Creative Spotlight: Ntwali

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Creative, Culture | 0 comments

Edmonton-based rapper Ntwali Kayijaho celebrated his 10th anniversary of rapping this year when he turned 27. 

A little over a year ago, I sat down with the Rwandan-born rapper to talk about his music career, his upbringing, and aspirations for the future. Now, approaching the release of his third album, Latebloomer III, Kayijaho shares his newfound zest for creating art, new ambitions, and exciting announcements.  

The recap

Ntwali was around the age of 16 when he started taking rapping seriously. The first time he tried was at a house party and, despite his initially novice abilities of rhyme and flow, he remained dedicated to cultivating and nurturing his craft. 

“For the last 10 years, and it’s been an amazing journey — ups and downs like everything else, but I think I’m hitting my stride right now,” he says.

Ntwali began taking his rapping career more seriously since the pandemic and has been consistent with practicing for three years. “One of my siblings says, ‘It’s better to be remembered as the most improved artist rather than the most doubted or the most slept on,’” he recalls. “Sometimes, people see their dreams manifested through you, so the fact that I haven’t given up has inspired many people to keep going.”

A creative evolution

Ntwali acknowledges the growth and changes that he’s made since last year. He describes how his love and hunger for music has evolved from knowing that he is marketable and seeing the impact his hit song “Message to the Youth” had on the community which was recognized by CBC

Once he gained a new perspective and a newfound sense of confidence, Ntwali had to fight complacency and replace that with ambition. 

“It’s almost like how in relationships, after five or six years, the spark and honeymoon phase isn’t there anymore,” he says. “My music journey is kind of a metaphor for life. You gotta re-love and re-learn things.”

Ntwali treasures the acknowledgment he receives from the community about his growth as an artist. 

“Artistically, I have a new sound,” he says. “I’m getting stamps of approval and co-signs from people I really admire [about the new projects], so I know I’m going in the right direction.” 

Releasing his first album, Latebloomer, in 2017, Ntwali plans on dropping his mixtape of the series in the spring titled: Latebloomer III: In Full Bloom. Latebloomer III signifies my whole time here [Edmonton] as an artist. It’s a journal entry like the other ones,” Ntwali shares. Along with this, the artist plans on dropping another mixtape this year called New Beginnings. He intends for the New Beginnings mixtape to mark the end of his Latebloomer era. 

In March, Ntwali released a single called “Some Way Some How.” The artist shared in an Instagram post that the music video for the song was filmed at the first restaurant he worked at years ago. “[I] took this picture at the very first restaurant I worked at, where some of my very first bars were said and my rap dreams began.” 

Still early in his career, Ntwali has been privy to the genius of many talented artists and producers in North America, making his future in music look all the more promising. The hip-hop artist has worked with a producer from Dreamville, the music label for rapper J. Cole. They worked on a new single called “The One That Got Away” that Ntwali plans to release this year. 

Despite all the recognition and excitement, Ntwali stays focused on his creative path by keeping his eye on the prize. 

“I’m not running after numbers or status. It’s about the art,” he says. “I may not get a platinum record, but my life is complete if I can sustain myself off music.”

It’s the art, the joy he gets from performing, and the fulfillment he feels when someone tells him his music changed their life. 

Onto bigger and better

After falling in love with his art again, Ntwali is ready for something more. A change in scenery. Montreal. 

“The reason why I want to go to Montreal is because the city is so inspiring. I’m a very visual person, and as an artist, I want to be where the art is,” he says. “I could stay in Edmonton, but I’m ready to expand.”

The 27-year-old aspires to pursue the independent route to music. “Sure, it might take longer, but these labels take up everything when it comes to creative control,” he says. “I’m already 10 years into the game. I know what I need to do now.”

Ntwali is among the rare rap artists who understand the weight of being a role model and carries it gracefully. He has always advocated for self-care, prioritizing one’s own needs, and self-improvement. 

From public speaking at elementary schools to an interest in becoming a therapist, his self-improvement philosophy shines through everything that he does. Recently, Ntwali got accepted into Yorkville University in counselling and psychology. “Some people tell me to focus on one dream at a time, but why not merge them all?” he says. “There aren’t a lot of male therapists out there, let alone Black male therapists.” 

Knowing what it’s like to be in their shoes, Ntwali hopes to become a therapist for other musicians. Pursuing a career in a province that mainly benefits those who choose a career in finance or engineering, compounded with other life stressors can bring about anxiety and depression. Free or low-cost therapy for musicians and other professionals in the fine arts should not only be considered, but advocated for.

Ntwali hopes to further his music career in Montreal — a new city he hopes to soon call home. He shows appreciation for all that he has learned from his time living and creating in Edmonton. 

“The community definitely grows you,” he says. “Leaving Edmonton now as opposed to five years ago — like all the skills I’ve learned, I’m taking all these things with me.”

Ntwali plans to hold a release party for Latebloomer III and will continue dropping many more singles like “The One That Got Away” in the coming months. 

Staying committed to personal growth is a core value the young rapper always finds his way back to. “Invest in yourself by any means necessary,” he says. “Be relentless in the highest pursuits of yourself, and the rest will come.” 


Photos supplied

Aajah Sauter

The Griff

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