The Interview: Kojey Radical
This article originally appeared on Hunger TV.
They say that doing two things is doing one too many, but Kojey Radical; a curious East London creative, views this from a different angle. Born and raised in Hoxton, Kojey is a lesson in multiplicity and centres in London’s new-fangled band of wordsmiths, photographers and designers who grew up on Grime; yet tempt this cultural influence with a curiosity of alternative art forms. What is Kojey’s role in all of this? Simply put: everything.
As a child Kojey soon realised that conventional patterns would not define his career path. First foraying into artistic realms as an illustrator he eventually embarked on a degree at London School of Fashion. Now in his early twenties, Kojey is Creative Director of Push Crayons, a creative media agency that he also founded; a commitment balanced alongside art direction for contemporary menswear’s brand Chelsea Bravo.
These eclectic mediums of expression are best illustrated –or perhaps most accessible –with the organic progression of debut EP, ‘Dear Daisy: Opium’; where the initial idea of a book gradually manifested into a six track concept piece revolving around ‘The Gardener’; an awkward intellectual with traits of Kojey and his courting of an elusive love interest named Daisy.
Hunger caught up with creative to discuss his passion for art, the freedom to create and the well-received EP ‘Dear Daisy Opium.’
With everything that you’re doing, is there a singular, feeling goal, intention or emotion that ties it all together?
A lot of what I write, make, create or design is to tap into the way people feel and by that I mean if there’s a sentence or chord, a colour, a sequence that triggers something in the mind.
It seems that ‘legacy’ drifts into your thinking. Are you trying to inspire change through art?
I’m a hypocrite with common sense and that’s all I want to be remembered for. One day I might be enthralled by the concept of love and the fact that I don’t understand it and that women are scary but I love them so so much. And the next minute I might want to be an activist. I’m not a role model, I will never be a role model but if people hold me to that degree or the stuff I’m creating to that degree then so be it. I’m not trying to pertain to it. I just want to be able to express as freely as possible for as long as possible.
I’m not naïve there will come a day where I will have to tick boxes. This is a job, this is a business. I hope that people don’t condemn me for it when I get to that point, I’ve got to eat man.
The freedom to create is interesting because it’s something that almost everybody is looking for in one capacity or another. Does art give you that?
You’re never truly free but you can be happy with the state that you’re in and that’s the easiest route to achieve freedom. As long as you’re happy, what more do you want? The craziest thing about the freedom of an artist is that we’re never free. The moment I choose to express myself and put that out there I’m a slave to you. I need you to like it, I need you to buy it. You don’t buy it, I don’t eat. So as soon as people start selling out they’ve just accepted that earlier. It’s sad but it happens. There are a few artists like Pharell who tick those boxes but people still like it.
That’s interesting that you say that because I found it difficult to describe you. I can’t just call you a spoken word artist; I can’t just call you an illustrator. How do you see yourself?
Whenever I’m asked that question I literally just say that I’m an artist. With art there are no parameters. There are so many different kinds of art and there are so many different ways to translate art but essentially it’s a language. Everything that I’m exerting is me attempting to become fluent in another language, another form of communication.
If I have a story to tell and it can’t be done through an image, I might need to speak on it. That might become a poem. If I need people to connect with it, I might write a poem or I need people to see it, I might direct a film. Or I imagine the characters in the space to dress a certain way so now I have to go and design a collection.
I’m just an artist; I’m just trying to find different ways to communicate. When something’s alien, the quickest way to make sense of it is to box it in. He’s that or he’s this or he reminds me of him. But every single person on this planet is more than one thing. As much as I’m an artist, I’m a son, I’m an uncle. You see what I’m saying? I wouldn’t know what to say about myself so I always find it interesting when I read the introductions and it’s a line of what I am.
Nobody knows what to say…
Nobody knows what to say. So whatever it is, I’ll be that today [laughs]. That’s my job, that’s my role, I’ll act that position. I don’t know. I didn’t get into it for the same reasons that everybody else did, I really didn’t. But I’m in it now and by being in it this is my opportunity to really put some things into the world that can really implement change somewhere.
For what reasons did you get into it?
As a kid I never saw myself doing anything normal, I knew I would never be comfortable with just one position, where I’m under somebody and my ideas aren’t worth anything. With that I then wanted to embark on ‘what do I want to be known as.’ I was always fascinated with artists Kaws and Basquiat.
Basquiat, he pretty much impacted an entire generation.
