WITH THE PEOPLE is the debut album from CITIZEN KAY. Featuring 12 new tracks, the album continues the writing and production partnership with Ben Garden. The album is a measure of maturity and downright class of this talented rhyme master. CITIZEN KAY’s lyrics and music capture a performer who is way younger than the influences that this impressive body of work reflects; it’s exciting in its substance and excellent in its execution.
WITH THE PEOPLE bridges the space between hip-hop, rap, soul and funk. “Our World”, “Life Gives You Lemons”, “Let You Go”, “Dreamin’” and “The Reverend” provide markers on a path of infectious grooves and flowing lines. WITH THE PEOPLE is for the people!
Born in Ghana, then moving to Australia while still very young, CITIZEN KAY grew up with an ambition to make his way into music. Not long after developing his approach and styling to rap and rhyming, he learnt about making beats and the art of recording. As time went on, CITIZEN KAY gained more experience and before too long he was working with other aspiring artists and musicians in his hometown Canberra.
CITIZEN KAY hasn’t missed a beat since the 2013 release of his debut single YES!. He followed up with three more standout singles, Raise A Glass, the soulful Manage and the hard hitting commentary of Freedoom, all receiving national airplay along with his film clips plus much acclaim from blogs and online press across Australia. The DEMOKRACY mini-album captured the development CITIZEN KAY and his live shows displayed it in real time.
Anyone who has witnessed a CITIZEN KAY live show over the last year or so, would have seen and heard the imprint he has made on his audience with his words, beats and stage presence. CITIZEN KAY has been out there with the people, having toured Australia with his own headline shows and with the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Earl Sweatshirt & Danny Brown, Run The Jewels, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, Tkay Maidza and Seth Sentry.
CITIZEN KAY’s DEMOKRACY is still spreading the word, now in the US where it was picked up by a number of College radio stations, breaking it into the Top10 of the CMJ Hip-Hop charts. In addition to this, the massive US sports network ESPN, picked
up YES! as a feature track for one of its key shows during September. In Australia, DEMOKRACY has picked up nominations for ‘Best Urban Album’ at the ARIA Awards and ‘Best Independent Hip-Hop Album’ at the AIR Awards.
WITH THE PEOPLE is released on ASPHALT RECORDS and distributed by MGM.
WITH THE PEOPLE – THE STORIES BEHIND THE TRACKS
‘Our World’ is a song about the fight & balance between making a living as an artist and simply doing it for the love of it. The chorus is sprinkled with the voices of kids to signify the innocence of artist/creative’s, particularly when they first enter this world of music and being a creative person within this industry.
The first verse talks about that back and forth mindset between doing it all purely for the love of it and doing it as a means to live & about how we, the artists/writers are the core of the music world because without the songs being written by us there is really not much of a music industry.
The second verse dips slightly into the concept and idea of ‘selling out’ and how at the end of it all this is really just my perspective and that everyone is free to choose their own take on the subject.
Being a creative person in my opinion should firstly be about the love of it before the money. Being ‘real’ and being yourself is extremely important. Always know & keep in mind of who you were, who you are and who you want to become.
Wax On Wax Off
This song is based off a lesson I adapted from ‘The Karate Kid’ movie; doing something that seems irrelevant and pointless at the time but later on realizing how important it was to the bigger picture. Recently this has become very evident to me in the form of my part time job – working in a fast food chicken restaurant (yeah, I know). It’s always just been a means of extra money in my mind but in the last year came to the realization that the majority of songs, concepts, beats and general ideas I’d had for my songs (and other peoples) came to me while I was working this job. Without being conscious of it, doing something seemingly unrelated had sparked so much inspiration within my life as an artist. Even more importantly, it played a huge part in shaping my personality as an artist; there’ve been a few times when I’ve had the incredible pleasure of playing sold out shows a weekend and then coming in to this job and cooking up chicken the following Monday. It’s played a big part in keeping me grounded and keeping everything in perspective. So remember to look towards the bigger picture of things!
No Respect (ft Sarsha Simone)
‘No Respect’ is a song I began writing after a series of conversations with different people about music and perusing it as a career. I talked to people who were fellow writers and also people who were listeners/bystander’s of the art and almost all the conversations seemed to come down to a lack of understanding and a seemingly lack of respect for the art as a career choice. Myself and fellow writers talked about past situations where we felt looked down on for not pursing a ‘real’ career, a ‘sturdy’ job. Constantly being told how unstable our choices were. Trying to make people understand why we create and make music and the importance of art and creativity in this world. How unless you’re making a whole lot of money its considered to be nothing more than a hobby. What I
constantly had to remind people was that the large majority of the people who are now successful in this industry began in similar situations, with nothing to their names or wallets. Everyone deserves at the very least to have their career choices respected, everyone plays a part in this world from doctors to garbage collectors to farmers to musicians (and other creative industries) and you should never forget that. This song is specific to music and musicians/writers but you should apply to every and any career path.
