The name might by mildly amusing, but the work is deadly serious. Bongo ByTheWay is a Grammy-winning producer and songwriter behind recent releases such as “Gifted” by YBN Cordae ft. Roddy Rich, “Girl Like Me” by Jazmine Sullivan ft. H.E.R., and “Better Days” by Ant Clemons & Justin Timberlake. Only this week, he received a Grammy win for his work on Kanye West’s Jesus is King.
It all started when he was 11 years old: “When I got to about 14, 15, I began to take things seriously by making complete records and albums for my friends,” he says. “My brother played a massive role in the way I gravitated towards music from an early age and pursued creating music as a career years after. He’s the most talented musician I know.”
Bongo says that his sound is rooted in church, and it’s full of different textures.
“I used to make beats and raps in church,” he says. “When I went ahead and performed my songs, the church band would play behind me, and that’s when I started to play with the breakdown of the beats I used to make on the computer and mix them with live instruments. That idea of putting textures and sounds together is something I’m now known for in relation to my style.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the producer says that the pandemic/lockdown has positively affected his work.
“It allowed more to get more focused and have fewer distractions,” he says. “I’m sure a lot of creatives in music or outside of music can agree as well. I don’t believe the pandemic restrictions stopped anyone from making music—I could be wrong; it just called for the industry to be more adaptable. It has been tunnel vision, thinking about the past year I had. I was even able to work on a project of my own.”
He’s all about empowering others too, via his #bytheway movement.
“#ByTheWay is my expression that acknowledges people and their purpose,” he says. “It’s also can be used in a colloquial sense to add something to a conversion, whether major or minor. As a producer and songwriter, I see the means of creating the same way. #ByTheWay mostly is the idea that true happiness comes from being on a path in connecting passion with their purpose. It ties to my mantra of Dream, Build, Prosper, and the core of it is connecting passion to purpose. Once you discover that path for yourself, regardless of what you do, you’ll never feel like you’re working a day in your life again. If you wake up and your passionate about what you do, and you’ve found your purpose for life, you’ll wake up in paradise. When you start making money from that calling is that’s when prosperity comes into play.”
Looking ahead in 2021, there are more releases join the way.
“I’ve been cooking up with Anderson .Paak, Cordae, Ant Clemons, Jeremih to name a few, and on a project of my own, which I mentioned earlier,” he says. “You’ll be hearing more #ByTheWaywork very soon.”