VCU student rapper gains success despite pandemic setbacks

VCU senior and local rapper Sækyi fell into music after playing around with music one day, creating the song “Suicide Bombers.” Photo courtesy of Jon Mirador

Ebonique Little, Contributing Writer

With more than 100,000 streams of his most recent singles “Brunch” and “Junie” across major music platforms, one up-and-coming student musician may soon stop telling his mom, “Sorry, I’ma be a rapper.”

Alvin Sakyi, known as Sækyi (sah-kee), a senior majoring in health, physical education and exercise science, said he has always had an interest in music and decided to make a song two years ago after playing around with equipment one day with friends. 

Sækyi was set to perform as an opening act at VCU’s spring 2020 RamFest after winning a school talent competition last fall. The concert was canceled due to the pandemic, but the artist said it did not stop his momentum.

“And I think now I’m way better prepared than where I was,” Sækyi said.

Richmond-based musical engineer Marlon “Mooch” Adams echoed this sentiment. The pair frequently collaborate and give each other free range to experiment in their music through the use of different vocal inflections and production techniques.

“I really think he’s a genius,” Adams said. 

Sækyi led the concept for the carefree “Junie” music video, working alongside videographer Josh Reina. Reina said the rapper is hardworking, and according to R&B artist Shy Lennox, his passion is apparent on stage.

“It’s been dope to watch him grow up into such a talented wordsmith and performer,” Lennox said in a direct message.

Despite some initial setbacks posed by COVID-19, Sækyi said he is even more motivated and hopes to release an EP in October.

Here are the highlights from an interview with Sækyi. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

 

I’m sure you’ve gotten this question before, but just so everyone’s clear — what does your name mean, and how did you come up with it?

When I started, I was using my full government, like Alvin Sakyi, but it’s just not one of those names you hear and go, “Oh that’s a famous name.” But when I was growing up, my older sister always got called “Sakyi.” Being the youngest, I would look up to that nickname, so when I got deeper into music, I decided to use that. But then I got bored one day. I was like, I need something that if you search me, I’m the first and only person you find. So, I played with my keyboard and found that difficult æ symbol and loved it.

 

What originally drew you to music?

My dad. He’s like a weird music lover. One of my fondest memories of my dad is him in the basement with some old-ass wooden speakers, loud as hell. Everybody in the house could hear him playing Rascal Flatts to some freakin’ Boyz II Men to some old African stuff that you can’t even find on Apple Music.

 

How would you describe your sound?

That’s one of the hardest questions for me to answer. You know, I kind of grab whatever is there and I’m like, “Alright, this doesn’t sound like what I made last time, so that’s good enough for me now.”

 

In what way has being in Richmond influenced your music?

It really gave me a lot of perspective. It was kind of like an eye-opening experience to come to Richmond and see that music can be done on a serious level. There’s more to it than what was up in Woodbridge, Virginia. If I would have never come, where I am now would have never happened.

 

What was the moment you realized you could make this a career?

Two years ago, I made a song called “Suicide Bomber.” I dropped it — I didn’t do any type of promotion or anything, and a lot of people received it well, to the point where other people I didn’t even know said, “Hey, I liked your song.” I’m like, “Cool, I don’t even know how you got that,” but it had me thinking this could be something I tap into.

 

What’s it been like making music in quarantine?

I made a whole tape in quarantine. In the beginning, it kicked me on my ass. At that time, I think I was really dependent on other people in my creation process, so quarantine forced me to become more dependent on myself. It got dark, but then I started getting into a groove.

Most of the songs for this tape were made in quarantine, and I feel like I tapped into a whole different way of writing. My best song that everybody’s listening to right now — “Junie” — that was made in quarantine. This whole year taught me what you want to happen isn’t going to happen most often. You gotta be able to be moldable and grow in something that feels restricted.

“Brunch” and “Junie” are available to stream on Apple Music, Spotify and Youtube.

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