Take a walk through the eclectic visual world of Kojey Radical’s new album, Reason to Smile

In conversation with director Charlie Sarsfield and creative director Phil Lee of Untold Studios, we discover how they paid homage to Kojey’s music through a purposefully collaborative approach.

27 April 2022

Kojey Radical’s music and persona exude energy, dynamism and class, so it’s only fitting for the aesthetics that accompany his work to do the same. This was a foremost goal of Charlie Sarsfield and Phil Lee of Untold Studios; they wanted to do Kojey’s recent album Reason to Smile justice, and pay homage to the various strands and themes running throughout. For the instantly impactful cover – realised in the distinctive style of Nwaka Okparaeke – Phil explains that the creative team focused on “an uplifting tone” and “bright warm colours” and included key members of Kojey’s family, a central focus of the album. Culminating in a vivid, attention-grabbing piece of art, the work serves as a perfect entry into Kojey’s treat of an album.

One particularly interesting choice of the creative team was their decision not to include any written information on the front cover. But, whilst not featuring on the cover, Phil shares with us that his favourite element of the whole campaign is the typography included in other areas of the assets. Applying a “bold sweeping treatment” to Kojey’s name, and treating the tracklist “as if it were the credits of a film,” the team aimed to create “a feeling of this being a theatrical event or real world production”. And certainly, viewing the varied and considered type, it seems leaving it off the cover perhaps left room for more creative freedom, attention and space for it to exist as a strong visual entity in its own right.

GalleryUntold Studios: Kojey Radical, Reason to Smile (Copyright © Untold Studios, Kojey Radical, 2021)

Another unique visual element of the Reason to Smile aesthetic world is the subtle sense of contrast created between Charlie’s videos and the album artwork. Whilst there is certainly an overall authentic tone, and thematic continuity across the campaign, the album’s cover is defined by its vibrant, supernatural element, whilst the music videos take a much more naturalistic, real-world approach. This, Phil explains, is because within nearly every record there exists an “instance of opposites”. In the case of Reason to Smile, Phil continues to say that “musically the majority of the record is up tempo, feels optimistic and has a swagger, but it does tackle topics with more serious undertones and experiences that were struggles. Being able to authentically reflect the broad range of his music was key to all the visual materials that were created to accompany it.”

This focus on authenticity was a primary goal of director Charlie Sarsfield. Both him and Kojey went into the video for Gangsta with a very clear vision. With the song telling the story of Kojey and his sister’s childhood, “we wanted the viewer to be able to pause the video at any point and it felt like a photograph, as if you were looking through the family album”. With the setting of a family home, the warm yellow colours and the subtle light that streams through the windows which gives a grainy, hazy aesthetic, the video has the sensation of being a memory, taken straight from Kojey’s mind. Having worked so closely with Kojey on Gangsta, by the time they had come on to Payback, Charlie felt like he knew what Kojey liked. Despite being a much more energetic track, full of grandeur and movement, Charlie stuck with the “natural aesthetic” so every shot is taken on a tripod. Also allowing a focus on framing and “for more of the action to happen in front of the camera, instead of throwing the camera around”, the video has a smooth, effortless feel, matching Kojey’s sleek music.

Through favouring a close collaborative process with Kojey, endeavouring to execute every fine detail of the visual world to its best potential and seeking out the best ways to emulate the very essence of the music, the Untold team created a brilliant showpiece of musical artistry.

Untold Studios: Gangsta (Copyright © Untold Studios, Kojey Radical, 2021)

Untold Studios: Payback (Copyright © Untold Studios, Kojey Radical, 2021)

GalleryUntold Studios: Gangsta (Copyright © Untold Studios, Kojey Radical, 2021)

GalleryUntold Studios: Payback (Copyright © Untold Studios, Kojey Radical, 2021)

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Untold Studios (Copyright © Untold Studios, Kojey Radical, 2021)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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