uNder Spotlight: Boistory’s piercing vulnerability lies at the heart of his musical expression

"I want to make music that is true to how I see these places as opposed to just whatever people want to sell. "

It’s a widely held belief that  most people are a product of their environment; and that idea really rings true for Ghanaian-Nigerian act, Boistory, who grew up consuming a myriad of influences from across the globe. To tie all of that together, he spent part of his childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa where he began sharpening the ear for music that would later inform the holistic approach he adopts today. “I was also at the exploratory age where I was listening to a lot of African psychedelic sounds as well as Ghanaian and Nigerian HighLife. I’m Igbo on my mom’s side, Ghanaian on my dad’s. There were a lot of different influences and I was finding the commonalities between all of them to fuse that into my own sound,” he shares with the NATIVE. Born Ozor Agyare-Kumi, Boistory’s ties to three of the biggest exports of African music today have exposed him to the unique perspective and unbridled creative freedom we enjoy in his music. 

With his introduction to the world via debut single, “Bruised,” Boistory arrived with open and honest confessions on a track he describes as “homemade” but was a clear indication of an artist with promise. The ascendant star continued sharpening his writing, performance and production skills, laying the foundation for  feel-good tracks reminiscent of diary entries. While unbridled sexual expression remains at the core of his messaging, Biostory’s music bears the hallmarks of a keen  self-awareness and emotional maturity.

Following his recently released 2-pack, ‘BEBE/CINNAMON,’ we caught up with the rising star about his creative process, the creative autonomy that comes with producing and writing his own music as well as the years-long journey to where he is today. 


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Our conversation which follows below has been lightly edited for clarity. 

NATIVE: Who is Boistory?

Boistory: I’m Boistory but some people call me story. As time goes on, I’m preferring ‘story’. I’m a singer, songwriter and producer. I make vibey tunes about life, living, sensual topics and occasionally, some deeper, [more] introspective ideas. 

Apart from being both from Ghana and Nigeria, you also partially lived in Johannesburg so you must have a wealth of inspirations. Talk to me about some of them. 

The time I started making music, I had just moved to South Africa and I was 15 or 16. Amapiano was not a thing yet but there was just a lot in general in Joburg. There’s a lot of House and Electronic music, even R&B and just different flavors of music just always bursting out. Of course I had my own upbringing with Ghanaian and Nigerian music as well. I was also very much a Trace kid. I was always watching Trace Africa, MTV Base and co.  I had never been around so much House music till I was in South Africa. You could just get into a taxi and it’s Deep House playing. It was such an eye opener for me and it really influenced a lot of my approach. I was also at the exploratory age where I was listening to a lot of African psychedelic sounds as well as Ghanaian and Nigerian HighLife. I’m Igbo on my mom’s side, Ghanaian on my dad’s. There were a lot of different influences and I was finding the commonalities between all of them to fuse that into my own sound.

As for names, I feel like it’s always changing. When I was a lot younger I had very set ones but now I’d call them the touchstones or foundational artists I return to when I’m lost. I would put William Onyeabor from Nigeria because I think he was one of the first musicians I listened to who gave me something different than anything I had heard from the country. He is my reminder to keep experimenting, keep being weird and keep making stuff you want whether or not it’s the most easily digestible. I would definitely throw in Frank Ocean. He’s definitely been a big cornerstone for me. He was one of the first R&B singers I listened to on my own as opposed to music I heard growing up. 

Your 2019 debut was “Bruised.” What were the moments leading up to that like? 

I was very young, early days of early uni. I’d been making music for five six years at that point and I had a plan. I was going to get a job, buy equipment and make music as my extra curricular. I didn’t care about any of the other stuff going on in university and once I started recording, I was itching to release something. I just wanted to see what people would think because I had played “Bruised” to a couple of close people and it sounded good. It’s very homemade but it has its own vibe. People liked it which was nice and it got me on the radar of some cool people. 

What do you want people to think when they hear your name? 

