A lot can change in five years. Move to a new city as well and it’s likely your life will become even more different, especially when you settle on Los Angeles as your final destination. Prince Kofi already had a plan of attack in mind when he made that decision in August of 2013, but quickly realized the road to success in the City of Angels would have more twists and turns than he expected.
“I came out here thinking ‘alright, I’m going to get a little job, I’m gonna get a record deal, that’s just how it’s going to go,” he said. “Didn’t get one, didn’t get the job I thought I would, but everything worked out like it’s supposed to.”
Before long, however, he linked up with the GRAMMY nominated Kevin McCall to hone his talents, after the two had both attended Washington State in the past. Jamie Foxx and Tank would often record at the studio that was next to McCall’s, and as Kofi watched them all work he began to learn more about the craft of songwriting.
“I used to go over there and just watch them sing runs, like some crazy shit,” he said. “It was interesting to watch the way they put together songs, a lot of the time they would just hum a melody, and come back to figure out what words make sense with that sound. Looking at different ways to approach the art was definitely something I picked up from them.”
It wasn’t until later that he became more tapped in with the LA’s bubbling underground scene, after he finally met some of the pillars holding up the city. On top of just their music, it was the warm reception he received that convinced him he was in the right place, and led him to begin working with them more often over time.
“I really respected the way that they moved; as much of a hold as they had on the city, they were really humble,” he said. “That’s rare to see period, but especially in LA with the type of ecosystem that it is. Rucci and I chopped it up a few times, and then he invited me to the studio one time so I would come around every now and then.”
Photo credit: Mister Jackson
Put it all together and you have 5 Years in LA, the debut mixtape from Prince Kofi that wraps up the whole journey into 18 minutes of music. Just like Kofi’s experience in the city, the mixtape went through a few changes in direction from what he originally planned, and was initially supposed to be titled Summertime in LA until the summer had passed and there was still no project ready.
“Last summer I didn’t get it done, I was bullshitting. This summer I was like ‘fuck, I’ve got to finish it this year,’ and still didn’t get it done during the summer,” he revealed. “But it was some demons I was trying to get off my chest. I sat back and realized it had been five years in LA, and it was just the way it felt when it rolled off my tongue.”
Sonically, the direction shifted as well once Kofi settled on the new title. Digging deeper to truly summarize the whole journey into one project, it not only became a cathartic way for him to air out everything that’s happened, but also a way for him to hold himself accountable as he looks to progress further.
“I realized it’s only been five years; I’ve done so much, but I still haven’t done shit,” he said. “You can do so much more, so it’s like, ‘how you going to take these next five?”
Storytelling is a major part of Kofi’s artistic vision, which he says harkens back to his father’s Ghanaian roots. It’s fully evident as soon as you press play on “Tha Intro,” where he raps his life story out loud for all to hear. “Grew up on Washington State, played on the East side; moved out to LA, just trying to chase a dream, I / Used to blend the corporate shit with the street life, worked at MTV to pay the bills, but in the meantime,” he spits midway through the song, over rattling production from Paupa that adds extra weight to his words.
“I was trying to figure out how to start the tape, listening and writing, and then it just came in my head,” he said about how the song came together. “Like the first line, ‘I pull up to shows four deep, or by my motherfucking self.’ When I went to See LA Party, it was four of us. Just a little bit ago we had a show with Blueface, it was four of us too. It just happened like that, but it made me realize, ‘okay, this is really it.’”
Paupa handled production on the overwhelming majority of 5 Years in LA, streamlining the creation process and giving the mixtape a cohesive sound. Kofi was quick to give the producer credit for how he’s managed to distinguish himself in the city, and mentioned how his beats were always able to bring to life the ideas he already had in mind.
“It’s like when you’re shopping and trying to look for a fit; you know in your head, but you don’t even know what it looks like,” he said. “But then you see that one shirt – it could be this simple ass shirt, or that fly design – and you’re like, ‘that’s exactly what I need,’ you feel me.”
Kofi’s fully aware of the moment the city is having, adding to the significance of his debut mixtape as well as his next five years in LA. It’s one of the things that takes his work ethic to the next level, motivating him on his journey to the point where he refuses to be denied.
“It’s amazing to think about, how this is the history of our time,” he said. “This is like our N.W.A. movie. Understanding the importance of those moments is amazing to watch. You have someone like Bossmann who plays the role of orchestrator so well, Sean Mackk whose influence is still so strong. It makes the difficult times easier; regardless of what level all of us are at, we still have those conversations where it’s like, you’ve just got to get in the studio.”
Photo credit: Mister Jackson