What You Wanna Hear
As a rapper/writer, or absolutely anything you do in life for that matter, people will always have an opinion. Everyone else always seems to know what’s best for you and I’ve experienced this from the jump. Mainly in 3 reoccurring ‘categories’ which I go through during the 3 verses of the song. The first is a combination of the people in the business side of the industry and ‘those’ people who are just after “a good beat”. Getting told I need to write things more suited to “radio” (as most other artists will understand), I’ve been told on multiple occasions that the lyrics “don’t really even matter”; which as a lyricist …well, you can figure out what that makes me say/think in response to that. It’s all purely about having a good time and good beats cause you know, lyrics are just extra noise on a song. Fuck outta here with that nonsense!
The second group of people are actually other musicians – I’m mainly known as a vocalist, rapping is the tool I use 99% of the time. Being someone who raps, that connects me with Hip Hop. The amount of times I’ve been
told by ‘real musicians’ that Hip Hop isn’t real music is ridiculous! “It’s just talking with rhyming words”, “It’s just the same loop over and over again”. Now to be fair that’s actually somewhat true for most Hip Hop but you gotta understand ITS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT! Hip Hop has been playing a huge role for decades in how this world has been shaped and continues to be shaped. It has given people in unbelievable environments, neighbourhoods and situations a voice, a way to tell their story. Not every song needs to be focused on ‘musicality’ or needs to be ‘dynamic’. There’s a love and spirit that comes with all writing including rap and they should all be given the chance to express in that way and more importantly to be given their due respect!
The third group I wanna get at are other rappers! Yes, I rap, but rapping is just a tool I use for my music. It’s important for you to know I consider myself an artist and a writer and not purely a rapper. I love so many different types of music and am constantly inspired by other genres and artists. I love incorporating other styles into my music. Sometimes I will focus on lyricism and sometimes I’ll focus on the music behind it, I mean, I hope there will always be an underlining message or story with my lyrics but I’m not trying to prove myself solely as just a rapper.
Every song I make, I make because I’ve been inspired. Anyone who knows a handful of my music will know I definitely don’t keep to one thing. I enjoy variety and difference, I enjoy challenging myself and stepping out my comfort zone. Understand that I first and foremost make music as a way of release and expression.
Life Gives You Lemons
Writing for this track began for a completely different vibe of song but eventually made Its way to where it is now because the overall concepts were the same for both tracks and this project was the priority. You wouldn’t necessarily think so from first listen/the energy of the track but it’s about my experiences with racism coupled with my attitude towards it and the way I learnt to deal with it. The Verses are about me beginning as a young one in Australia and basically all my friends being white. You know, when you’re a kid (and even as an adult) life seems to be about fitting in and for me back then I always figured how much easier my life would be if I was white, how it would make it so much easier to ‘fit in’. The funny thing is that I’ve really never had too much of a problem fitting in or getting along with people but back then for whatever reason I thought any and every problem of mine would be solved if I was white. I knew next to nothing about my history/family back home in Ghana at the time so my only reference point to life and who I was, was the people who surrounded me right there and then. As I grew in as a part of the Australian culture I came across people who would make ‘casual jokes’ about me being black. At times I really knew they were just joking around and other times I knew the jokes were intended to hurt and insult me, but the way my personality developed was to also make light of everything, to joke around about it and simply to laugh it off rather than let it consume me.
I purposely put these lyrics to this vibe of song for one reason – the lyrics represent what went/goes on in my head, insecurities and all, while the music represents my external attitude to it all. I nearly always came off as a little cheeky, childish & energetic no matter what was going through my mind and I still do this to a large extent today.
Although I knew what the concept of the song was before I even really began to piece it together, the main line, “when life gives you lemons, you just cut them fuckers up in 20 seconds, don’t sweat it”, is actually from a song one of my best friends and fellow rapper, Jimmy Pike, wrote. The line popped into my mind when we were first working on the beat and once it did I just couldn’t get it back out, so thanks Jimmy!
Now, this song topic I’m a bit pros and cons about. This song is about us as teenagers and young adults being ‘too young’ to make a difference in on our planet. I tend to be a little ambitious at times with my future goals and one of them involves work back in my motherland, Ghana, specifically to help with the problem of electricity. I was telling someone about this plan once and they seemed surprised, not because they didn’t expect me to do it but because they couldn’t seem to come to grips about why I’d want to start these plans as soon as possible. Their view on it was that while I’m young, the biggest problem on my mind should be where I was gonna go party next weekend. That for my age, the last thing I should be doing is worrying about making the world a better place and it should just be about enjoying myself while I can. Now here’s where I’m on the fence…I somewhat agree with that – you should make the most of enjoying yourself while you have few responsibilities and are still young but where I don’t agree is that it should be the only thing on your mind. As young people we should have a great desire to not only help ourselves but to more importantly help other people as much as we can. I don’t think you can be too young to make a difference whether on a minor or major scale! Live it up for sure and travel across the oceans but at the same time don’t be shellfish, you feel me?
