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Upclose with Selasi ‘The African Kid’

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 […]

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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Oprah Winfrey & Blitz Bazawule answer my questions about ‘The Color Purple’

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Oprah Winfrey & Blitz Bazawule answer my questions about ‘The Color Purple’

In April, I had the opportunity to join a Zoom Q&A session with Oprah Winfrey and Blitz Bazawule, courtesy FilmOne Distribution. The conversation was around the bold remake of ‘The Color Purple’ scheduled for release this Christmas!   (more…)

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Asari Music highlights new single ‘Like Dat’, balancing college with music and more

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Asari Music

Week-in week-out I get to interview one of the many faces in showbiz and this week on Ameyaw Meets, Asari Music is the one. She’s a young, upcoming and very talented Ghanaian-American singer – who in case you haven’t heard, is out with the hottest song you might hear all week. (more…)

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Ameyaw Meets

I single-handedly popularized Shea Butter in the United States – Margaret Andega

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According to Margaret Andega, a Kenyan entrepreneur in Atlanta, she was the driving force behind the commercialization of Shea Butter in the US during the late 90s. (more…)

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Ameyaw Meets

He went from cooking on Instagram to owning a food truck in Atlanta and more… the story of Quabena’s Kitchen

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story of Quabena’s Kitchen

The COVID-19 pandemic birthed many opportunities for people all over the globe. For one Ghanaian living in the US, the pandemic reconnected him with his passion which has now become a full-time job.

Quabena’s Kitchen shared with me his story about how he went from cooking for family and friends, to sharing content of his cooking on Instagram page at the height of the pandemic, which has now transformed into a thriving catering business in Atlanta, Georgia.

Quabena’s Kitchen services now include a food truck providing Ghanaian and West African delicacies to Africans and non-Africans alike, with ambitions of a restaurant on the cards!

Watch this exciting story on Ameyaw TV below:

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Read Also: The chef behind Fufu Pizza is about to open Afro-Fusion Cafe in Atlanta

 

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The chef behind Fufu Pizza is about to open Afro-Fusion Cafe in Atlanta

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US-based Liberian professional chef, Chauncy Yarngo caught the attention of the world with his amazing creations such as fufu pizza, fufu taco, plantain burgers and more. (more…)

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Ameyaw Meets

Why Ghanaian-American Jeffrey Ampratwum is the menswear expert to watch in fashion!

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At the start of the Victoria era, early 19th century – the English began to tone down the royal style dressing of the French army, namely those adorned in prestigious regalia and heavy embroidery. It was a sign of English nationalism and sparked a new wave of appearance in men. A few decades later, the suit was born and heavily influenced those in Italy and America. The British and the Americans have a rich revolutionary history, of course, and coincidentally the British colonized the African country – Gold Coast – until 1957 when they declared their independence and changed their name to Ghana. 

 

As part of an independent Ghana, a host of individuals began to exercise new freedoms and venture out of the country into new territories. Many Ghanaians set their eyes on American travel and a wave of trail blazers left the country and settled in the infamous New York City. For most, it was an opportunity to plant new seeds in the hopes that their children would be afforded even more opportunities for a prosperous life.

 

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One of these children of the diaspora is Bronx-born Jeffrey Ampratwum. The only child to Kate Bampoe and Eugene Asante-Ampratwum Mpere, who met in the Bronx after immigrating from Ghana. The dynamics of having African parents and being raised in a heavily eclectic environment gave rise to Jeffreys style and prose. More importantly, we can honestly say that there are only a handful of Ghanaian-Americans living in the states that can exhibit a special presentation that reflects both their African heritage married with the esthetic of their nationality. We recently caught up with Jeffrey to discuss how his early influences provided him with a framework to now become such a strong force in the menswear industry in fashion.

 

 

AD: Jeffrey, Ɛte sɛn?

 

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Jeff: Haha, Eye.

 

AD: I had to test your Twi really quick! You know most Ghanaians who are born in the states dont have a clue about the language unless its spoken fiercely in the home.

 

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Jeff: You are 100% correct with that. Ha. But for me, I was lucky in that my mother took me to Ghana before I even knew how to use words. So, in actuality, Twi was the first language and vocabulary I learned, and in essence, English is my second language. So, Im really decent when it comes to using Twi. Im a cheat code! But keep that quiet. Ha.

  

AD: How much of the remnants of the Ghanaian culture factored into your approach to your style and presentation?

 

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Jeff: When I was younger and in school, particularly in the Bronx – it wasnt always your proudest moment to be from Africa or to say your family was African. Part of the silly embarrassment was perhaps from the narratives that were spinning on television. Americans were being indoctrinated with visuals of feed the children” which only highlighted the extreme poverty in a few Africans countries. The images and broadcasts were all the same, for decades. So called philanthropist and humanitarians took camera crews into ravaged areas and televised starving children for us to see here in the states. I believe that had a profound effect on young boys and girls born from African parents.

However, as for me – I always looked at being dark skinned and being deeply rooted into my African culture as a super power. I liked the idea of being different, even though all the kids in all my classes were also children of immigrants. They just couldnt grasp the concept of it at that time. So, from there, it was showtime. My Uncle, Joseph Ken Mintah – was the pioneer as the first in the family to travel to the states – he had extreme style. My mother also is very detailed with her sense of jewelry and fragrances. I adsorbed it all. 

