Boston-based Kofi Lost narrates Google’s 2020 ‘Year in Search'! Afro Moses Out Now!
Mass Bred Artist Kofi Lost has been applying a lot of pressure lately. In this exclusive interview, Kofi Lost talks to us about Google reached out, his mentality, goals, how he got his passion for music, creativity and more! Make sure to follow him on Instagram, Spotify, Youtube! Tap in his latest project "Afro Moses".
Boston Culture: Where did you grow up? What was that like?
Kofi Lost: I’m originally from Elmsford, NY. I spent a fair amount of time in Ghana as a kid too. I had family all over New York City and my Grandad lived in Brooklyn, so growing up was mostly just walking around with the old man when I visited. He would tell me stories, crack jokes, and play records for me. I was pretty self-amused as a kid, so if I had a book or some music to listen to I was cool. When I moved to Massachusetts at the age of 12, it took me a little time to get over the initial culture shock, but I definitely adjusted. As a result though, I spent a lot of time talking to my notebook.
Boston Culture: How were you tasked with writing and narrating last year's Google Year in Search? How did you get on Google's radar?
Kofi Lost: Truthfully… No idea. When they reached out and I saw the subject line, I thought someone had broken into my email or something. While I was working on it I found out someone on the creative team had been watching poetry online and came across me. I was shook. You never know who’s listening, you know?
Boston Culture: Talk to us about your creativity. You can rap, draw, paint, write poetry, produce beats, make films, and many other things. We'd like to dive deeper into your mindset. How did you know you wanted to focus on expressing art in various forms? Was it when you were 16 doing poetry slams? Or did you experience other things when you were even younger than that?
Kofi Lost: My Grandad and my Uncle are who I have to thank for inspiring me to be creative from a young age. My Grandad was a Trumpet player for most of his life, and my Uncle had a keyboard and guitar that I couldn't leave alone as a kid. I always viewed being an artist as something I could be because of them. Both were highly encouraging of expressing myself, and my Grandad was famous for never letting me say “I can’t”. He would make me sing to him every time we visited with each other. That made me a lot less skeptical about trying things, which explains all theIt started with music and poetry and then just being inspired by my friends.
Boston Culture: In the Search video, a strong message that resonated was that we (humanity) were searching for answers and found a way to triumph in uncertainty. What if every answer is eventually found? What is next after that? Or will humanity continue to search forever because we will never know everything that is so infinite?
Kofi Lost: Even people who live long lives leave Earth without learning everything, so it's about making a better world with what we do learn. Having the answer doesn’t benefit anybody if it's not shared.
Boston Culture: Describe how you felt the night when you performed on CBS. What do you miss about live performances in general?
Kofi Lost: The initial shock faded kinda quickly. It was a very “life of a rapper” type day. I got a new tattoo an hour before I had to be at rehearsal, so I was more focused on that than stressed about fumbling a line. I miss performing- I miss being able to get in front of an audience and have fun the way I used to. I miss stink faces, and dancing, watching somebody catch a line for the first time. Hopefully we can return to performances on the same level soon.
Boston Culture: For over a decade, you've written and performed poems that ask difficult questions. What can artists today do to contribute to the movement?
Kofi Lost: Artists know that they contribute to the movement with what they create regardless of whether it was even made with the movement in mind sometimes. That being said, we also see the movement commodified by some of those same artists and organizations and activists. Black pain sells very well historically speaking. I don’t know, It all comes down to being present for your people as an artist, however that looks to you. If you can’t provide physical presence, but you can provide financial support, do that. If you can be physically present, be present. Those aren’t the only things you can do either. Romanticizing the struggle, but not assisting in protecting people from it’s clutches is not cool.
Boston Culture: What was the best advice you got early in your career? How did you end up at Umass Boston? Walk us through your thought process in deciding to drop out to pursue your career as an artist, it must've been a hard decision.
Kofi Lost: Best advice was easily “Don’t mess this up” from Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola. Porsha was my poetry coach while I was on the mic at a poetry slam. But the one I return to often is “you’re doing as much writing as you should at any given moment”. If that’s not writing at all, then you need to not write and go live life a little bit. I used to feel really weird about being productive as an artist, but at the end of the day my art isn’t made to stand in competition with artists that are pumping out work, it’s meant to be in conversation with it. Everything has its time. With school it wasn’t like I intended to be out. I still wanted to run and finish school but It was really my life circumstances that led to me having to leave. I figured that I would just make the most of it for the rest of my time spent working. I always wanted to do something with music, but I figured it would be after school. The decision made my sense of urgency for it all a lot more apparent.
