Perhaps it’s the particularly punkish, western flair that he prides himself on when it comes to his style; the low-waist flared jeans, the silver chain belts and decadent jewellery, the fitted T-shirts and provocative midriff that captures the crowds. Or maybe it’s because of his silky sound imbued with reggae beats and Ghanian highlife that Black Sherif (aka Blacko) has seen such a swift rise to recognition over the past two years. You probably know him from his TikTok-trending track “Kwaku The Traveller” which was used on the app over a million times since its release just half a year ago and subsequently became the number one Shazamed song in the world. The breakthrough artist has also dropped a whole slew of sizzling link-ups with the likes of Burna Boy, Ivorian Doll, Darkoo, Vic Mensa, Small God, ArrDee and Kwaku DMC, and even has co-signs from hip hop legends such as Kendrick Lamar. Most recently, he was duly nominated for Best International Flow at the 2022 BET Hip Hop Awards.
A man with mad charisma, the 20-year-old Ghanian musician has no doubt accumulated a devout cult following. Plus, his massive debut album is absolute gold. Titled The Villain I Never Was, it’s an intensely intimate glimpse into Black Sherif’s psyche spread over 14 autobiographical tracks. Wise beyond his years, he finds freedom in his words.
Here, we sat down with the booked and busy musician to talk The Villain I Never Was, growing up in Ghana and blending genres.
1. Where does the name Black Sherif come from?
“Black represents my identity and embodiment of power. Sherif is my real name. My full name is Mohammed Ismail Sharrif.”
2. How does where you grew up inform your work today?
“Everything started in Konongo Zongo, a suburb of Konongo and a small city in the Ashanti Region. It was a mixed bag of everything that life had in stock for me – the hunger to strive for success, mental fortitude, strength to overcome any obstacle, patience and love.”
3. What were your favourite clubs to go to when you moved to London?
“I haven’t really spotted any yet. I am really looking forward to partying in London. Hopefully! I will find a fave.”
4. How would you define your sound in a sentence?
“The bedrock of my sound is Ghanaian highlife, but it is a potpourri of other influences such as hip hop, drill, reggae and soul.”
5. What was your mindset when working on the new album?
“The Villain I Never Was is my autobiography; my way of life for the past two years encapsulated nicely, rhythmically for listening pleasure.”
6. The Villain I Never Was is a melting pot of various sounds, what were some of your favourite genres growing up?
“I grew up on reggae, highlife, hip hop and hip life amongst a host of equally amazing genres.”
7. How should people listen to The Villain I Never Was?
“When you listen to the album you’ll realise I’m telling a story. Whoever is about to get into it is promised a vivid tale – just make sure the sound is loud enough!”
8. If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing instead?
“I would probably be rolling on the streets finding my purpose.”
9. When was the last time you cried and what was it about?
“The last time I cried was when I cancelled my tour. I love my fans so much and I can’t wait to share my new album with them. So be on the lookout for the new tour dates. I promise!; we are in for a good time.”
10. In the next year, what’s your primary goal for yourself and your music?
“I’m just gonna be on the road connecting with my fans on tour.”
Photography courtesy of Black Sherif. Stream Black Sherif’s ‘The Villain I Never Was’ on all major platforms now.