Words + Photos by Antonio. Interview conducted 04/28/15.
Baltimore’s HyGh Klass are the products of the mid-2000’s neo-soul era, mixed with the reality of growing up, and coming of age, in the city. The trio made up of Shaqueal, Kwasi and Wes became friends and collaborators through their involvement in the live music scene in and around Baltimore. Though Wes is currently absent from the group, finishing a jail sentence, Shaqueal and Kwasi continue to represent HyGh Klass wherever they perform.
As live performers, Shaqueal and Kwasi compliment each other, often picking up where the other left off. While both are gifted singers, Kwasi will often switch to rapping, as Shaqueal, also known as Black Acoustics, will play his acoustic guitar. The songs are optimistic, without being lofty. Tracks such as “Impossible,” provide a measure of optimism, despite the realities of police brutality.
Before their set at Blaqstarr’s “Blaq to the Future” show, HyGh Klass discuss their influences, how they formed, and how they developed their live sound.
Q: Describe your sound and the music that you’re making.
KWASI: The music that I’m making is just inspiring. It’s inspired by life, and what we go through daily. Wes Hollywood, he has his own story, he’s been locked up, and dealt with his own problems. Shaqueal, he’s dealt with his own problems. Me, myself – I’ve dealt with my own problems. We do positive music; you’ll feel happy at the end of the night.
“My mother always told me, ‘listen to something that’s meaningful, that’s going to touch somebody,’ so that’s what we try to do”
Q: Describe your upbringing and the influence of your own personal history.
KWASI: I was born here, but my whole family is from Ghana, but I listen to a lot of reggae too. Listening to reggae, you hear a lot of stories. My mother always told me, “listen to something that’s meaningful, that’s going to touch somebody,” so that’s what we try to do.
Q: What is the songwriting and collaboration process within HyGh Klass?
KWASI: It all comes from the car, just riding to the studio, or riding to drop one or the other off. We just listen to a beat, and we start freestyling – writing that shit down, and that will be the studio work. After we get that done, we’ll just vibe out. It’s a beautiful connection.
“We made music, freestyled out and that was that. It was all love”
Q: How did you meet and become connected?
KWASI: Me and Wes actually started HyGh Klass. Shaqueal and I just met off some cool shit, and we just started vibing out, [now] that’s my brother. We made music, freestyled out and that was that. It was all love after that.
Q: As far as the songs I’ve heard on your Soundcloud, are you working on a longer project or EP?
KWASI: We’re working on more tracks, individual EPs, and the HyGh Klass album will come out later this year. We’re shooting a video to “Different Aspect.” That’s one of the tracks that’s going to bang in the streets.
“It’s two souls that are into this music, devoted and looking forward to something”
Q: For the album, what are you putting into the project?
SHAQUEAL: It’s two souls that are into this music, devoted and looking forward to something. We’ve got goals and something to strive for, and putting that passion into music is where it’s at. Just getting people to listen to it, all they have to do is here what we have to say.
We’re from Baltimore, and a lot of people don’t really appreciate a lot of Baltimore music, because we’re lowkey with it. You only know good music in Baltimore when you go to the right spots. We’re actually doing a tour with different artists now.
“We’re from Baltimore, and a lot of people don’t really appreciate a lot of Baltimore music”
Q: Since you think music in Baltimore is overlooked, what do you think needs to happen?
SHAQUEAL: We need to develop the live sound, because a lot of people are more on that “let’s get that beat that I heard, and rap over it.” But how are you going to do that live and share that with people? Anybody can get up there and get on the mic and flow. Not everybody can vibe with instruments.
KWASI: There’s a lot of unity in Baltimore, and people don’t even know. Josh, TT the Artist, and others gave us opportunities to perform.
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
SHAQUEAL: In five days, we will be at Dopefest. In 5 months, we’re going to be taking over the DMV, getting shows out in D.C. We’re going to make that connection. A lot of artists here haven’t taken over that D.C., Maryland and [outside] in Philadelphia and New York, because it’s convenient and easy. It’s easy to get into a car and jet to D.C. People in California have to drive miles and miles to get out. We’re going to take advantage of the DMV area. In five years, it’s going to be crazy. I see us down in Atlanta, vibing out.
KWASI: We’re going to be in a position to take care of our families the right way, guiding other artists and being leaders.
Thanks Kwasi and Shaqueal for the interview! You can hear their latest sounds on their Soundcloud page, as well as Shaquel’s Black Acoustics TV Facebook page!