ALBUM: King Promise – “5 Star”

“From when I began four years ago to where I am now, there’s been a lot of growth, and you feel it in the music because I’ve got better from a new guy to a five star artist,” Ghanaian singer-songwriter King Promise tells Apple Music. Born Gregory Bortey Newman, he builds on the success of his 2019 debut, As Promised, by retooling variations of highlife and hiplife through contemporary pop and R&B structures in ever-delightful ways. While half of the songs on 5 Star draw synergistic strengths from guest features that traverse British drill, Dutch and Nigerian Afropop and American hip-hop, the other half showcase King Promise as a winning soloist.

Recording his sophomore album also coincided with periods of deep reflection and solace: “Lockdown literally had my ass sitting at home, and I had enough time to think about what really matters—family, life and love.” The result is a convincing combination of earnest songwriting and omnivorous production from a wealth of Afro-diasporic and homegrown talents. Emphasis is placed on emotional verity, even when accentuated by flights of fanciful songwriting, all upheld by one credo: “I only go to the studio to make music that I love, and it’s always worked for me.” Below, King Promise talks through 5 Star, track by track.

Iniesta
“[Spanish professional footballer] Andrés Iniesta is a legendary player who embodies the term ‘five star’ from the way he would score goals and the way he would open and break up play. He is just perfect on the ball. And I feel like on this album, I was Iniesta on it.”

How Dare You
“I’m addressing a lady that finished me without knowing I was finished. It’s actually a very happy song. I’d never fallen like that before. I like love, bro. So, I just like to be a man to my woman and make sure she’s gucci. But at the end of the day, this relationship was another level for me because I became a proper adult. In the second verse, I’m singing a lot of Twi. I’m basically praising her by saying, ‘The love of my life, you beautiful girl. Whatever you want is what I’ll do. God gave you to me. You’re a blessing.’”

10 Toes (feat. Omah Lay)
“I’m a little sly boy, so if you don’t take care, I’ll sweep you off your feet. And I’m not going to lie to you: I hardly even write today. I might jot a few things down on my phone just so I don’t forget—just points and stuff. There are people you just vibe with from the very first time you meet them, and me and Omah Lay had that thing from the start. We were always going to make music because I loved Omah Lay’s shit.”

Ring My Line (feat. Headie One)
“Headie is known for his raw, unfiltered vibes. I felt like he was also going to come out with some real truth as well because that’s what he does. Life is better and I’m living with a great vibe, but it hasn’t changed who I am at heart. I’m not that little boy from where we began; I’m a big man. But who actually I am inside as a person, money can never change that. It doesn’t get to my head where I must misbehave and be silly, but the true core of being a good human being never changes.”

Put You On
“The way producer Killa Beatz and I make music is we make it from scratch. Usually, we’re just home, and then he starts playing something. And then I just get a melody and I put it on there. If I told you I know how, exactly, I come up with melodies, it would be a lie. It’s just God, bro. I was probably on some Hennessy or some shit.”

Yaa Asantewaa (feat. Frenna)
“The bass gives it a local feel, the highlife feel. In Ghana, we nicknamed it ‘church bass’. Frenna is the biggest Black artist in the Netherlands, and my song ‘Tokyo’ went No. 1 there. ‘Commando’ as well. So, it’s like the Dutch people love me. It’s beautiful when you’re not from somewhere and yet these people come out in the cold to come sing your lyrics. Some of these white girls probably don’t even understand what you’re saying, but they’re singing it word for word. It’s amazing.”

Slow Down
“When it comes to relationships, I don’t fall fast at all. Usually, in the beginning stages, I just have fun with it. I’m not a true, serious guy when it comes to stuff like that. ’Til it gets there. The co-producer Nonso Amadi is my boy. I know how much of a genius he is, and I wanted a sweet vibe, but a vibe that was also very fresh.”

Ginger
“I was just thinking of what to sing on it because it was such a sweet melody, and the guitar sounded like it was from a story-focused country song, so I just went with it. At the same time, it has a dancehall vibe, a lovers rock and Afrobeats vibe.”

Do Not Disturb
“So, it’s like I have this thing where the songwriting just comes to me, honestly. When it comes like that, I grab it. The Nigerian producer Rexxie produced this bedroom banger. It’s more like old Ghanaian highlife, which is about all the grown shit, all the nasty. I just wanted something grown and sexy.”

Chop Life (feat. Patoranking)
“It’s a celebratory song. You never know when trouble is coming, and for us to be here in the position coming from where we’re from is something to celebrate. I always heard Patoranking on it, and it was always in my mind that he would kill it. He said his verse took him minutes because of the vibe that he got. When it comes to you easy like that, that’s the real thing.”

Bad n Rude (feat. WSTRN)
“I’m happy we could make some magic together. All three members of WSTRN have different musical personalities, and I have a really good relationship with all of them. People say that the collaboration literally came from nowhere, but for me, I always wanted to make music with them. It is also about tapping into their fanbase and them tapping into mine. As much as they have the European crowd or the UK, I have Africa and the rest of the world. Together, if we combine our powers, it can go further.”

Overthink
“I just overthink a lot these days because it’s like you don’t know who’s really fucking with you just because you are King Promise. There’s a lot of fake people around with ulterior motives. I feel like this is one of the realest stuff we ever wrote. I got superpowers—I have a thing where I can read people. Some people are experts at pretending, but at the end of the day, my instincts and how I feel are always right. But you gotta feed the streets because I represent the streets as well.”

Carry Me Go (feat. Bisa Kdei)
“The lyrics are a mix of Twi and English. The beat gave me a feeling to make a local love story, and that’s what I did there. There’s no other singer than Bisa Kdei who, I felt, would fit perfectly on this song. He’s someone whose craft I’ve always appreciated. So, it’s such an honour for me to also have him on a song.”

Maria
“When I heard the beat, the guitar spoke to me so much. It’s a new-school music, but it has a nostalgic feel. It just took me back to a place where I was growing up, where all we heard on the radio most of the time were Ghanaian love songs. One example is Amarh Pino’s ‘Maria’, which is literally along the same lines. I feel like that’s the beauty of love: the fact that you’re very vulnerable and you have no power. There’s a string of very legendary Ghanaian love songs sung in Ga. I would like to work with some of these legendary artists and just create some amazing stuff.”

Run to You (feat. Chance the Rapper & VIC MENSA)
“It’s just a song that fits their sound so perfectly that you’d think I made it for Chance and VIC. The two of them are very close. Chicago, they are from those ends. They are like poets. They rap differently and they are very intentional with what they say.”

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