Black Sherif: Ghana's Number One

Aisha Yusuf

June 30th, 2023

When Black Sherif released his single "Kwaku the Traveller" in 2022, he had no idea it would become a viral hit, reaching number one on the Nigerian and Ghanaian Apple Music Charts and debuting at the top of the TurnTable Top 50 chart - becoming the first Hip-Hop/Rap song to debut at No. 1 on the singles chart in Nigeria. The song resonated with listeners, highlighting the challenges faced by those on the path to success. With the success of the single, Black Sherif catapulted into the international music scene, and now, with his second album, ‘The Villain I Never Was,’ he proves that he's a force to be reckoned with.

Black Sherif's music is not only thought-provoking but also relatable and inspiring. It's no wonder he has amassed a significant following in such a short period in the industry. In an exclusive interview with TurnTable, Black Sherif opens up about his creative process, his sources of inspiration, and his thoughts on his rapid rise to fame since his debut.

TTC: You've been in Lagos for about a week now. How has your time here been so far?

Black Sherif: It's been great, actually. The vibes are good, and I've been mainly chilling, enjoying the sights, and recording some new material.

TTC: How many times have you been to Lagos?

Black Sherif: I can't exactly remember, but I believe this is my sixth visit to Lagos.

TTC: It's funny how people who don't live in Nigeria tend to enjoy Lagos the most.

Black Sherif: That's the same when you guys come to Accra.

TTC: What's your favorite part about visiting Lagos?

Black Sherif: For me, it has to be the nightlife and the club scene.

TTC: Your journey so far has been incredible. Did you ever imagine you'd reach this level of success?

Black Sherif: Yes, I always believed that I would make something out of my career. Even back in high school, I had a strong belief in myself and knew that I needed to finish school first. My goal was to grind hard and leave the rest to God.

TTC: Are the songs on your album all recent compositions?

Black Sherif: Most of the songs were made recently, but there are a few that I created about two or a year ago.

TTC: How have you been coping with your newfound fame?

Black Sherif: It's cool, but it can be overwhelming at times. I try to balance it all, but sometimes it can get out of hand.

TTC: What would you say are the biggest challenges that come with fame?

Black Sherif: Honestly, one of the biggest challenges is that people see Black Sherif rather than Sherif. I can't go out without being recognized as Black Sherif, which can make it feel like I work for him rather than being him. It's hard because I still want to do basic things like buying water, but I'm not seen as myself.

TTC: How do you handle that? Some famous people tend to forget their roots.

Black Sherif: When I'm in the neighborhood, I don't want to be known as Black Sherif but as Sherif. Kids come up to me, and I give them money. But when I'm on stage, I perform as Black Sherif. I don't want to lose myself, so I try to act normal and stay present in everything I do. If people want pictures and I'm tired, I communicate with them like humans, making them empathize with Sherif rather than just Black Sherif. That way, I can be more relatable.

TTC: If Black Sherif is the artist, does normal Sherif also show in your music?

Black Sherif: Since I make music that reflects my experiences, Sherif, the original Black Sherif, definitely shows in my music.

TTC: Your debut album is profound, and many people can relate to it, especially those from complex backgrounds. Do you think this depth will always be a part of your music, even in future albums?

Black Sherif: Yes, I believe it will always be a part of my music. I try to incorporate my experiences into my songs, and I don't put pressure on myself to create something. When the music isn't flowing, I go outside, spend time with kids, hang out with my friends, and ride bikes around town until inspiration strikes. Then I return to the studio and write about my experiences with love and other aspects of life. Substance is important to me, and I find inspiration in every aspect of life.

TTC: Many people see you as a role model, with your music resonating deeply with them. But few know that just a few years ago, you were still a teenager. Do you feel like you grew up too fast?

Black Sherif: Yes, I did grow up too fast. It was necessary for me to achieve the goals I set for myself, although my parents don't really like it.

TTC: Do you have a hard time convincing people about your age?

Black Sherif: I try not to let people box me in. Sometimes, people doubt my age so much that they start insulting me, but I just smile. I'm enjoying my youth and don't want to miss out on anything. My teenage years went by in a flash, and I couldn't enjoy much due to everything happening in my life. I was involved in many things during high school, and after graduation, I left home to pursue my music. At that time, it was just me running around Accra, doing freestyles. But now, I intentionally try to enjoy the things I couldn't before.

TTC: In terms of how Nigerians receive your music, you are one of the most famous international artists within Nigeria, even receiving more love than some local artists. Does the reception you receive here sometimes surprise you?

Black Sherif: Yes, it does surprise me sometimes. The first time I came to Nigeria was on December 28, 2021, for Bella's show. As soon as I stepped out of my car at Eko Hotel and heard "Blacko," I was mind-blown. Moments like that reassure me that there's a reason behind what I'm doing and that I have people who appreciate my music.

TTC: Do you think those breaks you take in between making music give you renewed energy?

Black Sherif: Absolutely. The breaks help me study my growth as well. When I take time away from the studio, I'm still engaged with music every day. Whether I'm thinking about what to create or experiencing something new, it all contributes to my growth. When I return to the studio, I bring a fresh vibe with me.

TTC: How do you measure your growth?

Black Sherif: Time. I work every day, not just in the studio but also by singing every day. When I'm not in the studio, I'm busy thinking or experiencing new things. So when I return to the studio, I talk about different aspects of life. The numbers, shows, and money are just bonuses for me. I'm truly all about the music.

TTC: Speaking of music, your debut album showcased influences from various artists and genres, including reggae, dancehall, and rap. What led you to become such a versatile artist? Was it the artists you saw or the music you listened to?

Black Sherif: I believe it was the wide variety of music I was exposed to while growing up. The people I lived with, my parents, and even the funeral home near our house that played funeral songs and traditional drums—I listened to a lot of different sounds. When I started making music, I didn't want to limit myself to just one style because I knew I could do more. So I poured out everything on beats.

TTC: Whatever beat it is.

Black Sherif: Exactly. If I like a beat and it touches me in some way, I lay something on it and keep the flow going.

TTC: Do you think you'll ever release a reggae album?

Black Sherif: It may happen in the future, but I'll give it time.

TTC: You've reached a different level compared to this time last year. Your debut album had a tremendous impact, and many people are still discovering it. Are you in the frame of mind to create music that could lead to another album?

Black Sherif: I'm already back in the studio, and I've been making music for about three weeks now.

TTC: Will that lead to something specific, or do you have something else in mind?

Black Sherif: Right now, I'm focused on making more music and experimenting with sounds to see what I come up with. I just released an album, so I want to make more videos for the songs on it. That's my main priority at the moment. I plan to release another video from the album this quarter, and we'll see how it goes.

This feature is an excerpt of the April/May issue of the Industry Digest with Black Sherif as the cover. You can watch the full video interview here. 

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