Rapper Sway on his Ghanaian and British roots

Last updated on October 19th, 2023 at 08:18 pm

Sway Dasafo has lived with a foot in two countries for as long as he can remember. Born and raised in North London, he spent part of his early childhood in his parents’ native Ghana.

That experience of flipping between cultures inadvertently set him on the path to stardom.

Talking to Remitly in a London recording studio, Sway recalls: “When I did come back to the UK, I found it really difficult to get involved in the English language, which made me a lot more fond of the English language, hence why I became a writer”.

Sway spent much of his teens teaching himself music production, using facilities at his North London secondary school, while also performing in a number of musical collectives.

He went on to form his own record label, with his big break coming in 2006 with the release of the critically acclaimed “This is my Demo”.

Ghanaian and proud

Even in those early days, Sway’s Ghanaian heritage was a major part of his musical identity: “The minute I screamed out I was Ghanaian and proud, tonnes of other rappers around me were like, ‘I’m Ghanaian… I’m Ghanaian.

“There was Ghanaians popping up from where we didn’t even know there were Ghanaians,” he says.

Sway’s accent is unmistakably London. However, his musical style reflects both his UK and Ghanaian roots – bringing together Hiplife and Grime.

Fusing those two traditions was something that excited his fellow musicians. Sway remembers a conversation with Hiplife legend Obrafour, who he met during a trip to Ghana. “He told me, you as a proud Ghanaian, but also a born British person, have a responsibility to make sure that you represent both sides equally”.

Global recognition

The formula worked. Sway has enjoyed critical and commercial success, with albums such as The Signature LP, Deliverance, and Verses from the Vault. He has also teamed-up with a diverse range of artists, including Senegalese superstar Akon, DJ Yoda, and Ed Sheeran.

His achievements have been recognised with a host of international awards, including the UK Mercury and MOBOs, The Ghana Music Awards, and BET Awards in the US.

If the accolades weren’t enough to motivate Sway, there’s the expectation of his countrymen and women to live up to: “You don’t want to let the side down,” he laughs.

“When you’re out there and you’re representing yourself as a Ghanaian person, you want to keep up that standard.

“So big-up to all Ghanaians for having such a great reputation.”

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