Anansikwam Is In No Rush To Prove Himself
Anansikwam wants you to know that he’s “not a hood guy.” Having gradually moved further out of London, finally settling near Enfield because his mum “was a bit worried that me and my brother would become roadmen”, Anansikwam is keen to dispel the assumption that he makes grime or drill. The name is a nod to his Ghananian heritage, growing up with the folktales of Anansi the Spider. With real name Nana Kwame, but friends calling him Kwam, he leveraged Anansi containing his name backwards to form his artist identity.
Encouraged by his parents after it was discovered he had perfect pitch, Anansikwam started piano and guitar lessons aged five. In secondary school he met Cosy and Tony, and as a trio they would later form independent label, Switch Hustle Records. Anansikwam and Cosy learnt how to produce on Logic Pro at school, and when they finally owned Macs, production and work ethic stepped up, “I persuaded my mum to buy me a Mac in the airport. I said, ‘I want to do this music ting but I don’t have a laptop’, so she took a chance.” Living with just his brother from age 16 when his parents moved back to Ghana, a spare room at home became his studio.
Working towards an IT degree only made the three friends realise that “the whole working for the rest of our lives isn’t really going to be the one.” But Switch Hustle was slow to form as a bond fide entity, “Confidence was a bit low, and we didn’t really rate what we were making enough to put it out at the time. The excuse we’d always say is, ‘this hasn’t been mixed yet’.”
Listening to old beats now at 25 years old, Anansikwam is hard on his younger self, “I'm so glad we didn’t release none of these, because it would be a different story. It’s all been a really long process.” This pragmatism may have been disheartening at the time, but it’s paying dividends now. The initial music was mostly a collaborative effort with Cosy, both of whom wanted to be producers, but after writing for friends it felt natural to take the next step. This small elevation of confidence was all Anansikwam needed to evolve into the artist he is becoming, “This is the start of trying to discover my own sound.”
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‘His own sound’ has more weight to it than one may realise. Inspired by the likes of Freddie Gibbs and Knxwledge, and in admiration of newer talent such as Knucks, Anansikwam is consciously moving differently to much of the UK scene. “There’s nothing wrong with uploading your stuff to Link Up or GRM, but they’re the most saturated....I think too much expectancy goes on, ‘let’s just upload the ting to GRM and hope we blow up off that’.” But this dedication has been tested by technical issues, “Even to just get a microphone, we had to really bust one to pay for that.”
Today, Cosy and Anansikwam still share the mic on a three-week rota. But their most important tool, their Macs, have been a destabilising force with both breaking along the way, “For ages I didn’t believe in myself at all, I felt so out of the loop.” Anansikwam lost every beat he made until his early 20s. A few exist on SoundCloud, but none of the original files made it.
The Switch Hustle energy is the epitome of the tortoise and the hare mentality, “If it takes us 10 to 15 years to where we want to be, as opposed to an overnight success and forgotten tomorrow, then I’d rather take the longer route.” It seems that years of working out how he wants to navigate the industry has given Anansikwam clarity, “The talent’s only going to get you ‘X’ far. It’s really the hard work that’s going to get you over the line, and put in the extra bits that other people ain’t really willing to do.”
After two collaborative projects, Anansikwam is venturing solo. The Sandbox is an eight-track EP with a mature concept and accomplished sound. It’s clear that Anansikwam comes from a classically trained background, with undulating melodies and instruments layered over soulful beats. Produced mostly by himself, but always with input from the others, he developed ideas on piano before working into his Mac. However, he has somewhat suspended reality, perhaps freeing himself of unwanted pressures, “Working in IT, the test system we use is Sandbox. The whole concept was just be as creative as you want, make as many mistakes as you want, it’s fine, because the whole thing is a test.”
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As far as the content goes, Anansikwam followed the example of the producer/lyricists he respects so much, “When I hear producers that do something different, that appeals to me because you don’t have to try and make your lyrical content fit this kind of genre.” He challenged himself to make music “where I’m not talking about trapping, where I’m not talking about fucking girls”.
Most of the tracks are about relationships in some form, but true to his word, it’s not unrealistic. Anansikwam isn’t expecting his world to change from this EP, nor does he want it to. He hopes to “build a buzz” and “shock a few people” with how thoughtful his concepts are, but mostly, he hopes to inspire others like him, “For people in my situation, where they’re not from the hood, they’re just normal people living a normal life, I want it to be, you can make tunes that aren’t cheesy and can still have a little bit of edge.”
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The pandemic has been both useful and disruptive for the team. On the one hand, it’s allowed time to strategise, but on the other, it’s pushed back the chance of Anansikwam’s first ever live performance, “Live shows would just be to, one, gain confidence performing in front of people, and two, even if you get one or two fans by the end of the show, that would have been a success for us.”
To counteract this void, the team are planning to film the whole EP recorded with live instruments as a stop gap. Anansikwam is intent on making a signature sound, but he’s not taking any shortcuts. Constantly underplaying his achievements, a carrot and stick approach is how he stays motivated, “We’re already living the dream. It’s not glamorous but we’ve taken matters into our own hands... so when the success comes, it shouldn’t really be a surprise.”
As expected, the Switch Hustle family already has plans in the works. Anansikwam is deep into his sophomore project with Cosy, and a second solo EP is on the horizon paying greater homage to his production roots, “I want the beats to serve as their own feature.” But the avoidance of a negative is what he thrives on the most, “I hate ‘what if’s’ in life. If I’ve got to my 40s and 50s and I'm like…’what if I did take a chance to do music?’, I’d be kicking myself.”
At least he won’t have to say that.
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Anansikwam’s debut EP, 'The Sandbox', is out now on Switch Hustle Records - stream it HERE.
Words: Nicola Davies
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