Freedom and bliss. I’m not gonna get too explicit but definitely a sense of bliss. I definitely want people to feel happy even if what I’m writing about isn’t necessarily a happy topic. For a lot of my songs I try to put the medicine in the sweet if you get what I mean. Even if at first it seems like a song is just about sex or whatever, you realize there’s also a bunch of other things going on. I craft a world that focuses on things that interest me and I mean sex definitely interests me, but outside of that, there’s anxiety. I have a lot of anxiety and I write about that a lot in almost all my music. A lot of the time when I’m writing a song, it feels like drinking and having fun in the midst of a crisis. That’s the thesis of Boistory. So I guess when they think of me, that’s what I want them to think – the world might be ending but we’re still gonna pour one out and cheers to the end of the world. 

With half a decade of being an artist under your belt, what moments or experiences stand out to you?  

I did a show for Spotify in Ghana last year which was really cool. It was at a very intimate venue, Freedom skatepark, which I’m attached to because people I know skate there. Another one was the first show I ever did. We had over 150 people show up and that was cool because everybody knew the words to the songs. Even if 20 people were in a room for me then and they all knew all the lyrics, I would have reacted the exact same. No one tells you what that feels like – hearing something you wrote coming out of other people’s mouths. It’s trippy and I can’t wait to do more shows to experience that again. 

Earlier you spoke about being a writer, producer and singer. What made you take the creative decision to produce your tracks in that way?

My family has big church singers, interestingly enough, but I never really sang. I wanted to be a producer though. I would send people beats but they wouldn’t like them. I kept at it and decided to use them for myself because I thought they were good. It also just made sense because I feel the music more when I’m directly involved in it, writing included. It’s way better when it’s a beat I’ve had some involvement in even if it’s just that I played the chords.

Do you think being your own producer gives you an edge when you’re making music? 

Definitely, there’s a benefit to it. I just pull up my workstation and go at it until I get what I’m looking for. I definitely think there’s that edge but autonomy is the big piece of this for me. [I like] not having to rely on people. That isn’t to say not say that there’s anything wrong with collaboration but if I have an idea and I want to pursue it, no one else can get into [my] head to put it down.

How would you typically describe your creative process? 

I think it depends on whether I’m trying to get something done quickly or if I’m just working. If I’m trying to get something done fast, then it’ll be melodies and lyrics. I’ve likely already made the beat and stored that somewhere. If I’m just working, it could be any combination of the lyrics, beats and melodies. I could just be walking on the street and think of a melody then I’ll try on a couple beats to see where it sticks. With “BEBE” for example, I had the saxophone chords looping in my brain. We put that down, I wrote lyrics and from there we added the drums. Actually, I didn’t add drums until six months after I had recorded. Sometimes I go with whatever comes first to me. 

How would you say you’ve grown in the past couple years regarding the quality of your music and maybe even the ease of your process as well?

I think it’s actually gotten harder. When I was starting out, everything felt so easy. I didn’t know how to use any software but there was always YouTube. Once I got the hang of things, it was so easy to make stuff. But the more I knew and learned, things started to get more difficult and complicated. 

That makes sense. When you get good at something, your expectations increase and the bar is only getting higher. 

Exactly, you expect more from yourself. You start to make comparisons to people you want to be like or the music you’re listening to, and you’re not just listening for the sake of it anymore. You’re listening, trying to pick out that one snare or that one drum kick so you can replicate. Everything becomes more difficult because you’ve got a different standard. I sometimes feel more clueless than I was at 16, and it’s been years since then. 

We spoke earlier about some of the themes you explore in your music and channeling vulnerability for the type of music you make. How do you manage to translate your feelings so clearly on paper and even with your voice?

Art in general is a very giving process. You have to be willing to give yourself in every respect and even if that’s just a feeling that you’re giving up or an actual experience, it’s better when it’s done wholeheartedly.  I’ve always understood that exchange and I’m not afraid of it. Even if it’s a situation where people around me feel uncomfortable because I’ve aired my “dirty laundry,” it’s the price you pay. I’ve always been able to accept that. 

