After finishing high school just last month, Virginia artist Kwad started the summer with big plans ahead of him. He’s been constantly working on music since last year and now all of this material has culminated in the form of a new mixtape.
“I’m making this new tape called Soundboy. The whole point is to show my versatility, to show that I can make sick melodies and to explore whole different sounds that show what I can do,” he explained over a phone call.The last time I spoke to Kwad, he had just dropped a collaborative tape with his cohort Elijvh (formerly known as Captain Ki). That project, titled Dark Days, Lit Nights., introduced me to the range of Kwad’s vocal abilities. Whether it be rapping over guitar-heavy, aggressive beats or singing out dancehall-inspired melodies on more uptempo tracks, Kwad made the scope of his talent a constant presence.
Kwad owes the breadth of his skills to his upbringing in Jamaica. Living there for most of his childhood, he came up in the heart of dancehall while also listening to a mix of rap and rock on his own accord.
He said, “I gotta give Jamaica credit–it has a lot to do with my versatility. Artists who only listen to rap can’t find the certain melody pockets that I can find. I could to a beat with any flow. That’s why I called this tape Soundboy, honestly.”
At a time when dancehall influences have resurged in American hip hop and pop music, Kwad’s Jamaican roots allow him to have a unique perspective on the subject. While some critics may argue that American artists are merely ripping off a genre, Kwad only sees the rise of dancehall as a positive movement.
“I love the fact that they embraced [dancehall] like that. It’s so cool. Even with Drake, I like the fact that he embraced the culture when he didn’t have to. A lot of people say it’s ‘ripping off’ but it’s all music,” Kwad described.
With Soundboy around the corner, showing off his own versatility isn’t the only objective on Kwad’s mind. He also wants to elevate his team, The Guild. Composed of Kwad, Elijvh, Koeshr, Mic Que, Dosothegod, $hemar Vegas, 6-Bar$, and MoneyMakingNajee, The Guild has grown since Kwad’s last project. He stressed that The Guild has built their success so far off of a loyal fanbase without needing to co-sign with anybody else.
“We don’t have that commercial push. Every show we put on, it’s just for the people that really support us. No one pushes us except the people. We don’t need no co-sign; the people are our cosign,” he said.
For Kwad, putting The Guild on the map would be a step toward his greater goal of gaining more attention for Virginia rap artists. He contends that while VA has been known to foster big names like Clipse and Pharrell, the current scene lacks the recognition it deserves.
“There’s really no prominent rap scene in VA,” Kwad continued. “I’m trying to put all the local artists on and give them a platform. I’m trying to build up the VA beach scene again and take my shit to the next level too. That’s the goal for this project.”
Kwad has set his own high expectations for Soundboy, which he called his “best music to date.” With ambitions of bringing up his team as well as the greater VA beach scene, Kwad has little interest in playing publicity games to accomplish these goals. Instead, he stands ready to let the music speak for itself come June 30.
“I’m from dancehall where if you have the skill, the talent, and the people love you, then you get put on. When I got in the rap game, what I realized was politics, politics, politics. If someone’s nice, I just tell him he’s nice. That’s what dancehall culture’s like and I wanna bring back that energy.”