Boy Kudzi wants you to picture his life picture perfect
by M. Sophie Franchi
For Kudzi Munodawafa, a.k.a. Boy Kudzi, the music is minor. “It’s got nothing to do with music…It’s about change. It’s about working with people,” he says.
Kudzi, whose parents are from Zimbabwe, grew up with a passion for music—one of his favorite musicians from his childhood is Dolly Parton—but he also grew up loving dance and theater. “Music just happened to be a platform. I always wanted to be an actor. I never wanted to be a rapper. But we just started from there and we’ll see where it takes us. This is the first step.”
On August 1, Kudzi released the first single from his album Pieces. “Picture My Life” features vocals by Jovan Wilder, whose voice, Kudzi says, “transcends it to another realm.” Guitarist Alex Urquhart and audio engineer Duncan Houseman worked with Kudzi to create this track heavy with guitar effects. It’s a true multi-genre track with plenty of reverb and delay and a lot of bounce. “The bounce,” Kudzi says, is what makes this track the most commercially viable. That’s why the group chose it as the first single to drop.
“Picture My Life” is the last track the group recorded for Pieces. “The album was made and we went out to celebrate it…We had a list of goals that we wanted to get through, and one of them was to make a song for the radio, and we just didn’t have it,” says Kudzi. “Then we went in the next day, and it was the very last day of production, and we made that song.”
The song opens with an invitation to “Take a walk on the wild side. Come see where I reside.” Then it goes on to describe a life full of overcoming obstacles: “These eyes have seen through frustration, no pay and no compensation. So long as I can push through it, you bet I’ll do it.” And while life can get complicated, it’s all about getting through and making the most of it: “Most words get twisted like scriptures written in cursive, so if you picture it, picture it’s picture perfect.”
“The lyrical content on the entire album is very deep,” says Kudzi, “not like anything people are rapping about nowadays.” Kudzi is a poet, but most of the lyrics for this album were either freestyled or a group effort. “The three of us would go in there and start rifling,” says Kudzi. “It’s nice because three freestyle artists are in the studio working together. It’s like a super team.” In fact, the entirety of the album was a group effort in every way: Kudzi, Alex and Duncan worked together on all aspects of the album—lyrics, instrumentals and production.
Kudzi, Alex, Duncan and Jordan Roman, who mixed and mastered Pieces, all grew up together. Naturally, they don’t always agree on everything. “I took a trip to Africa in the middle of this because I was lost,” says Kudzi. “I messaged my dad and said, ‘I just don’t know what I’m doing.’…We weren’t agreeing. We had the whole plan on the whiteboard, but we just couldn’t stick with it. I needed to know who I was and what I was doing, so my dad was like, ‘You need to come home. You’ve never been.’ So we took a trip to Zimbabwe together, and when I came back I was ready to go.” Kudzi says that in addition to being raised “very ethnic” by his Zimbabwean parents, his trip to Zimbabwe influenced the sound of Pieces; for instance, “Room Full of Nobody” features a lot of Djembe and deep drum.
Kudzi attended college at Brown Mackie College for Business Management, and it shows in the way he and the group are promoting and branding their music. Kudzi releases “Shallow Hearts” on September 1 and another single on September 15, followed by the album release on October 1. He’s also opening for King Chip, a.k.a. Chip the Ripper at the Agora Theatre in Cleveland on Sept 10. But they have much bigger ideas. They are currently planning a house show/event called Fun House, which will be an ultimate collaborative music experience. Each room of the house will feature one performing artist. All the performers will be able to hear each other via headsets. Guests can go from room to room to hear each artist separately, but in the common area, all the music will come together as one.
While Kudzi will be out of the country for a few months starting in October, he’ll return early in 2017, and he’s got big plans for Akron’s music and art community. He promises that Pieces is just the beginning.
(Photos by Pat Connell; album art by Duncan Houseman)