 

AD: Did you start dressing in traditional African attire? What do you mean exactly?

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Jeff: Not exactly! But, being an only child really allowed for me to sit deep in thought for long periods of time. Being left-handed allowed for me to be extremely dexterous and detailed. And being raised solely by my mother further allowed me to pay attention to the importance of clothing and accessories – as she dressed herself each morning. It was the ultimate cocktail and I was already drunk with creativity. I started customizing all the clothes I had. By no means were we wealthy, so I had to manage just a few outfits for school.

 

My styling began when I would turn 5 outfits into 15 – so essentially, a 5-day school week became New York Fashion Week for me. I would airbrush my sneakers, turn Old Navy sweaters inside out for a fleece appeal, and cuff my jeans in 4 different ways depending on my footwear. This soon became a bad habit and made me late for school many mornings.

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AD: You see, if you are late to school in Ghana back then – you might as well have sat by the road to hide from both your mother and headmaster! What was college like for you then?

 

Jeff: Right! Ha. It grew legs during my undergrad. Now all the pretty girls were around, I had more freedom to come and go, and more importantly – I had a stage to showcase my style. I joined a student club in the SEEK Program, and soon became the President and started hosting a string of events based around fashion. 4 years and a bachelors degree later, there were 6 fashion shows and 3 beauty pageants under my belt. Huge successes. I started to doubt my real educational reason for attending college, which was to become a dentist. Fashion was dancing on one shoulder and dentistry on the other. But somehow, I figured out how to still involve the two. My best buddy, Kenny – whom I met at the college on the road to become dentists – made it through. So, I live vicariously through him. And now, coincidentally – together we’ve developed a brand – a service of bespoke mens luxury shoes and women’s handbags, and ready to wear womenswear shoes as well. Named, Kenjeffreys. It is serendipitous because all of the products are sourced and handcrafted in Haiti and infused with Ghanaian culture. As Kenny is from Haiti, we properly employ artisans within the community and focus heavily on our social impact.

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Following undergrad, I then began at FIT as student, really just trying to test my styling hand – and to learn more about the industry. While there, I came across extremely talented and knowledgeable fashion professionals that have really guided me. Namely, Sadia Seymour and Joseph DeAcetis. Both wildly experienced, patient and embedded with a wealth of information. Respectfully in womenswear and menswear. You cannot beat that, and I am grateful for it.

 

AD: That is strangely unique and admirable. Talk to us about how all those experiences and inspirations give rise to the Jeffrey or Che we see today and ultimately, where that places you in your field of fashion and menswear.

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Jeff: Sure. Great point. I have been indoctrinated by the basic principles of creativity as an adolescent – with respect to clothing. That is extremely hard to shake. Innately, styling was my ultimate form of communication, seeing that I was a shy introvert. So now, I still revert back to those same feelings…. the feeling of home, warmth, memories, great food and innocent fun. My approach now is exactly the same in the sense that when I am dressing, styling or designing for someone – I am taking into account their entire repertoire and holding a mirror in front of them which reflects the items that they love most. It is a skill that perhaps only empaths are only able to exhibit.

 

Having the ability to read into thoughts and connecting with the motivating spirits that drives people – is a gift. I ran the New York City marathon three times, and the 2nd time I ran it in a tuxedo! It was my ultimate homage and pledging of allegiance to fashion. Ha.

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I also believe my extensive traveling experience has aided to the arsenal. Recent trips to Ghana always resets a creative instinct with me, as I look around and arrive back to a place of self-awareness. It feels right. My cousin Harry knows where to be to capture the real essence of the land. And, coincidentally enough, I am often back and forth to the UK as well. Savile row in London, England -as you know – is a menswear connoisseurs Disney Land. It is the traditional hub for the world’s best tailored-bespoke suits. Naples and Florence are a close second. However, sartorially, the British have etched their names in the fine-art making of the suit. I do though spend most of my time in Brighton, UK. Its where my love is and also like a second home for me. The culture there is infused with various styles and the community is inviting. The Duchess of Brighton-Hove, Lady Donna and her amazing friends will assure that you have a great time! 

 

AB: Finally, talk to us about your styling approach with respect to specific talent that you work with.

 

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Jeff: Definitely. This is perhaps an area you cannot teach. It is learned with years of experience and even reading the room wrong most times. I tell my fashion students often that they have to continue shooting airballs at the basket. Get out the miss shots, now – and properly learn your subjects. For example, if I am styling a celebrity for the red carpet – several nuances are to be considered before arriving at a dress or a tuxedo. Such as, what stages in life is your talent currently in, how body conscious are they and what are they most nostalgic about. These (and some of my other secrets that I cannot give away) are the pillars to nailing great style, image and presentation.

 

If I am shooting for a magazine in a studio – its party time. If you are not dancing as a model or grooving as a photographer, you are are in the wrong business, per say! Haha. With me, you are very liable to hear everyone from Bob Marley, James Brown, MJ, and Jay-Z to Queen, Lady Gaga, Biggie, Nas and Beyonce all on the same playlist. I say that to say: I enjoy what I do in fashion, and I will always represent the joys of that. I believe that is what makes me an enigma in this industry. Always professional however, but make it subjective and inject areas of your creativity wherever you can. Particularly in menswear – I keep a very intimate and close pulse on traditional, casual and street styles of these sub genres – and study them gravely like the science they are. That all still comes from sitting deep in thought as I did
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