Meet Kelvin Eyram Amenyedor aka LayLow, or more accurately, Dr. LayLow. Yes, that’s right. This upcoming Ghanaian rapper is also a doctor. Imagine, saving lives by day, and killing it on the beat by night. It takes nothing short of a genius to achieve this double life.
So you’re both a doctor and musician? Can you tell me how that came about?
It started with music first. After high school, I was lucky enough to be signed by Magnom Beats, a popular music producer here in Ghana. Around the same time, my dad asked me what I wanted to do with my life. But, you know, the typical African household, I couldn’t say I wanted to pursue music. Instead I said, “I don’t know dad.” Since I was book smart, my dad selected for me to become a doctor. At the time, I was studying history in university and my dad went to the school to switch courses (majors) for me. I actually cried when he made the change from history to science. I spent a lot of sleepless nights catching up in my science courses and got accepted to medical school. Medical school took a toll on my music. It slowed me down. I would sneak away to the studio whenever I got the chance, but it was never enough time.
Tragedy struck when my close friend and music producer, D-Mag (Dominic Bulley), passed away. I was devastated. His unexpected death broke my heart. D-Mag was my Dr. Dre if you will. Medical school and my books became my “safe haven” from the pain. Ironic isn’t it? Through it all, I still held on to my passion for music. Music came first and then medicine. I like to say that music was my first love and medicine was the side chick.
What kind of doctor are you?
I’m a general physician, but I want to specialize in obstetrics gynecology. I love women (he said this jokingly). It’s amazing. Somewhere along the way, I realized I was chosen to be a doctor. Becoming a doctor wasn’t an accident. As I mentioned before, medicine didn’t start out as my passion, but now it’s my responsibility. I get joy from helping people. I’m glad medicine found a way into my life.
Okay, let’s talk about your first love. There’s something magical about a first love. How did you get into music?
I’ve always loved music. My mom gave me Disney sing-a-longs so I know almost all of the Disney songs. Reading and singing Disney songs gave me the basis to write my own music. As cliché as it sounds, I joined the church choir. Yes, I was singing and dancing in church and no, there are no videos of this for you to see. It wasn’t until high school that I got the confidence to take my music seriously. People told me I was good and that I had potential. One of my earliest supporters was D-Mag.
What was your first successful song?
On the first day of high school (boarding school), I was asked, “What can you do?” Are you a dancer? Can you sing? What talent sets you apart from the rest? Of course I said I can rap. I didn’t know this would lead to a rap battle. My opponent was a guy who was in his senior year. So me, a freshman, up against a senior, yes I was nervous. Guess who came out the victor? Me. The running joke was the senior who lost had to “lay low” for some time because of his embarrassing defeat. That’s how I got the name LayLow because my competition had to lay low. Funny right? So I would say my first “successful song” was this rap that won me the battle.
My first recorded song was “Mr. DJ”. The second was “I tried”. Fun fact about the second song is I prematurely declared myself the first rap doctor. I probably shouldn’t have done that because at the time, I wasn’t finished with medical school. So I didn’t have a choice. I had to graduate medical school. It was do or die.
How has your music evolved since you started?
I’d like to start out by thanking my producer, Magnom. He helped me improve the quality of my music. When I started rapping, I tried to emulate artists I listened to like 50 Cent and Eminem. I was trying to sound like an American rapper. Magnom made be realize I should be myself, more Ghanaian. Because of that, my rap style and content evolved to fit my authentic self. My music is still evolving as I experiment with sound and look for my own flow.
May I ask what you are working on?
You’ll see. I have a few things up my sleeve. The only hint I’ll give you is I’m focused on making songs that make people dance.
What’s your overall goal when it comes to your music?
I want to get my own sound. I want to mesh my medical background into my music and make songs that educates listeners. For example, I have this project on breast cancer called “show them to me”. The goal is to promote breast examinations for women of age. In addition to making awesome rap songs, I want to use my music to make meaningful health impacts. There’s a lot of planning that goes into making this type of music. Another issue I am passionate about is safe abortion care in Ghana. Did you know only 1 percent of Ghana’s population knows about safe abortion care? Abortion is illegal in Ghana, but it’s permissible under certain conditions. Abortion is illegal except if the patient’s life is in danger or if the patient is negatively mentally affected. The law doesn’t explicitly define mental health so it’s open for interpretation. If a patient wants an abortion because the pregnancy is causing depression or anxiety, that’s grounds legal abortion. It’s important to make sure the health care facility is registered with trained healthcare professionals. In Ghana, there are a lot of deaths stemming from backdoor abortions. I want to gain momentum with my music and use that newfound platform for healthcare education.
Which celebrity were you surprised liked your music?
Edem (@iamedem) called me about one of my songs, Kaiko. He urged me to promote the song because he liked it and felt more people should listen to it. Asem featured me on one of his tracks. With my latest song, God Bless the Hustle, Sonnie Badu (one of the most successful African gospel artists) heard my song and wanted to meet me. I also I met Sarkodie (@sarkodie) in the studio. We spoke about healthcare in Ghana and I played him my music and he liked it. All of these interactions are encouraging.
Now it’s time for some random questions! What’s your favorite food?
If I had to select a favorite food, I would pick Jollof. I like anything with long grain rice, but here’s the catch, I have to see the rice one by one. None of that mushy stuff.
What is a unique fact that most people most people don’t know about you?
I hate fruits. I know being a doctor, it’s not ideal for me to say I hate fruits, but I do. Apples and pineapples are the only exceptions, but even then, they have to be cold.
There is no doubt in my mind that LayLow will achieve success with his music. The passion and drive propelling him forward is inspirational. To stay up to date on LayLow’s latest moves, follow him on Twitter and SoundCloud
**This interview is dedicated to the loving memory of Dominic “D-Mag” Bulley**