you put yourself out into the world and anticipate the judgment from the people around you.

P: We currently have a series on PULSE called “Student Rappers” and the first one we did was on a rapper named VII, who’s a sophomore and also from Chicago. What kind of advice would you give to rappers, like him, on campus?

Kweku: Just be chill. Take things how they come, know what you want, and go for it. Somebody asked me something like that before. They asked “What would advice would you give your younger self?” Just be yourself!

By: Justin Kang

Photography by: Caroline Moon