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CITIZEN KAY Yes We Can

Citizen Kay
Citizen Kay

Canberra-based hip hop artist Bonjah Ansah, better known as the producer/rapper Citizen Kay, is a newcomer to the Australian music scene. Since the meteoric success of his debut, The Yes! EP, last year, fans have been eagerly awaiting a follow-up. With the imminent release of Demokracy coinciding with a trip to Perth, Ansah talks to SHAUN COWE about his music.

“We’ve only just announced it all. I mean, for me, I’ve been working on it for a few months now and the songs have been in the works for almost a year now – I guess before that as well,” Ansah says about the Demokracy.

“It’s been really good. Triple J’s been playing Freedoom. We just dropped the song barely this week so it’s pretty early days but so far it’s been kind of good reception. I was really nervous about releasing this track in particular but it’s been really good feedback – which has been nice.”

The release of Ansah’s sophomore album inevitably invites comparison to his debut. It’s well known that Ansah churned out the lyrics to the entire Yes! EP in just 30 minutes, however, this time around he’s taken a more careful approach to the writing and production process.

“I think, for me, I never really thought of The Yes! EP as the sort of thing that would be heard by a mass of people, so it was just a fun thing to do which made it end up how it was. It was something that happened really quick,” he says.

With The Yes! EP it was kind of rushed because –fortunately and unfortunately – I was thrown into the deep end pretty quick and forced to get something out. This one I’ve kind of given myself time to get everything done to a point where I’m really happy with it.”

Part of Citizen Kay’s appeal is Ansah’s confident lyrical spin combined with the thick American accent he has while rapping. Talking with an Australian accent, Ansah says he never consciously chose the American inflection and it has more to do with his musical pedigree.

“For me it’s kinda crazy because I’ve tried so many times to just rap how I talk. For me it was never about fitting to the American scene or whatever,” he says. “A lot of my early introduction to hip hop was American. For three or four years 90 per cent of what I was listening to was Kanye and I had honestly not heard any Australian hip hop until a year and a half ago. So as soon as I start to rap it comes back to that subconscious of what I’ve been listening to.”

Ansah finishes up by reflecting over the past two years and talking about his evolution as a musician. Promising the upcoming mini-album will be a diverse and widely influenced piece, incorporating political raps, autobiographical music and funky jams, he feels Demokracy is the realisation of his musical goals.

“I don’t think my sound’s changed,” he says. “I think I’ve learned a lot as an artist from touring and recording with other artists. I mean, prior to Yes! I honestly hadn’t really done anything at all – I wasn’t even pursuing a career in hip hop. I think with this one it’s still me, you can still see all the similarities there when you listen to both the EP and the mini-album. I think it’s just a wider range. I’ve said from the start we want to be known for being versatile with my songs.”

Citizen Kay is playing the inaugural CoLab festival on Saturday, November 29, at the University of Western Australia. His Demokracy mini-album is out Friday, November 7, with the single, Freedoom, available from iTunes now.