Kweku Collins is sitting in Studio A of Soundscape Studios, the recording space and home base of his record label Closed Sessions in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. Two weeks ago, the 20-year-old Evanston rapper released a nine-song EP grey, his most cohesive collection of moody, adventurous music to date and follow-up to his critically-accalaimed 2016 full-length Nat Love. In just a matter of days, he’s embarking on a small US tour to debut and he couldn’t be more excited: “Friends have been asking me when I go out on the road for so long that I’m used to it being months out but I just realized, it’s a week away. I love tour life so much.”
Just as likely to mention bands as disparate as Electric Wizard, Tame Impala, or Whitney as well as his favorite rappers, Collins’ music has always pushed the boundaries in genre and gleeful experimentation. While not from Chicago, Collins has been lumped in with the city’s young acts like Chance The Rapper, Noname, label mate Jamila Woods, and Joey Purp, artists relentlessly creative and independent. But as a product of the suburbs, he doesn’t consider himself a Chicago artist: “I treat Chicago like I’m in somebody’s house,” Collins recently said in a local news interview.
Though he’d been working on new material immediately after Nat Love dropped last spring, he came up with grey while touring Europe last fall. “There was a specific moment, I remember. It’s a picture, actually. We were in Copenhagen just walking around and took a picture. When I saw it, in my head the name ‘grey’ kind of popped out me.” He adds, “I don’t know why but I think it was just a very accurate portrayal of what I wanted the atmosphere of the music to be like.”