Boston Culture: Walk us through the first time you ever made a record. What inspired you, what did you make it on, etc.
Kofi Lost: My first recorded freestyle took place in my friends house over a Bobby Shmurda type beat. The first words of it go “ Shout Out the Obama decorative plate”. It was one of my first times recording with my friends on garageband.
Boston Culture :Walk us through your creative process in the studio. Do you like to make your own beats and freestyle to them? Or do you like to write to your beats and vibe out first. Any local producers or artists you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't gotten a chance to?
Kofi Lost: Depends on who I’m with and what kind of day I had first. If I’m by myself a phrase tends to stick in my head and with beats I tend to start with drums first. There's the occasional verse that writes itself but that’s rare as of late. If I’m not producing, or I’m in a studio It’s a lot more of a talkative process as I write, edit and come up with verses. Especially if I’m writing it as the beat is being made. With every engineer I’ve ever worked with, it's as much their song as it is mine so when I like that line of communication when I’m working. I still want to work with quite a few people. I really want to do a collab project with Paradoxic King. I would love to get a track with Tomo, too. I've been fortunate to get verses from some people I’ve wanted to work with already, but across the state it’s clear that MA is gearing up to make sure its name is heard when it comes to music. It really does feel like a renaissance, so I’m trying to work with anybody willing.
Boston Culture: What do you dislike about the art and music industry?
Kofi Lost: That everything seems to revolve around being a brand, being hypervisible,and making it something to survive on. It’s gotta be something that recharges you before you make it a livelihood because it's hard work that a lot of people don’t tell you about til you get there. It’s cool with me if you know my work but not my name if it still had a positive impact on you. I just want to put my art in the world and let it be found by who’s meant to find it. If a lot of people are meant to find it, I don’t want that visibility to feel suffocating. If not a lot of people are meant to find it, I wanna be the best I can be for the people that do.
Boston Culture: Who or what are some of your biggest influences (someone you met and someone you never met)? Talk to us about your cultural Ghanaian roots.
Kofi Lost: My Grandad, who was a horn player... besides him, Corrine Bailey Rae, Isaiah Rashad, Alhaji K Frimpong, and I also grew up in a lot of Pro Era too. I had just moved out of New York when Waves dropped. I also grew up on Highlife, Hiplife, Afrobeats and stuff like that. Ghanaian culture is a huge part of my life. I want my music to be a reflection of who I am, so I do incorporate certain sounds and percussion from highlife in my stuff. Just to pay homage to what my love of music is based on.
Boston Culture: Talk to us about your younger mentality.
Kofi Lost: I’ve skipped just about every major school event I can think of to perform a gig or competition. Not because I wasn’t down to go or anything, they all just happened to fall on important dates like that. I also might’ve been a little hasty.
Boston Culture : Tell us about your goals for 2021.
Kofi Lost: At the end of the year, I’ll probably move towards building a new studio space. I wanna be doing shows again, and hopefully making a lot more music.
Boston Culture: Do you want to one day have your label or would you prefer to get signed to a label? Or do you want to expand into other ventures as well? We're trying to get a sense of your end goals and where you want to be 10-15 years from now.
Kofi Lost: Nah no signing. That’s not something that’s in my head right now or probably ever. I just wanna make music, honestly. I think it can be done independently, and with the right support system around me, I’ve been able to do it on my own terms, even if I gotta learn on the go. Outside of music, I see myself owning a restaurant, still teaching artist work, and picking up a new hobby. I’ve been fencing in the studio lately.
Boston Culture : How did you catch the attention of so many people across New England and Silicon Valley?
Kofi Lost: Hard work, some luck, and just putting my work out there is the answer I’m gonna give for right now. You never know who’s watching or who your work will resonate with.
Boston Culture : What brands should sponsor you?
Kofi Lost: New Balance, because I like running. Schweppes, for reasons you had to be there to understand. Maybe Gibson Guitars too, because a man can dream.
Boston Culture: How did you get the attention of Billy Flynn MGMT?
Kofi Lost: We got introduced a little before the new year. We were introduced by a mutual friend and hit it off. Billy and his team have taken good care of me so far.
Boston Culture :Anything else we missed you want to tell your fans?
Kofi Lost: See you when I see you.