If you’ve listened to Isaac Danquah’s music, you’ll know that it’s an ethereal experience. Whilst he’s a rapper, it’s difficult to place his work in one particular genre. Inspired by soul music, GTA soundtracks and Slick Rick, Isaac Danquah’s music and his Boy Meets Man Experiment EP embodies what it means to make rap music - fluid, versatile and sharp. We spoke to the London rapper who told us about his inspirations, the discovery of his talent and Boy Meets Man Experiment.
COZYMAG: When was it you first discovered that you wanted to start writing and recording? And why?
Isaac: I like to think that my first musical experience I witnessed was watching a VHS video of Michael Jackson performing, I think it may have been in Bucharest I could be wrong. I remember being excited at seeing this dude’s moonwalk captivate the crowd, as well being hands down the most talented vocalist at that age.
Even back then I would say in the late 90s, my dad and mum used to play music and have parties all the time. Whether it would have been Bob Marley, gospel or Highlife, the list is quite endless and I think music was always played at home. As I got older I would say my interest kind of narrowed to sport, but then i began to listen to early garage, grime & UK rap .
However I also had the opportunity to play games like Grand Theft Auto which had classic soundtracks from different genres and musicians such as Spandau Ballet, Simply Red, PM Dawn, Ice Cube and N.W.A which all sparked interest and up to this day some songs give me a nostalgic feel. I had a minor history messing with grime or “spitting” back in secondary school which everyone was doing it, but never really looked at how I see it now. I mean you’re young, going through the motions of entering into teen life, so there’s a lot of egos and hyper-masculinity to deal with as well as finding your feet but ultimately I've managed to find just the right balance for me.
When I actually decided to take music seriously, which was late 2010, not much was going well for me as an individual and ultimately the vent for me was writing things down. The early days helped in terms of me listening to grime and participating to an extent. In 2010 I was quite fond of rap, predominantly the golden era, and some of the albums I listened to were Nas’ Illmatic, Kanye's Graduation and Pharrell’s In My Mind. In terms of production samples and melodies, anyone from Pete Rock to DJ Premiere was quite cool. Looking back, I felt that if I was going to embody the title of rapper or artist, I wanted to know what I was getting involved in and that being said, I educated myself.
But again it’s not only rap just being a fan of music in general for me. The sounds coming from a genuine place and providing an organic feel whilst evoking emotion is what I enjoy. I’m fan of anything such as Motown, Daft Punk, deep house and Hip-Hop. I look back and feel as if I owe a lot. It’s the feeling, I genuinely love it and want to make a future out of this love I have.
"I don't think I have done anything which has brought me this level of joy and fulfilment ever since I pursued it, minus God and family. I owe a lot to this affair, wouldn't you agree?"
CM: I definitely agree. It shows humility as well. What is it about rap and Hip-Hop that you love so much?
Isaac: Man, I’m actually lost for words by default, I’m a rapper aren’t I [laughs]? For me, music is like a huge tree that covers the universe. From its roots that stem the origins, to our kids generations and so on. Music of diverse melody and organic texture enables all of us to get through. To push forward, to express ourselves, enjoy, and so on.
The subtle vibe of a person’s voice over a melody or harmony in a poetic yet unpoetic like manner does something. There's something about someone talking to you in time with an infectious sound but over and above all it comes with an energetic feel. It came from the street and New York all those years ago as a way of being the voice of the community. It went from the projects to sell out arenas, touching millions, even in London.
Listening to Slick Rick’s ‘Hey Young World’ or being confused about going to a place of worship but appreciating the message in Jesus Walks. Around the inner city, the ends, the hood, sirens and trains making noise sound good has been embedded in Hip-Hop. I wish I could elaborate with you here [laughs] but hopefully you get me?
CM: I totally get you. Is there anybody you look up to on the scene, in both the US and the UK?
Isaac: It varies man, honestly I could create a list for days from songs for me which are classic to an artist delivering verses every time. But in the UK I could say Kano and Skepta. US wise, ‘Ye, Nas and Pharrell. But even beyond that, there’s Barry White and electronic producers like Lone.
CM: What inspired you to create Boy Meets Man Experiment?
Isaac: It’s quite a conceptual piece of work, 'Boy Meets Man' basically entails where I’m at this moment of time, 20 almost 21. I feel as if this a pivotal stage of me becoming an adult and in a way, adopting new challenges of the old my inner child inner city views perspectives experiences. The experiment serves, as a document of me having fun, enjoying what I do as well as combining other sounds and genres. I'm a fan of a brief and minimal, sonically crafted product.
CM: Based on the sounds and melodies on the EP, did you grow up listening to soul and R&B? If so, who?
Isaac: I think I have always been a fan of the singing element. It’s a joyous emotional factor, just the level of emotion or presence you can add when hitting a note is pretty cool and challenging. Going into the EP, it was no holds barred. With an artist aesthetic with influences probably from 808s & Heartbreak just because it pushed boundaries and artists. Kid Cudi and Mos Def were influences too, if I were to name drop.
CM: Describe your process of songwriting and creating a song.
Isaac: The writing process ranges, sometimes it comes to me at random and I just pen down notes. Sometimes I just murmur words whilst I’m walking or if I’m in my room and I’m in that kind of space, I just get a vibe, do you know what I’m saying? If I really set my mind to it then I know that I can write, depending on the subject matter or what I’m trying to express. Even down to the whole Boy Meets Man Experiment, I like to hum and hit a lot so most of the melodies that you hear on the project came from voice notes.
CM: Are there any other sounds that you’d consider exploring in the future?
Isaac: Of course, it’s a part of the growth.
CM: Which of the songs on the EP means the most to you and why?
Isaac: ‘Introspective’, personally one of my favourite songs I have written to date. Touching on what I said before is really this song encapsulates my views and perspectives in three verses, from three different people but all from me and what I see, feel and experience. I poured a bit of honesty into that song which gives me the chills in my quiet hour.
I think this line kind of stemmed from me just being apparitional and wanting to better my position in the near future, I feel like sometimes as a human so much can go on at times its quite hard to dream big or aspire. I’m no exception to that at all, sometimes motivation comes from the rarest places and I wanted to embody what I was trying to do with help of distinction I would we pulled it off quite something. I would like to hope I’d be doing what I love and with the people I love but I take it a day at a time. Though the body of work is love equally.
CM: Where do you see yourself in five years time as an artist?
Isaac: I think achieving a personal plateau within an area of genuine enjoyment and expertise, whilst being able to live off it and sharing it with others is key. Also longevity, being at peace with me and those that surround me- and living to the fullest of course.
You can stream Isaac Danquah's EP here:
Words by Jesse (@MarvinsCorridor)