From track and field to producing Grammy worthy songs - the story of Nabeyin

When American born Ghanaian music producer, Edgar Nabeyin Panford, tore his meniscus, his aspiration to become a triple jumper for Ghana was shattered. But a door he had been looking into half-way swung and he ran through it.

Edgar Nabeyin Panford

Speaking about the career shattering injury, Edgar told me in a zoom interview days after he won his first Grammy Award that “that was pretty much the end of my track career.”

However, when that unfortunate incident occurred, he threw everything he’s got into producing music.

“I ended up being ranked 11th in the nation (U.S.) for triple jump. Then the following year, I was going to compete for Ghana if I had got my marks and I tore my meniscus in 2014, at the national track and field event. I was like, I might as well focus on music now. And so, I kept my focus on music and kept grinding till I got where I am now.”

Although it was his dream to be a professional athlete, he had been fascinated about music before his teens. This fascination started when he was “just messing around on the drum machine that my brother KGee had bought,” at about 11 years old.

This interest led him to admire and study the works of some underground hip-hop record producers when he was in High School.

Once he started listening to them, he yearned to know how he could produce similar beats. From then on, he started to learn how to make sample beats by sampling old records and turning them into beats. He did this for seven years.

“But I didn’t see myself progress as a producer until I started learning how to play the keys. And literally when I started playing the keys, everything started moving.”

Quitting

Even after he had decided to go all out to become a successful music producer, Edgar’s journey to get to where he is now was riddled with “self-doubt,” frustration, and “dry spells” of no creative impulse because of the challenges he encountered, challenges which made him think of quitting “a few times.” He tells me that “as a producer, if you haven’t thought about quitting about 3 or 4 times, then you are probably not doing it right.”

Work Ethic

As a “firm believer” in the idea that “work ethic out-weighs talent any day,” Edgar kept pushing through those challenging times after he completed his postgraduate studies in 2016.

“For example, there is this label called TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment). They had a camp for a month and I think I had a job at that time. So, I will be at that camp working till 5AM or 6AM then drive an hour and 45 minutes to get ready for work. Go to work from 10 AM to 6 or 7 PM. Go home. Sleep for an hour. Go back to the camp. This was a month-long camp. So, I was doing this constantly.

“I’m driving on the Freeway half asleep. By the grace of God, I’ve never been in an accident. I was making that hour and 45 minutes’ drive. So, nobody can ever tell me that I didn’t put in the work for it.”

Turning point

Less than a year after Edgar had completed his postgraduate studies in Music and started making those perilous trips, “stuff started happening.”

Rarely does a young producer get the opportunity to work with established acts in the American music industry. However, Edgar landed his first major label placement with Drake in 2017.

“Most people don’t have that as their first major label placement. It propelled me and changed my status as a producer because it is your first placement and you are working with the biggest artiste in the world,” he says.

Although he feels that working with Drake came a bit early in his career, he’s gone on to produce for several heavy weights in hip hop; Nas, Dave East, The Game, Wale, Travis Baker and several others, all the while wishing he finally lands Busta Rhymes and Xzibit, the two legacy acts he “needs” since he has already worked with Nas.

Grammy

His production credits on Kanye Ye West’s Heaven and Hell won him his first Grammy at the 64th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

Edgar expressed awe about his win even though he has been expecting it for a while. Although he describes the achievement as “surreal” and the fact that it made him feel “great,” he believes “it was just a matter of time.” His confidence stems from the fact that he had worked on some albums that got nominations at the Grammys but couldn’t win. However, he “didn’t know when,” it would happen.

“Honestly, this is just important just for the fact that as Africans our parents don’t want us to be in entertainment or music. They want us to be doctors, lawyers, nurses; things of that sort. So, to me, I’m just showing the next generation that it’s possible to make it in this generation and still be nominated as a Ghanaian. You don’t have to go the route of being a nurse, engineer or doctor. You can literally change your dreams. As long as you work harder, you can make it.”

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