Afrobeat singer Kelvyn Boy’s love of music started in church. His father sang in the choir and raised his son (born Kelvyn Brown) on gospel, reggae greats like Lucky Dube and country music, which Kelvyn Boy says shares many of the same chord progressions as church music. By 2010, when he was 19, he started performing genre-spanning covers at local Assin Fosu pubs and noticed how many people would approach him afterward to ask if he had his own music. “That was when I realized what I could do,” he recalls.
Though Kelvyn Boy was eager to pursue a music career, his father encouraged him to finish his education first. “He was like, ‘You’re not going to get money. I did music and got nothing.’ But I knew what I had and where I was going,” he says.
In 2017, Kelvyn Boy signed a record deal with Stonebwoy’s Burniton Music Group and, after releasing a handful of singles, won the Vodafone Ghana Music Award for unsung artiste of the year in 2018. The following summer, he released his debut EP, T.I.M.E., with the agenda of introducing Ghana to his fusion of Afrobeat, Afro-pop, reggae and dancehall. “I was the one campaigning for Afrobeat, so that EP was to give people time for [the genre] to grow on them,” he says. “To give them time to understand that Ghanaians can do Afrobeat really proper. If I was from Nigeria, it wasn’t going to be hard like that.”
Kelvyn Boy doubled down on that mission with his debut full-length, Blackstar, released in November on his new label home, Blakk Arm Entertainment. He recorded it over the last three years while touring Belgium, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere, always traveling with a mobile studio. The project received attention from Apple Music’s Africa Now Radio and scored him the cover of Spotify’s African Heat playlist, also earning support from Deezer, Boomplay and Audiomack. Now, Kelvyn Boy has a new mission: “I want to take Ghana to the Grammys.”
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 5, 2020, issue of Billboard.