Let You Go
This song has been a long time coming for me. Years back there was a family friend who lost his dad and not long after lost his mum as well. I would have been 16 or 17 when it happened and I remember being able to really see the obvious hurt he was going through. It got so bad that he lost it a little mentally and wasn’t for a long, long time till he managed to pull back out of it. But the entire time he was going through this (& I could see he was) not once did I go out of my way to comfort him or try and be there for him. It was extremely selfish of me and I was scared of the conversations as I couldn’t and still can’t imagine the feeling he was going through. This song was written as a way of apology to him. Even though there isn’t much I could have done at the time, simply knowing people are there and care for you is important & as of then I’ve come to understand and appreciate that importance of family and being there for people in both their highest and lowest of times. As well as a way of apology, I tried to imagine what I was feeling at the time and a glimpse of what he was feeling & if I’d had the balls to show love to try and speak to him about it. In the first verse I imagined what I’d say to him and then in the second I tried to put myself in his shoes of how I’d feel in that situation and what my (his) response would be. A little confusing, I know. But if you think about it enough it’ll make sense.
It’s more than okay to wear your heart on your sleeve just as its important to be there for people – not solely just close family or friends either.
My Father (Interlude)
This is me interviewing/talking to my Dad about our families story and how we ended up in Australia from Ghana
Dreamin’ is more or less my entire story/journey in one song. Moving from Ghana to Australia at a young age, dealing with being a black kid in a white community, my decision to venture into music and the ambitions, persistence, passion and love I have for writing and creating.
Family Ties ft Miracle & Genesis Owusu
Family ties is a song about the appreciation of my family and how they’ve played parts in who I am both as a person and as a writer/artist. It seemed fitting to get fellow rapping family members on the verses.
The Reverend ft Thando
I was raised in a Christian family, basically been going to church for as long as I can remember – It just became part of who I was and what I did. I never really questioned anything I was told in church until about 21. I’ve never questioned my belief in God or spiritual aspects of it but more so the people, the middle-men and women. The people that say in order to get to heaven you must do this, you must do that. I began to question peoples interpretation of the Bible, how can 2 people have two completely different takes on one verse – I realized it simply came down to the person who was reading it and their interpretation. I began reading and trying to learn for myself, asking other family, friends and church leaders questions in order to form my own understanding. “One God, it’s the people that I can’t relate”. I’m certainly wouldn’t call myself religious but I do believe life’s bigger than us, that there is a plan for everyone. This song talks about all of that but also always comes back to this is just my opinion. At the end of the day I’m just another person with another opinion and I’m not saying it’s wrong or right but that it’s what works for me…for now anyway.
I Gotta Problem
This one’s a mixture of two things – the first is pretty simple; I’m hella stubborn. I’m a bit of one of those people who like to prove you wrong, usually not so good at declining a good challenge, that’s the way I’ve been for most of my adult life and it bleeds into who I am as an artist as well. As much as I enjoy getting into serious topics I also greatly enjoy being a little annoying simply because it entertains me. More specific to the song. I tend to have this cheeky attitude towards authority figures. I like knowing I’m in control of my own life and decisions and at times even when I know the person is right, I still won’t listen (mature right?). This ties into the second part of what this song as about; most people seem to go through life on virtually the same timeline – go to school, go to uni, get a sturdy job, find a partner, have kids, pay off your debts. Now, I can’t really avoid most of those things/don’t necessarily want to but one aspect is my job; I never want to be trapped doing something that I don’t have a love for so I tend to rebel a little towards ‘standard’ jobs, or more people trying to get me to get a ‘normal’ job. N.W.A taught me well.
“Throw Some Maple On It” (My Crew Interlude)
One day I decided to hit record on my phone while the homies were kicking it and this little interlude was the result. Just a few friends bantering and Jimmy Pike down raps.
With The People
‘With the people’ was one of the first songs written/recorded for the album (and as you might have figured out, is what the album was later named as well). This is nothing more than a song of appreciation for every single person in my life. Everyone from family to friends to acquaintances to people who know me only as Citizen Kay (my real name is ‘Kojo’ by the way). I have so much love for all the people who show love my way and even for people who don’t. Life’s too short to be an asshole & hold grudges. One love.