Up&Ap: Baaba J on celebrating individuality, freedom as Spotify’s EQUAL Africa artist for April




Baaba J is a rising Ghanaian star whose unique blend of Soul, Pop, Rap, and Alté creates an innovative sound that pushes boundaries and challenges traditional music genres. Her music features lyrics in English, Ga, and Pidgin that are precise and poetic.

For April, music streaming platform Spotify has recognized Baaba J’s talent by naming her the Spotify EQUAL Africa artist. EQUAL is Spotify’s programme that seeks to spotlight and amplify the voices of African female artists breaking down barriers and making waves in music.

Baaba J’s lyrics are sprawling and innovative, touching on themes of love, heartache, and the desire to belong. She fearlessly mixes piercing personal reflections with metaphors, singing in Ga and Pidgin to emphasize her point that one has to constantly march to the beat of their own drum.

Her passion for music began as an escape from the monotony of everyday life, and it has evolved into a powerful force connecting her with music lovers. Her remarkable 2020 five-track ep Lumumba Street unearthed love, grief, heartache and the desire to belong amid a burning patchwork of Soul, Pop, Rap, and Alte. The project’s lead single, Tomboy, whose video she co-directed, is a powerful anthem of self-confidence and empowerment.

Baaba J has delivered stellar performances on platforms such as the Accra Indie Film Festival, The Crusade, and The MiM Life Concert. She was also part of the Ghanaian creatives who met the Vice President of the US, Kamala Harris during her visit to Ghana at the Vibrate Space.

As she maneuvers the rocky climb of the music industry, Baaba J (pictured top), says: “I’m looking to a time in the near future where there are more avenues and safe spaces for women to record music and begin their music journeys. More women producers, women-owned studios, and women transforming the music scene.”

“Through our collaboration with diverse and talented artists like Baaba J, we are dedicated to amplifying underrepresented voices and breaking down barriers in the music industry. We hope that by shining a light on their unique perspectives and experiences, we can inspire a new generation of creators and listeners alike,” says Spotify’s head of music for sub-Saharan Africa, Phiona Okumu.

Check out Baaba J’s new single Outside on the EQUAL Africa playlist, and get to know more about her with our artist Q&A below:

QUESTION: What is that one surprising thing your fans might not know about you?  

Baaba J: I work as a teaching assistant in the Engineering Department of the University of Ghana.

Q: When did you realise that making music was in your destiny and what is your WHY for pursuing this craft? 

Baaba J: It hit me that this is what I wanted to do when I was in high school and when I started writing and performing full length songs. Every song I made in my class blew up; everyone loved it and sang it. I love the art of creating music. Music is one of the only things I believe I’m meant to do, one of the only things I can bear to give my all to. I pursue this because it’s the only thing that brings me purpose or meaning. Other things don’t do this for me. I’m not interested in much else.

Q: Which African songs or artists did you grow up listening to? 

Baaba J: My cousin had a Walkman when I was a kid, and we used to jam to a lot of the music on it. I listened to King Ayisoba, Asa, Kojo Antwi, Tinny, Tic Tac, Wutah, and a lot of Ghanaian Gospel artists like Daughters of Glorious Jesus, Philipa Baafi and Esther Smith. Although not African, I had some Jamaican influences like the Marley Brothers for instance.

Q: To someone who has never heard your music, how would you describe the sound, tone, and style? 

Baaba J: Before anything, my sound is African. I like to weave in a lot of African traditional folk melodies, experimenting with various genres both African and Western to produce a sound that is unique and true to me. My music is typically low pitch, with calm melodies and chants. I love to use Ga to convey thought and emotion that could be otherwise lost in translation. I sing about self empowerment, freedom, unconventionality, and staying true to oneself always.

Q: Any advice for someone dreading following their dreams? 

Baaba J: What would you rather do than pursue the things that set your soul afire? Everything in life is hard anyway, everything including pursuing your dreams. So you might as well do the latter. Your dreams are the only thing that’ll give you purpose and fulfillment throughout your existence. Doing the unfulfilling things will drain the life out of you in the long run, but your dreams, they will give you life.

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