Like many artistes, King Promise, the Ghanaian highlife and Afrobeats singer, did not consider himself a musician at the outset. But as events played out, music has become a way of life for him.
With sheer grit and dedication, the 26-year-old, whose real name is Gregory Bortey Promise Newman, has established himself as a popular artiste in Africa and is poised to take the global music industry by storm.
In this interview with TheCable Lifestyle, King Promise reflects on his music career, Nigeria-Ghana rivalry, love life, and his expectations ahead of the Trace Live series which is scheduled to hold in Lagos.
On April 7, you’ll be headlining the TRACE Live series in Nigeria, what are your expectations ahead of the big event?
I expect a very beautiful night. I have received a lot of love from Nigerians since I started putting out music. I have several collaborations with Nigerians out there and the love has always been immense. So, I expect nothing but a great night. I am going to give everyone a good show. Those who have not been to my show before should get ready for something big. I really want to see everyone come out so that we can have an amazing time together.
Tell us about your journey with TRACE, have you been with them for a while or this is your first time?
I have not done any show with them before, so this will be my first time. However, they have always shown me love from the outset of my music career. They have been promoting my videos and the support has helped me a lot. Literally, TRACE is like a family to me, shout out to them.
How do you describe the efforts of platforms like TRACE in projecting the Afrobeats to a global audience?
Trace has been a very vital aspect of my music career. Obviously, I make music for my people (Africans) but the goal is global dominance, to make sure we also share our music with the rest of the world. So, having a platform like TRACE across Africa and Europe to show the world the beauty of our songs is commendable. They play an important role in projecting the brand to the rest of the world.
What do you think other platforms can learn from TRACE in this regard – I feel making the Afrobeats a more powerful force globally requires a collective effort
Yes, you are right. Having all of us come together is definitely the way forward. The Afrobeats is going to a place where the rest of the world is catching on – from TV, radio, and print. It’s only together in numbers that we can move and change how things are right now. As I said, TRACE has been doing a lot in this regard and you can see our songs are doing well. It can only get better. I believe in the future, Afrobeats will be the biggest music genre in the world. It would be amazing to see that.
Let’s come back to you now. You started out as Boy P and now you are King Promise – what informed the change in your stage name?
Yes, in the beginning, I was called Boy P. I was in school then, we stood for the boys and promised to give them good music. As time went on, I grew and got a team and before I started putting music out professionally, we had a meeting and everyone thought the boy has become a king and it was only right to liberate the B and let it just be Promise. So, it’s the same thing.
Some artistes often say music wasn’t their first love – what was your own experience? Did you see yourself going into music from the beginning?
For me, it was very random how I stumbled on music. I did not even know I would be an artiste today. I thought I would be a footballer or a journalist. But I fell in love with music from a very early stage as a child growing up but it was never like something of an intention to be an artiste. I ended up following some of my friends who made music while we were in high school to the studio one day and the passion just came. From there, I have not looked back. In my third year on the varsity, I had a big break and by my fourth year, I dropped my first single called ‘Oh Yeah’. After leaving varsity, I told myself this is what I am going to do. I have always loved music, you know, making money from it and giving people happiness.
Did your parents fully support your choice of music as a career from the beginning?
I have never had problems with my parents when it comes to making music. First of all, none of us even thought it would be a career. One thing my parents always say then was as much as I love music, I should take my education seriously. I made sure I went to the varsity and got a degree. So, my parents really supported me because I took my education very seriously.
Did you struggle as an upcoming artiste back then?
I went through everything that an upcoming artiste goes through – from not even having money to pay for studio sessions to literally begging people to listen to your songs. I went through all of that. Sometimes, you give people your music and by the time you turn around, it has already been trashed. You don’t know anyone, how do you even get on TV and pay for studio time? I had to make friends with producers and others who could help me get into the studio because honestly, I had no money then. No one was giving me money to go to the studio.
What was your major inspiration at that stage of your career?
Honestly, the love for making music has been my biggest inspiration. My passion for music kept me going.
What do you strive to address with your music?
Majorly, I try to bring happiness into the lives of people. I indirectly see myself as the mouthpiece of the people. There is love, hate, suffering, and everything. As I said, the main ingredient in my music is life. I write music based on what happens around me.
Ghana, Nigeria and other African countries are faced with several challenges at the moment. You have a big platform, how are you amplifying some of the issues facing the continent with your brand?
I am all about hard work and dedication. I always speak about that, I tell people this is where I come from and that if I can get here, you can do that too. Also, if there is any issue in society that I can lend my voice, I never shy away from that. I support the orphanages and, in my community, I run free shows to preach against violence and inspire people.
What can you say about the Ghanaian music industry in terms of structure, rivalry, prospects, and challenges?
We have a beautiful, strong point which is highlife sound and by the grace of God, things have started opening up. Recently, Black Sherif stunned many by topping music charts including in Nigeria. So, new artistes are breaking the barriers. Obviously, Nigerians have been at the forefront of this whole Afrobeats movement. We have people like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, and Davido among others. It is up to us too to also take the mantle and continue the good works that they have been doing so that the rest of the world can see the beautiful music we have here.
Over the years, we have seen a rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana – from jollof rice debate to music and most recently the 2022 World Cup clash between the two countries. Do you think such rivalry is healthy enough?
It is always a great thing to… it’s like brothers and a family. You fight and come together again because everyone knows that both of us are working to protect our own interests. I don’t think it is even hate when it comes to Nigeria and Ghana, it is just so competitive and it is good because healthy competition is always welcomed. For me, if I see my brother from Nigeria doing something significant such as getting a Grammy award nomination, it means if our brother can do it, it is also possible for all of us to also do the same. As you people no enter World Cup like this, we dey go represent all of us there. So, Ghana and Naija, we dey together strongly. It is healthy competition between the nations should always be welcomed — not jealousy or hatred whatsoever. Ghanaians and Nigerians both know that we love ourselves. We love you guys.
The Afrobeats is gaining momentum globally. People like you, Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Stonebwoy, Sakordie among others are doing exploits. Do you think African artistes are finally getting the recognition they deserve internationally?
I feel like we have not even started. We just witnessed the 2022 Grammys. We also have an official Billboard Afrobeats chart. So, it’s like we are about to blow the whole world. The recognition is gradually coming.
The year is looking already packed with activities for you. There is the TRACE Live series and you have a tour across Europe later in April and May, what should your fans be expecting?
I am just going to stay active and give them more music. I am coming to more cities. I am starting with Nigeria this week and moving to Europe after that and then later to some parts of America. The plan is to give my fans amazing music.
You have been talking about music, tell us about your love life too: are you in a relationship?
Laughs… I am a very private person. I feel like when it comes to privacy, my whole life is in the limelight already. So, if there is a little thing I can keep to myself yeah…there is definitely someone in my life and that is all that I can say for now.
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