Kabwasa’s been making waves lately.
Originally from Watsonville, CA, 21-year-old Kabwasa (born Etienne Kabwasa-Green) moved to Los Angeles and has developed into a multi-talented musical artist. His music includes a mix of genres including hip hop and R&B and is now grabbing attention from a few publications.
Despite the move to LA to pursue a degree in anthropology, Kabwasa is very much connected to his roots and community, collaborating with Watsonville organizations such as the Digital NEST as well as using his music to speak out against gentrification and income inequality.
Through Twitter and a few email exchanges, I managed to reach out to Kabwasa for an exclusive interview where he opened up about his background, his musical process, and his wish to represent his hometown.
Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your story so far?
My name is Etienne Kabwasa-Green and I am from Watsonville, CA. I have a bit of a mixed background, but my grandpa on my mom’s side is Congolese and that’s where I get the name Kabwasa from. My grandma on my dad’s side was born and raised in Watsonville, so my Watsonville lineage goes back a few generations.
Tell us about your musical journey. How did it begin and what convinced you to pursue music seriously? How has your music changed as you matured as an artist?
I was raised in a very artistic household, so I’ve always had a love for art and music. I went to Watsonville Charter School of the Arts for elementary school and continued to develop my artistic passions through high school by participating in talent shows and making mixtapes on GarageBand. It wasn’t until I got to college here in LA (USC) that I really started to develop my music more professionally. I made a few friends in the music industry school at USC and from that time to now I’ve just been continuing to put out music and grow as an artist with the artistic individuals around me. My music had definitely changed over time and I think it continues to change as I make more music. When I first started, I struggled to find my sound, but now I feel like I’ve found a sound that is authentically me and I am excited to keep producing more new music.
Your music deals with issues affecting your hometown such as income inequality and gentrification, your song Worker’s Truth and the Watsonville EP being the most outspoken. When did you decide to use your music as a platform for speaking out about these issues?
I have always used my creativity to speak on the topics that meant a lot to me. From a young age, I had a little notebook that I would write in every time I needed an emotional release. So naturally, when I started turning those poems and thoughts into songs, that desire to creatively express the issues I cared about didn’t go anywhere. I’ve always written about political issues and representations for minorities. So along with making music just to bring a smile to people’s faces, I also want to have a bit of purpose behind my tracks.
You’re currently attending USC in Los Angeles for a degree in Anthropology and pursuing music at the same time. How are you able to find time for your music alongside other responsibilities?
My creative process is basically just ongoing. I keep a notebook with me at all times and, whenever something pops in my head, I write it. Whether it’s a poem or a doodle or just a thought. And then later those thoughts turn into songs. Usually, once I hear a beat, that’s when lyrics start flowing and the songs I’m most proud of. I usually write around an hour or two.
You’re beginning to gain attention through your music, having been profiled a featured for publications such as Daily Trojan, The Pajaronian, and now Pop Culture Beast. Did you ever see yourself in the position you’re at now when you first started with your music?
I’m definitely super grateful for all the blessings I’ve been receiving lately, but none of it has come easily. I have doubted myself plenty of times over. But I think the key has been continuing to push forward and keep working to achieve the dream. It definitely feels like it’s getting closer and it means the world to see the hard work slowly starting to pay off.
You’re originally from Watsonville, CA, a city you wish to represent. For those reading this interview who are not familiar with Watsonville, what would you like them to know about your hometown?
Watsonville is a town full of beautiful and amazing people and culture. I feel like my music speaks for itself in explaining how much my hometown means to me. It’s a place that I think is worthy of praise and I want people to know how much the city has to offer.
As a representative of Watsonville, there will be people from your hometown who will look up to you. Is there anything you would like to tell your community? Any advice you’d like to give those wanting to do what you do?
Just to always pursue your passions and take yourself seriously. I think art and creativity make the world rotate. So to see more people from my hometown expressing their creativity and being proud of themselves and their work is everything. I hope that I can inspire others to pursue their artistic passions and never limit what they’re capable of.
Anything you’d like to tell readers that we haven’t covered? What’s next for Kabwasa?
I’m always working, so there’s definitely going to be more coming. I can’t say much just yet, but I can say we are looking to put out some merch to share with everyone for a good cause. It’s still in the works, so that’s all I’ll say for now.
Are there any shout outs you’d like to give?
There are so many people that I’d want to say thank you to that I couldn’t even being to list them all. But I mainly want to thank everyone that has supported my music. From the producers to the engineers to the collaborators and even the individuals who have reached out to say they enjoyed the music. I feel like success in music is a team effort, so I would be nowhere without the immense support of my peers.
Check out Kabwasa’s latest music video for his song ‘Watson’ from the Watsonville EP:
You can also follow Kabwasa through the following links: