Peckham-born and bred artist Kwengface on the relief of removing his mask for his debut A COLORS SHOW


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Peckham-born and bred artist Kwengface on the relief of removing his mask for his debut A COLORS SHOW

In line with his debut A COLORS SHOW, and the release of his new solo project ‘The Memoir’, we spoke to Kwengface about bringing the real to UK drill, growing a tough skin, exploding out of boxes, the relief of taking off his mask for the first time on COLORS, and how he’s elevating as an artist.

Kwengface is an uncompromisingly authentic artist whose blunt, in your face lyrics illustrate the reality of growing up in Peckham in South London. Best known for his work in drill—a style of rap music characterized by its allusions to crime and gang culture—he’s a member of the Zone 2 collective whose notorious 2019 ‘No Censor’ project released uncensored details of murder victims. When it hit YouTube, the platform swiftly banned the video and issued a statement about inciting violence. Since then, Kwengface has always performed wearing a balaclava to conceal his identity. Until now…

Where does your artist name, Kwengface, come from?

When I was growing up, I used to say “kweng” a lot in my lyrics. That was my favorite word. I met one of the older Peckham boys who had grown up in Jamaica, and he asked me if I knew what it meant. I didn’t, so he sat me down and told me the actual meaning: basically, there’s a myth in Jamaica about some gunman called Kweng. I added “face” to it because back then everyone was adding “velli” and “face” to the end of their names. Nowadays, people use “sav” more.

What is your first musical memory?

I remember riding to school in the back of my mum’s car. She played a lot of Lionel Ritchie, John Legend, Keyshia Cole, and Alicia Keys, whereas my dad played a lot of Kanye and Gucci Mane.

I used to love Stormzy and Squeeze Section, though they’re called Section Boys now. I loved loads of artists from Peckham such as Giggs and Tiny Boost. When I was 16, drill music started coming to life. I was really into 67, I feel like they really influenced my sound today.

How else would you say Peckham has influenced your development as an artist?

Peckham is the trenches. People didn’t want to get off the bus there because they felt unsafe. I’ve spent the majority of my life there, so I can’t really tell you what it’s like. I always thought it was normal until I went into depth with people about certain things, and they told me it wasn’t. Growing up in Peckham, you definitely had to have a tough skin, the majority of people I know from the area do. It builds character and charisma, 100%. In Peckham, if you were good at something, you had to make sure you were the best at it, because we didn’t have much else. Whether it was football, acting, hairstyling, that’s what you’d become known for. Your talent was what made you an individual, and you just had to run with it.

At what age did you realize you wanted to pursue music professionally?

All of my mates were playing football and were smart in school, whereas I was pretty average. Music was my thing, so I just focused on that. Around this time, I started getting in trouble on the streets. People would say to me: “Look at Stormzy, he’s from Croydon”—which is just down the road—“and is Ghanaian too. There’s not much difference between you guys, you can do what he’s doing.” The fact that people from my area believed in me and gave me the push to take music seriously.

How did you end up focusing on drill specifically? 

Drill was the sound I grew up on. It was very dominant when I came onto the scene. It was fresh. The activities I was around and got into when I was younger weren’t particularly the best, but they were what I saw and lived. For that reason, I felt like I could relate to drill more than any other musical genre.

“Your talent was what made you an individual, and you just had to run with it.”

You’ve said previously that it’s important for you to “bring the real” to UK drill. What do you mean by this?

My lyrics are about the things that are going on, not just in Peckham but in London in general. I think that people need to be aware of them. There are films like ‘Top Boy’ and ‘Blue Story’, but I don’t think people actually realize they’re real. Some people have told me they didn’t even realize that there are guns in London. I’m like, “people are getting gunned down a lot.” People need to know about what’s going on within our culture. I feel like it’s hidden and being pushed away. Sometimes people misinterpret my music as glorifying X, Y, and Z, but I’m just saying it how it is. I’m a very blunt and in your face person. I’m projecting how I am through my lyrics, but I’m also telling a story.

You’re part of Zone 2 rap collective. Can you tell me a little bit more about the group?

Zone 2 is made up of people from two different schools: the majority are from my old school, and the others are from a sister school that was 15 minutes down the road. We’ve known eachother since we were eleven or twelve and we’re all from the same area. We’re basically inseparable. We formed the collective because we all have a love and passion for music. There’s a similarity to our sounds, and we have the same way of thinking.

When Zone 2 released ‘No Censor’, featuring a track by you, in 2019, it was notorious for releasing uncensored details of murder victims, which led to YouTube swiftly banning the video and issuing a statement about inciting violence. Why was it important for you and the collective to share this uncensored information? 

From 2017 to 2019, a lot of us weren’t allowed to be with each other due to injunctions and criminal behavior orders. We weren’t allowed to express ourselves through music. Some of us couldn’t even go around without a balaclava, otherwise we’d get arrested. We felt like we were locked in a box. When you keep things shut up too long, they just explode. That’s what ‘No Censor’ was.

During that time, some of us were still trying to release music. It wasn’t connecting the way it used to because we couldn’t speak freely. We wanted to see if we spoke explicitly, whether people would engage like they did before. That’s why the very first lyric on ‘No Censor’ is: “if we don’t talk about drills, they won’t love no more.” If we don’t go into depth about certain things, fans don’t really want to hear it. They want an insight into the things that the BBC isn’t going to cover. People want to hear things from our perspective. I think that’s why ‘No Censor’ connected and went off on YouTube and Twitter.

You released two solo mixtapes—‘YPB: Tha Come Up’ and ‘YPB: The Archive’—in 2021 and 2022. Tell us about the inspirations and creative processes behind these albums. 

Whenever I make a project, I give myself about nine months to record. I send all the songs I write to people close to me, see what they think of them, and then pick out their favorites. That’s how I run with it. I don’t really have a set structure of putting projects together. That’s something I definitely want to work on as I grow as an artist.

These projects featured artists including CB, Dizzee Rascal, French the Kid, Dusty Locane, Squeeks, and 26ar. How do you identify the artists you want to work with?

Most of the time I just reach out to people whose music I’m a fan of, or that I feel like I could connect with outside of the studio. I grew up listening to Dizzee Rascal, so it was only right for us to make a song together. I used to download all of his music on BitTorrent. When I told him that, he was upset that I wasn’t going to HMV and buying it!  

“Some people have told me they didn’t even realize that there are guns in London. People need to know about what’s going on within our culture.”

How does it feel to have grown up listening to artists that you’re now working with as equals? 

It’s about time, innit? Obviously it’s nice, and it shows me that I’ve worked hard, but I think it was just inevitable.

Who would you like to collaborate within the future? 

I’d love to work with Lil Durk. He’s been making music since I was twelve-years-old. I’ve seen him elevate. I even know his children’s names—I don’t know any other artists’ children’s names! He’s been on a journey that’s quite similar to mine, because he’s been working for a long time and it’s taken him a while to get to where he needs to go. I’d also like to collaborate with Drake… everyone loves Drake.

Till this point, you’ve always worn a mask to perform and no one knew what your face looked like. Was this only out of necessity, or is it also part of your artistic identity? 

At first it was a necessity, but it became part of my image. I was worried that if I took it off then it would ruin the whole Kwengface demeanor, but now I feel like I’ve elevated as an artist. I’m no longer just a drill artist, I’m an artist full stop. I hope taking off my mask on my A COLORS SHOW will allow me to tap into new markets.

Now you’ve done it, how do you feel about having revealed your identity? 

I loved it. It was a nice feeling. I felt relieved. It gets hot under there man! I think I was limiting myself by wearing it. It was probably the last thing that was holding me back.

Tell us about the song you performed for COLORS. 

I wrote ‘Freedom’ in 2020, so I’ve been holding it close to my chest for a while now. It explains how my life isn’t how it used to be, and how it’s changing for the better. Things are still very dangerous in some ways—a lot of the time I’m not sure if the people I see out in the streets are fans or people who are trying to endanger my life—but in general my situation’s changed, and my friends understand that. I want this song to showcase my musical versatility. I love performing drill lyrics on non-drill beats. It suits me well. No one else really does it.

Is there one lyric in the song which is particularly meaningful or important to you?

I say: “Is it a fan or is it an opp? Either way I’m moving on job.” I’m aware that people are going to try and test me, but I always stay firm. I like: “I love my freedom, but I’ll risk it anytime I see them,” because it’s the truth. I also say: “Right now my lifestyle’s changing, can’t lie see I like it, last year I was chilling in a bando, now I’m chilling with the crew from Love Island.” It shows growth.

When I close my eyes and I remember how my life used to be, it isn’t a nice feeling. When I’m out chilling in £3.5 million houses and rubbing shoulders with good people, I realize that I don’t ever want to go back to how things were. I say a lot of powerful stuff on the record. I’m preaching how I feel.

The show heralds the release of your new project ‘The Memoir’. What can we expect from it? 

I’m going to give even more of a breakdown of how my life has been for the past three years. That’s why I’m calling it a memoir, because it’s like a diary. Songs like ‘Ben 10’, explore how before I couldn’t ever have dreamed of affording something like a Rolex. Now I can, and I want to talk about it. Obviously I’ve also incorporated artists that I’m really close with, both professionally and personally.

Where do you see yourself in the next three years?

Not in this country mate! It’s bad vibes, especially for me. It keeps me in a box. I still see myself doing music though. I want to be one of the top 3 artists in the whole of the UK.

If you could send one message to your fans right now what would it be? 

To aspiring musicians, I’d say what you put in is what you get out. Good things come to those who are patient. To my fans, just stay locked in with Kweng. Anywhere I am, and anything I’m doing, make sure you’re always watching. I’m going to be one of the best, if not the best.

Kwengface is a London-based artist whose debut A COLORS SHOW dropped on 11th April 2023. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Emily May
Photography: Megan Courtis
Videography: Lucie Leichsering
Video edits: Katia Fisenko


What our community says

I stopped listening to drill for years when I saw the people around me getting harmed and killed by gang activity in Cambs & Pecks. I felt like it glorified it and was a slap in their faces. Kweng, I’m happy I read this interview. I’m glad drill was and is a space for your journalism/storytelling, therapy and elevation. You’ve got a new fan, I’ll definitely continue to watch your journey and maybe make edits from your tunes as a dj🙏🏾. Stay blessed! I’m proud of your reveal it shows mad growth bro

O.T - SE Ldn -Camberwell

Very insightful interview, and a great look for the young artist as he shows much noticed growth. The mask was definitely holding him back, but would like to see him use it to create a different character that can be reoccurring in the future. Shout out the Pecknarm hitters, look forward to the Tour.

Ras Mudzy - Kensington and Chelsea, London

Love all of Kwengs music. I hope he continues to work with COLORS in the future!

Sam - Port Townsend, WA


Warren - NCL

Great article! Love the artist, so it helps to see you dive into his work and life a little more. I look forward to more projects from both Kwengface and THE COLORS SHOW. ❤️‍🔥

Isaiah Diaz - Pembroke, NC

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