At first look, Kofi Kusi-Boadum looks like your typical graduate pupil. He’s aiming for a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at The College of North Texas Well being Science Middle at Fort Value, the place he research nicotine habit in rats.
He’s additionally an aspiring rapper. Kusi-Boadum launched his first album, titled 5foot3, in February below his stage identify, KooKusi. The album title is a reference to his peak, which Kusi-Boadum has usually felt insecure about. A video of him rapping in a shifting automobile racked up over 80,000 views on Instagram.
Kusi-Boadum’s two pursuits look like diametric opposites, however he sees an essential connection between them. He desires to make use of his scientific information, mixed together with his ardour for music, to inform shifting tales about science-based subjects like substance abuse.
Kusi-Boadum desires to make a distinction in individuals’s lives. And he’s on an unconventional path towards doing simply that.
“It’s going to be very onerous,” he stated. “However my life has all the time been onerous. I’m down for this.”
Science and tune
Rising up in Ghana, Kusi-Boadum describes himself as the child who didn’t know what he needed to do together with his life. He centered on doing properly in class, hoping that may give him the facility to pursue his dream profession – as soon as he found out what it was.
Kusi-Boadum’s curiosity in rap music took place in 2010, proper after junior excessive. He was influenced by Ghanaian rappers like Paapa Versa, EL and Sarkodie.
“I’d simply string some phrases collectively that simply rhymed, [and] didn’t actually make sense,” he stated. “And I spotted my expression was storytelling.”
He experimented with rap for just a few years earlier than placing his music on pause to go to pharmacy faculty in 2013.
After settling into Kwame Nkrumah College of Science and Know-how in Ghana, Kusi-Boadum picked up rap once more in 2014. On the time, his music centered primarily on spiritual themes.
In 2017, Kusi-Boadum joined a gaggle referred to as SASA at pharmacy faculty: the singers, artists and audio system affiliation. He says SASA members mentioned the Christian faith at conferences, however put an emphasis on social points. The group hosted reveals on campus that showcased the members’ poetry, singing and rap.
Kusi-Boadum started acting at SASA occasions. Impressed by SASA, his muse shifted from faith to social points he was keen about.
On the similar time, Kusi-Boadum grew to become increasingly interested in substance abuse analysis. He volunteered at a psychological well being clinic in Ghana the place he met sufferers battling habit, and he remembers watching pals from highschool and from his group battle with alcoholism.
“I felt like this might have been me,” he stated. “I may have been that individual.”
Kusi-Boadum needed to talk up about habit. He knew he had the flexibility to attach with individuals by way of his artwork, however he wanted a good stronger scientific background to speak about troublesome subjects precisely.
The final musical straw
After graduating from pharmacy faculty, Kusi-Boadum determined to hit the books once more: this time not in Ghana, however at HSC in Fort Value. Kusi-Boadum needed to get a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and analysis substance habit in additional depth.
However in early 2021, months earlier than he made the large transfer, Kusi-Boadum realized his music was getting left behind. He didn’t know anybody from the music business in Texas, and didn’t know if he’d have the time to pursue rap alongside his schoolwork in any respect.
He felt like this was the final straw: his final alternative to know he’d really given music a shot.
So, earlier than he began his Ph.D., Kusi-Boadum recorded a rap album, with the assistance of pals from SASA. Kusi-Boadum needed the album to inform one story over a number of songs, and sort out quite a lot of social points.
The titular tune, “5foot3,” makes use of Kusi-Boadum’s personal peak insecurity as a stand-in for any shortcomings a listener would possibly really feel about themselves. On different tracks, Kusi-Boadum tackles stereotypes and mobile phone habit. He additionally features a observe referred to as “Pentecost Signboard” about hypocrisy, the place his good friend Kweku “Li” Diaw calls Kusi-Boadum out on among the points he raps about in earlier tracks.
The album has lyrics in English and in Akan, a neighborhood dialect from Ghana.
“I need it to sound like the conventional dialog that you’ve along with your sister,” Kusi-Boadum stated.
Kusi-Boadum referred to as the album recording course of a “one-year dream.” The undertaking was launched in February 2022, as soon as Kusi-Boadum was a semester into his research at HSC. At present, the title observe has almost 5,000 streams on Spotify, with the opposite tracks starting from 2,000-3,000 streams.
Kusi-Boadum stated after the album launch, he acquired gives from startup document labels trying to signal him. However he turned them down. He stated he couldn’t afford to pursue his music profession extra significantly, as a result of it will imply leaving his analysis behind.
“I can’t depart my rats within the lab,” he stated.
However Kusi-Boadum did determine to not depart his rap desires behind in Ghana. He’s already at work on his subsequent undertaking, the place he desires to deal with suicide and substance abuse. Kusi-Boadum seems like he’s armed with the correct quantity of scientific and social information to sort out the problems from each angles.
“Once I moved right here, and I regarded again at what I had created,” Kusi-Boadum recalled, “I didn’t suppose it was a good suggestion to cease.”
He’s additionally persevering with together with his faculty work. Kusi-Boadum is starting the second yr of his Ph.D. program and persevering with his analysis with Michael Forster and Nathalie Sumien, who’re professors of pharmacology and neuroscience at HSC.
“[Kusi-Boadum] listens to himself,” Forster stated. “He has nice honesty and sincerity, and … a real curiosity in bettering well being.”
Placing a steadiness
Balancing analysis and rap isn’t simple. Kusi-Boadum says it’s onerous having to take time away from schoolwork to fine-tune his music, and he’s nonetheless engaged on a steadiness between the 2.
This spring, Kusi-Boadum acquired the Elena and Thomas Yorio Scholarship for First-Yr College students at HSC primarily based on his educational efficiency, management and integrity. He stated when he acquired the award, he had to take a look at his identify on the certificates to persuade himself he had really earned it.
“I didn’t suppose I deserved it,” he stated, “after every part that I had achieved, placing faculty apart and doing music.”
Kusi-Boadum’s strolling a troublesome path, however he’s optimistic about discovering his approach.
Diaw is assured about that too. He’s recognized Kusi-Boadum for round 5 years, and helped him with inventive route on “5foot3″ along with rapping on “Pentecost Signboard.”
Diaw stated Kusi-Boadum used to inform him that he needed to make music that made individuals pay attention. After Kusi-Boadum’s first undertaking, Diaw stated persons are taking discover.
“After releasing this primary physique of labor … persons are truly taking note of the issues he’s saying,” Diaw stated. “So for me, that’s what I love: the truth that he needed to genuinely turn out to be this individual, this artist, and over time, he’s truly been in a position to pull it off.”
Adithi Ramakrishnan is a science reporting fellow at The Dallas Morning Information. Her fellowship is supported by the College of Texas at Dallas. The Information makes all editorial selections.