Writing this piece with the semi-final persisting through the walls threatens to mar an enriching conversation with Chicago by way of Nigeria solo artist, The GTW, a.k.a James Akaninyene King, who was - needless to say - rooting hard for the World Cup hosts. King’s crystalline R&B is coloured by touches of their samba, as well as African percussion glinting amidst a palette of global tones; but most pertinently livid with the interminable flow of ear-piqueing sounds that shudder from his hometown’s sprawling neighbourhoods.
The luxuriant sweetness of “Calling Cards” is primed to lure fans far beyond the States to the grimey-pop of The GTW’s Auda label collective soon to release his debut “Chigeria” record, and formed of DJs and producers Michael “Dos Global” Tousana, Bengfang, and Devin Hudson. Its purer pop notes reflecting their intention to create authentic material in their own fresh style; set against their numerous other musical projects, such as rising RnB outfit Jody, which King is a member of with local producers The-Drum amongst others. For The GTW this devotion to honesty means setting his deepest insecurities loose in public, so the rawest truths get to the most receptive ears. “Calling Cards” conjuring that bittersweet pain of a last day together as a long distance relationship looms. Dazed spoke to The GTW about being a part of a taut web of determined Chicago talents, using covertly taped IRL conversations to dirty up his debut, and that tournament.
“Calling Cards” has this timeless R&B feel to it. Is that indicative of the “Chigeria” album?
The record is a fusion of warm sounds. Mostly uptempo, but I have a lot of African elements and Brazilian influences on it, and I throw samples in of things that inspire me, from movies or conversations. “Calling Card” is a cleaner version of that, but for another track I chopped up samples from an interview with Cam’ron and lines from ‘Baby Boy’.
Is it predominantly your own production and singing voice?
Most of it is, but it’s still a collaborative effort. Anyone who’s made me laugh, or said something that I agree with 100% is on the project. I wanted this mix of my vocals being clean, but the chops of their vocals kept grimy, and very raw.
"I like the internet being a gateway to what’s going on, but I don’t like it making everyone look like mystical creatures."
So you whip out your phone and record your friends?
Yea, I’m around people that have something meaningful to say. Mainly, it’s my Auda label mates. We want to make sure that whatever we’re saying has some sort of validity, and weight to it. Not just being cool. But I’ve had friends travel from New York to work here, because of the opportunities to freely create. You don’t pay too much rent. There’s a great scene and the music is all over the board; from footwork to ghetto house to to street music to pop to weirder elements of whatever. It’s all here.
I’ve read that scenes don’t mix so much, but then I was looking at who you’ve played with like, Dee-Jay Earl and Sasha Go Hard, and wondered if it’s quite friendly really?
I like the internet being a gateway to what’s going on, but I don’t like it making everyone look like mystical creatures. So at my shows, we’d bring everyone from different parts of the city together to perform. Even our homies at Teklife, they’re the same, they hang with everybody. Rashad was at my roommates crib last year before he passed, we’re all chilling. We’re really big on fusing cultures together, and introducing people to different things. We’ve been able to intertwine scenes together which doesn’t really happen in Chicago as it’s very segregated.
So apart from Jody, you’re not that involved with The-Drum or their Lo-Motion label?
It gets blurry, because I’m in Jody and I support Lo-Motion hard, and Posture which is Supreme Cuts’ label. It’s not really a crew thing. Whatever you’re releasing through is what your music is more suited to. With Auda our sound is very specifically grimier pop.
I’ve heard you’re a football fanatic?
I went to Nigeria for close to a year when I was ten, and played bare foot in my grandma’s compound with my cousins. That’s how I got obsessed by it. Then back here it was playing Fifa. I released my first mixtape during the last World Cup, and initially I wanted to release my record over this one, but felt I’d rather wait and put every moment that scarred my imagination over the summer into the project.
Who are you supporting now?
I’m a fan of Neymar, Luiz, and Oscar so I’m pulling for Brazil. I think they can get past Germany, but I think it’s going to be a hard task as everyone’s out. [This interview was conducted before yesterday's calamitous Brazil defeat]
So what’s your prediction?
I’m going to go with my heart, Brazil, 3-2, in extra time. And after that I think the Netherlands might win.
Have you gotten your US crew into it?
My Nigerian friends when the US got eliminated were like, “Okay, the Americans can stop pretending they like football now.” But, a few of my friends have gotten into it.