Let’s talk about your recent 2-pack release, ‘BEBE/CINNAMON.’  You tapped Odunsi (The Engine) for that. How did you guys meet and what was it like working on that? 

He reached out to me. I had a version of “BEBE” out way before that I think he heard but never really told me how. Obviously, Odunsi is this music super ninja guy. I don’t know how he finds people or how anything works in his world. He found me and reached out on Instagram. The first thing he said was “send “BEBE””. There was no hi or nothing, it was hilarious. But what would I say about working with him? He has a very set idea of his own existence and general contribution to the music space. He knows what he wants things to look and sound like and that was something that I took away from working with him in person. Also just him being willing to show up for music videos or help put input in the visual design was something I appreciated. I also learned a lot regarding that level of precision and intention. 

Music is definitely a very subjective experience but did you have any messages or feelings you wanted listeners to take away from these two releases?

“BEBE” I wrote during the pandemic, when I was in Ghana. The moments were weird. It felt very dystopian because people were still throwing parties and going clubbing like normal. At the same time , people were dying and there was a lot to contain. I remember someone inviting me for this party and 10 minutes later, I learned that someone I knew passed away from COVID. I couldn’t compute it and I think a lot of “BEBE” [came from there]. The idea of another late night out in the middle of a crisis. Everything is happening at once. People are dying. I found that juxtaposition so interesting and a lot of my work flows in that direction. 

“CINNAMON” was written maybe two years after “BEBE” and I was talking to a lot of different people in the music space. Record labels had been approaching me and I was seeing a lot of different ideas on what people thought I should be doing. It was weird and I didn’t like it one bit. It made me very frustrated because I couldn’t always explain why. Then of course, there’s also that self doubt that had me thinking “am I only as good as this one song? Is everything else trash?” When I wrote “CINNAMON,” I was presenting that frustration and juxtaposing it with a sense of power that attention gave me. A lot of that song is really explicit but what that is trying to reflect is the idea of someone trying to exercise control over someone else because they’re feeling a lack of control in their own spaces. That song explored that message using sexual control as a means of therapy. As a means of regaining control over one’s life. That was the key messaging but of course, whatever people take away must work for them. 

This is your first release of the year so what more can we expect from you for the rest of the year?

So many more projects and singles dropping over the next couple months. Pretty soon actually. Just more interesting ideas being put forth. 

These countries you have various ties to – South Africa, Ghana & Nigeria – are dominating global and African music conversations. How would you say your music is fitting into the grain of what’s being exported now or maybe standing out from that crowd? Are you trying to be that voice that’s saying SA is more than Amapiano or Ghana and Nigeria are more than Afrobeats ? Where would you place yourself? 

Great question. I mean, I see myself as an underground superstar man. I don’t know how else to explain it. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be everybody’s everything or be the world’s biggest ever but I definitely want the respect. I want a career where the people who know my music, know my music deeply. Regarding the more global conversation, we have some of our best foot forward now but there’s so much interesting stuff going on in the underground, independent scenes. The artists are doing incredible things with sound and I think I want to be in that group. I want to be one of the people that is talked about for my contributions as opposed to just being talked about because I had a hit song that one time. I want to be meaningful. I want my impact to hit my community. 

With identity, that’s something I’ve often always played with in terms of where I’m from versus where people think I’m from based on how I sound. I’ve had the privilege to live in a lot of places and I’ve picked up different things from a variety of places, my heritage included. I want to make music that is true to how I see these places as opposed to just whatever people want to sell. Of course, it’s important to make money as well but I want to make music that feels true to my perspective on these places and that’s not always the most traditional sound. There’s a lot of other identities and perspectives that we have on our continent that are a lot more like mine so I’d like to stick to that. 

Listen to ‘BEBE/CINNAMON’ here.

[Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE]