"RUNAWAY": KWAYE’s Latest Single Shares a Side of Himself He’s Never Shared Before

"RUNAWAY": KWAYE’s Latest Single Shares a Side of Himself He’s Never Shared Before

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"RUNAWAY": KWAYE’s Latest Single Shares a Side of Himself He’s Never Shared Before

In his most honest and revealing track to date, the British-Zimbabwean singer-songwriter bravely comes out in a public embrace of his identity.

In his most honest and revealing track to date, the British-Zimbabwean singer-songwriter bravely comes out in a public embrace of his identity.

Photography: Udoma Janssen

Text: Sam Tracy

“It's a very... That topic is very... What's the word?” KWAYE pauses. “I think I'm still trying to figure out that sentence,” he laughs, ever mindful of his word choice, seeking a perfect lexical balance in his every response. 

Over a Zoom chat in mid-March, the British-Zimbabwean singer sat down with V for promotion of his newest single, “Runaway”, released today. This isn’t his first promotional interview nor is he a novice in the industry; known for his biggest hits “Sweetest Life” and “Lost in My Boots”, the mononymous name “KWAYE” packs a punch in the neo-soul genre. Despite ample experience in handling press and promoting new tracks, KWAYE is choosing his words extra carefully. Simply put, this release feels different.

For KWAYE, today marks the start of a new chapter — his most open and honest one yet.

He’s letting his freshly released single, “Runaway” do the talking. Through soulful lyrics, KWAYE introduces himself on a deeper level than ever before, opening up about his past, his identity, and the hidden corners of himself he found before to be the most difficult to navigate. Independence in all forms defines this thoughtfully constructed new single. “Runaway” is the second single of his new journey as an independent artist since breaking away from former label Mind of a Genius.

A move to independence was a choice many did not understand at first. His story as a signed musician began in 2014: KWAYE was studying as an exchange student at UCLA with a dream swirling in the back of his mind of hitting it big in La La Land during the semester abroad. And just like the plot of a Hollywood movie, the singer-songwriter was discovered during a serendipitous Uber ride, soon thereafter signing his first record deal and finishing his semester a step closer to his dream career.

After such a fairytale start to the music industry, KWAYE’s move to independence was not an easy process nor speedy at that. Facing behind-the-scenes complications, he began to seek an out as far back as 2019.  

“It was a lot of going back and forth, making sure that the deal was right, trying not to burn any bridges and be respectful, but at the same time being respectful to myself and what I needed,” KWAYE explains. “[The process] took about a year and a half but at the end of last year, I fully came into my independence as an artist.”

In this latest track, KWAYE sings a tune of soul-baring lyrics, painting his experience growing up as a black man. Born in Zimbabwe, KWAYE moved to the UK with his family at a young age and was exposed to the differences of Western culture in his adoptive country, where he found sexuality to be more freely discussed and publicly embraced.

“If you take a plane for just eight hours to elsewhere in the world, whether it's to Asia or Africa, we're still fighting battles of freedom and independence to showcase our identity in that way,” he says, graciously acknowledging the privilege he has to be freely himself. “Whether it's through women being the most complete versions of themselves as far as sexuality goes to men still being in the closet — that battle still wages on in the world. We can't forget that. My heart still goes out to the places in the world where people are still trying to exist as the full version of themselves in secret.”

In a song of such heavy themes, KWAYE pairs the track with an emotive music video, a simple artistic visual counterpart to underline the words he sings rather than distract. Captured as a live stripped-back performance, the neo-funk icon candidly vocalizes his raw emotions in an empty studio illuminated by a single spotlight and gentle blue lighting. He sings to no one and everyone anyone who can relate to the reality of being afraid to live authentically. He croons of carrying “weight on his back” and throws aside the balancing act he struggled with for so long, trying to simultaneously live for himself and others.

In a universally relatable recount of the immigrant experience, KWAYE relates the pressure he felt in his home to carry the family legacy into future generations while internally battling to live by his own accord. “It's a conflict, but this conflict creates a beautiful place of existing because when you're able to appreciate both cultures, you are able to clearly see the beauty in both,” KWAYE explains his bi-cultural perspective. “The job for me becomes how to showcase the beauty of both cultures to each other. I can do that through finding the balance in those two cultures within myself.”

His most authentic self is laid bare in a delicate depiction of breaking free from societal expectations. KWAYE strikes an equilibrium between artistry and realness in his latest track and ushers in a new era for himself and listeners. 

Listen to “Runaway”, out now.

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