“Beating de books” led me to writing music under disguise – Kareem “cKush” Lewis

cKush during one of his performances

By Lakhram Bhagirat

Kareem “cKush” Lewis is perhaps one of the most well-known names on the local hip hop scene with his inimitable ability to build bars of devastation.

If you are a fan of hip hop music then you know that only lyrical geniuses can deliver exceptional bars, consistently, and cKush has been doing that over and over in his songs.

With bangers like No Eggball, Dunce Thugs, Doh Seh 40 and many more, cKush has proven time and again that he is made for the music industry.

While he has always been passionate about music, his mother never approved and would encourage him to “beat de books” since she saw no career in the field for him. However, the young man has built a name for himself now and was recently signed as the local brand ambassador for Kabisa – a Polish drink.

Reflecting on the journey to get where he is today, the 24-year-old told the Sunday Times that he grew up in D’Urban Street, Lodge, with his single mother and siblings. He remembered the environment being a mix of both hostile and fun. He shadowed his brother and didn’t have many friends in the community.

Later on, he would become very engrossed in football, much to the disapproval of his mother. He was a member of the Georgetown Football Club and whenever he had training and games, his mother would hide his gears in an effort to get him to quit.

“My mother was not too fond of it because there is a lot of stigma attached to football in Guyana because it is considered as a ghetto sport. She wasn’t too much fond of me playing football. When I get training or I got to go play a match she would hide my gears and tell me beat de books,” he remembered.

cKush’s mother was the sole breadwinner for the family and wanted her children to excel in life so she always placed the emphasis on education and coined the phrase “beat de books”. So, whenever he was told to beat de books, he would have a notepad hidden in the school book and be writing lyrics.

Throughout his school life he was never one that placed great emphasis on studying so when he achieved a place at Central High School, his entire family was shocked. When he started secondary school, cKush became more engrossed in honing his craft as a musician. He also discovered acting and drama in secondary school and developed a love for reading.

At school, realising that the young man was talented, one of his teachers began encouraging him to perform at various concerts. His first performance ever was during a Mashramani concert at his school. That unleashed him and cemented a place as one of his school’s hottest talent.

Though he was excelling in extracurriculars at school, many of his teachers still had issues with his academic pursuits. He was termed “botheration” and when it came to recommending him to sit their subjects at CSEC, they refused to endorse his candidacy.
He sat five subjects and secured passes. He was even named as the top performer in one of the subjects.

cKush never stopped writing music.

“I always loved music and I saw my brother writing and recording and was like ‘yo, I want to do that’. A great amount of the inspiration came from my brother and he was like ‘nah you can’t do this, do something else.’ He didn’t tell me don’t do it but it was like focus on a next part. I went behind his back and writing and I one day came up to him and said hear this, he was ight you get a voice so let we do this thing, let we do it.

“From since then I was always coming heavy. My brother is my biggest critic and he gave me some of the best pointers. The artiste I am today is because of his criticism. He don’t settle for nothing too stupid, nothing not mind-blowing,” he noted.

cKush with Drew Thoven and Gully Ras

After he graduated Central High School in 2013, cKush entered the world of work because he had not yet figured how to monetise his talent. There, he was encouraged to further his studies in the field of accounting but he did not believe it was for him. He would quit his job and then begin releasing his music.

“The most challenging part was finding resources to record. I had a friend who was passionate about music and he invested his cash in purchasing equipment and put together a lil studio and there I used to go record but before I used to record on an iPhone and speaker.”

cKush embarked on his musical career as a teenager under the stage name Lil’ Kush, performing for school concerts and within his community. He began to gain a regional recognition after dropping his single “KARMA”, where he worked along with local producers Kincomarco & Jonathan Tailor in 2017. He went on to work with Canadian artiste Salez and later on Bermudan producer Noise Cans on the remix of “Jus Zess” featuring Drew Thoven and Jay Anderson.

Drew is one of the leading music producers in Guyana and began his collaboration with cKush for Guyana Carnival.

After dropping his single in 2017 and rising to fame regionally, cKush began to work with artistes such as Drew Thoven, Franale, KeMO, Chris OvE, Salez and JDawg during the 2017-2019 period. It was until 2020, when Lewis decided that he was ready to work on his personal projects and reunited with Drew Thoven to take the country by storm with his unique sound. After releasing their first single, “No Eggball” alongside local DJ and artiste Gully Ras, the music gained not only regional but international recognition. Since the release of “No Eggball”, the trio has appeared on numerous tracks together, including “Darkness”, “Go Back Inside”, “Dunce Thugs” and “John Wick”.

“He (Drew) started sending me tracks and telling me come through the studio I get this and sending me beats and so. Quarantine was the best opportunity and at that time I was employed at Guyana Shore Base and any free time I had I would go to the studio. That is where we prepared hits like No Eggball, Dunce Thugs, Doh Seh 40 and everything after that.”

Brand deal

cKush now owns a Bar and explained that he was there when he was introduced to a man who explained the opportunity for him to jump on the advertising train for Kabisa.

However, he said that he had to research the product before endorsing it and was surprised by the reviews and the fact that it is dubbed as the number one drink in Europe.

He would later meet with the distributor of the product and they came up with a brand deal. The deal, making cKush the brand ambassador, was signed on Saturday.

When asked about what advice he has for someone thinking about entering the world of music, cKush said “Always stay true to yourself. Know what you like and don’t be anybody else. Originality always stands out. You need originality and you can’t come out here sounding like everybody else because you going to be like everybody else. You have to decide what your signature is going to be and that signature is what is going to make people come to you and you must not be going to people. Define yourself in this space and create this space for yourself.”

The young man remains cooking up hard tracks for his audience and is only now getting started. So look out for more from him.