These are the people I’m looking out for. If you see some of my illustrations a lot of earliest influences come from him. Not just him though, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol also. If you take Warhol, as much as he has criticisms, he’s one of the greatest people in the universe because he managed to take something so simple and infect culture. It’s weird, I think about stuff to much.
The thinking too far ahead is something you mentioned on ‘The Garden Party.’ I imagine that impacts the creative process?
Definitely. Right now I’m working on about four or five projects simultaneously, I’m three or four projects ahead so whilst everyone’s absorbing the first two projects, I’m working on three, four and five. I do art direction for a contemporary menswear brand called Chelsea Bravo and we’ve got a collection coming out this month. In the fashion side of things we’re going to be doing that. It’s a blessing to work with Chelsea, she’s one of the people that came along and just got it and we just clicked. And we’ve been managing to create things that come from such a raw and organic place.
Going back to ‘The Garden party,’ and ‘Dear Daisy: Opium,’ it’s rare that you hear a track explore conversation in the detail that you did.
When I made Dear Daisy obviously it was a concept so I put the characters in the context. You’ve got the context of the Gardener and you’ve got the concept of Daisy and how I imagine their meeting to come about. And that in turn sets the tone for this EP, the next EP and the EP before it.
Whilst I’m writing that conversation I kind of…When I write I always have to the overall concept in mind but also the concept of how I’m actually writing it. With ‘The Garden Party’ it sounds like several themes of thought that never finish, every line runs into another line. As you’re listening to it you’re following the train of thoughts because it almost directly speaks to the way you yourself might think.
It’s an accurate documentary of our generation. The theme…
That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to place them in ways that didn’t feel like I’m forcing you to understand.
The choice of sample was interesting too…
The sample is an old, old French sample I actually found the other day. In English it basically means the Last Waltz so the chorus connects to the sample. ‘Come Waltz with me before you go.’ I kind of wanted to inspire that nostalgia of relationships. Everything was a lot more romanticised and everything feels like such a movement, then the drums come in to remind you of the present day. The romanticism is still there in the background but it’s something that you can anchor onto. I wanted to paint the Garden party but I didn’t have the right pallet and that came out in the words and the music.
The central theme throughout the EP was ‘Love is the opium of the people.’ Where did that come from?
I started researching my dissertation by reading a lot of Karl Max because I was focusing on the commodity of religious and cultural garments in fashion, looking at the idea of why people choose to wear bindis as fashion statements instead of cultural religious statements. Why people choose to invert the cross upside down and what not.
Through looking at I looked further into Marxist philosophies and fond a quote ‘Religion is the opium of the people.’ But you choose to be religious or you choose to denounce religion, it’s no longer an opiate to the world, but in order to want to do that you have to love it. Love now becomes the opium because people love power, they love money, they love that feeling. Everything positive we’re doing is fuelled on love but that message is too deep to handle in one go.
People like drugs, people like fantasy, opium is the base of that message because opium is probably one of the most euphoric drugs but the roots of it come from such a pure place. I’ve taken the opium context and I made it a metaphor for love within the story.
Interesting, but also quite intense to take in on a first listen.
But then that message is in the happiest song of the EP. That is the position.
“It’s not the words that move the people but if the words are true,” from The Garden Party. Where does that fit into the wider context of ‘Dear Daisy: Opium’?
That’s probably one of the most slept on lines on the EP. I could say anything but if you don’t believe me you’re going to dismiss it. I could say anything but as soon as you believe that’s when it becomes effective, if you don’t believe me it becomes irrelevant.
Even on the context of love, I’m trying to convince her [Daisy] that I’m not like the other people but if she doesn’t believe me then I’m just another dude. It doesn’t matter what I say.
To a certain degree that same principle now applies to life and that’s what I was trying to bring forward with the EP. AS much as my intention was the in the message, it trickles into everything.
Just like in one of the first lines and The Gardener is attempting to show to Daisy that he genuinely cares about the situation in the Middle East and all of the issues going on in the world. But it doesn’t matter if he cares about it; it only matters if she believes him.
Exactly. If we didn’t believe Obama, he wouldn’t be President Obama, if people didn’t believe in Hitler he wouldn’t have killed the Jews. But the words he said were believed to be true.
So what’s next?
The messages from Dear Daisy trickle backwards so things I’ve started in this EP hopefully will make sense by the time the next project drops.
My next project is a prequel; it happens before Dear Daisy and focuses more on The Gardener and his journey up to the point where he actually meets Daisy. You get an understanding of what he’s managed to figure out by going through these other flowers and everything he’s managed to pick out. Realistically I am The Gardener; these are the representations of the things I’ve learnt.