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Upclose with Selasi ‘The African Kid’

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Atlanta-based, Ghana-born Selasi Duse is a musical talent well noticed for incorporating a lot of diversity into his music. Now sporting the Moniker ‘The African Kid’, Selasi traveled all over Africa as a child, setting foot everywhere, from Cameroon to Nigeria, and Malawi to South Africa. His journeys around the world enabled him to pick up different music influences, and he incorporates a lot of elements from these cultures in his work.

Selasi first discovered his love for music when he saw a band playing at church. As a self-taught musician, Selasi started playing the drums in the church band, then went on to play the keys, and finally became the sound engineer/ music director for the church.  At the age of 14, he produced his first album in Malawi as part of that country’s first gospel rap trio, Gospel Warlords. That was his first studio experience and the group gained some huge exposure making the album the first and hottest selling gospel rap album in that country. “I remember walking through the market and seeing a bootleg copy of my album (laughs out loud). That was a weird experience,” comments Selasi.

After graduating from college in Malawi he was presented with the opportunity to further his education in any place of his choice.  After looking at the album credits/ liner notes of all the artists he admired including Usher, Jermaine Dupree, Monica, and Outkast, among others, there was only one clear option.  In 1999 Selasi moved to the city of Atlanta. Upon his arrival he enrolled in college and studied International Business and juggled that with a job at a car wash during the day. By night, and with all of his spare time, he tirelessly worked at his craft looking for any opportunity to get his foot in the music industry’s door.

Finally Selasi had the breakthrough he worked so hard for and has since worked with different artists/ industry personnel such as Brian Jackson, Akon , Pimp C , Jagged Edge, Ying Yang Twins, Trey Songz, Keysha Cole, Rasheeda, Killa Mike, Devyne Stephens, Bone Thugs n Harmony, Petey Pablo, Boys in Da Hood, Bobby Valentino, Yung Joc among others and has gained the respect of the industry as the next big producer, artist, song-writer, and engineer.

With a sound that meshes his African roots with an American lifestyle, Selasi proves to be the epitome of balance on every song. In one swoop he can rap alongside Gucci Mane on club skewed tracks like “Way Over Here” and switch lanes into one-drop reggae songs like “Our Father” dedicated to his homeland. As founder of his own Rocksteady Music Group, Inc., Selasi possesses that rare talent of being able to craft fitting production for his lyrics.

Jamati Online caught up with The African Kid to find out about his journey into music, his works, inspirations and aspirations.

How growing up like for you?

I was born in Accra and I grew up in Accra and Cape Coast.  I schooled in St Augustine College for about 3 years before going to St. Thomas Aquinas. I left Ghana to join my dad in Malawi in 1997 and then left for the states in 1999

When and how did you get your breakthrough as a producer in the US?

Because I do more than just production including being an artist and a mix engineer I was always working with the artist in one way or another. I worked with Akon and from there I met someone who introduced me to Jagged Edge. I produced two songs on their album ‘Baby Makin Project’ called ‘Can’t Get Right’ and ‘Turn U On’ and engineered the whole album.  It was a snowball effect from there. I met Keysha at the Jagged Edge studio, she had come through to work with them and from there it just kept going on.

Jamati: What’s inspires your work?

As an artist/producer I pull inspiration from everyday life experiences, and it doesn’t even have to be my experiences. Inspiration might come from anywhere so I just lay the idea down, sometimes on my phone.

Who are some of your influences?

As an artist it’s the likes of Bob Marley, Musical Youth, UB 40 and others.  As a producer Quincy Jones and Dr Dre have been very influential to me.

What makes your works stand out from the others?

I put my heart into every piece that I create, and, unlike most producers because I’m a mix engineer (mixing songs like “Stanky Legg” etc) I’m able to personally perfect every single detail on a record, getting it exactly the way I want it to sound.  I do not have a signature tune or beat per say because music comes from within so every musical creation captures a moment in time.

As a musician, what kind of music do you do?

My music is a hybrid, a mixture of different rhythms and sounds that have influenced me over the years, example Highlife, Kwasa Kwasa, reggae, Hip hop, pop etc

Do you have any singles out already?

I have two street singles out the now “Ghetto Girls” with Rasheeda and “Way Ova Here” with Gucci Mane which are currently available on iTunes. You can also check them out at my Myspace page.

Are you currently working on any productions or projects?

Yes, I just finished mixing the whole Rasheeda album and I produced/was featured on a song on there called “Fire”. I produced a song on Ludacris’ artist’s Playaz Circle’s new album, Flight 360 called ‘Quit Flossing’ featuring Jagged Edge. Currently I’m in the studio finishing up the album for Kandi of The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Escape fame. I am also working on my own album which is going great!!

What tools are we likely to find in your studio right now?

Apple G5, MPC 2000, Roland XP 60, Motif, Proteus, Korg Triton, Logic Pro, a Behringer mixer and Protools HD 3,and a Mac book pro.

What is a routine day like for you?

Wake up bout 8:30am, go running and work out, jump in the shower, grab some breakfast and then get on the phone with my business partner and finally get in the studio around 3pm

What am I likely to find in your CD or MP3 player right now?

Bob Marley –Redemption Song, Waiting In Vain, Could You Be Love; Jay Z- Empire State Of Mind, Never Change; Collie Buddz- Come Around; Corinne Bailey Rae – Young & Foolish, Trouble Sleeping; Dido – White Flag; James Blunt – Beautiful

If you had the chance to work with any artists dead or alive, who will it be and why?

Bob Marley. I love the purity/honesty in his songs; Plus, I love his creativity.

As a Ghanaian/ African what is your assessment of our contemporary music?

The business side of the music has to be developed drastically. It will create a better reward system for the artist who would in turn have the finances to put out quality music. Africans need to set up a reward system for its artists, for example royalties from airplay (TV and Radio), movies, and commercials etc.

Have you worked with any African acts?

Akon, though I would love to do a lot more.

Have you ever pitched using African rhythms and beats for any of your clients in USA?

I have actually done so on a couple of tracks which the record labels haven’t put out yet.

How connected are you to your Ghanaian roots?

I was in Ghana last month.  I love Ghanaian food and for me, It’s between fufu and some goat light soup and jollof rice. I still speak some Twi and Ga.

What would you like to achieve in the future as an artist and producer?

My dream is to become a household name in the music industry as an artist/producer and an all-around musician, utilizing the gifts that God has given me. I believe, though, that I haven’t even scratched the surface yet of what God has in store for me.

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