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Sincerely Off The Top

Hurriedly clicking the “invite participant” icon of our Zoom meeting, my eyes were met with the warmth of a smile which could dazzle anyone for hours. I had been graced by a conversation with Joseph Nti, the reputable Ghanaian creative behind the popular YouTube Quiz show, Off The Top and the co-creator of the beloved biweekly podcast, Sincerely Accra. Sincerely Accra acts as a pop-driven podcast which discusses the hilarious society and culture of Accra, whilst Off The Top shoots trivia questions at an ensemble cast inspired by Joseph’s Twitter timeline, his experiences from school, and some assistance from Google. This is how I knew it would be a waste to not place Joseph in the hot seat myself. “Tell me Joseph, what drinks were placed on  Beyoncé’s table when she visited Nigeria?” A smirk, and a cheeky giggle followed. “Aah, I’ve known Beyoncé since 1999. I think, Pepsi, Fanta and Sprite!” Ding ding ding! 10 points for the House of Makola Kwakwe!           Next question, the answer which will determine Joseph’s fate. “Joseph! You watch a lot of talk shows, no? When Wendy Williams fainted on her show, what was she wearing?” With a boisterous laugh, he shot, “The statute of liberty! It was Halloween!” This infectious energy is what Joseph has become renowned for, honed by an active imagination during his childhood that nudged him to pretend he was on his own talk show in his bedroom. Beyond his talk show games, content creation truly began for Joseph in class 5, where he wrote and shared stories in a notebook for the rabid eyes of his classmates. This ingenuity evolved into Joseph becoming the editor-in-chief for a school magazine during his college years, which led him to conceiving an art form he never fathomed. Joseph shared, “When I was done with college, I had a friend at the time, Odunsi, who was releasing an EP and I loved his cover art. I love documentaries and I used to watch E! True Hollywood Story, so I started thinking, I want to tell the story of how this EP came about. I had never done it before, never even used a camera, so I googled, studied, and called the photographer from the magazine to help. It took us about 8 months cause none of us knew how to edit, yet, when we finally finished, it was well received, and got great views for a fresh channel!” Following this feat, Joseph hitched two more documentaries under his belt, and began to simmer with the idea of producing a game show. With the help of his friend, Nii Apa, Off the Top was born, filmed in a living room with a cast of 10 members. “I was inspired by the nostalgia I used to feel when we would watch It Takes Two, those type of game shows, and I thought, we should always have something like this.” Joseph daydreamed, visibly getting carried away by the memories, “As to how Sincerely Accra began, I was working as a lecturer at the time and I heard an investigative podcast, where they were trying to prove someone’s innocence. I found the theme so interesting, and immediately spoke to my current producer, Kwame Asante, about developing a similar concept. For our first episode, we asked Ghanaians who had lived abroad about what the experience of moving back to Accra was like, but they weren’t very … engaging. A lot of “oh, it’s been okay”, “oh, we’re managing”. So Kwame suggested rethinking, and we settled on coming up with a simple question or topic and sharing our opinion. Eventually, we included listener letters, where I’d share my take on their experiences. It took off from there!”

The early seasons of Joseph’s craft required porous amounts of patience and adjustment, mostly due to the fact that he had to rely on money from his own pocket to produce results, all of which changed when he discovered an efficient form of accruing sponsorship. “By season 3 I met someone who told me I’m not serious, and advised me to make a rate card. It’s something I would advise all creators to do, cause I really wish I had done so earlier. I thought, “what kind of advertising opportunities can people have?” and I just started moving to brands. There was one deal I literally closed at Bloom Bar, and when he gave me a chance, the ad did extremely well. Sometimes you really just have to show people your value.” The more Joseph dished out on how his content creation journey began, the clearer it became that teamwork has been integral to his progress, which he fervently agreed to.  “You can’t do it on your own. Having a strong support system is important. My friends always told me I need to do a show, and when I want to back out they push me forward. You are the biggest critic of your own work. If you can find a dedicated team to work with your life will be easier, I give them all the credit for how much they helped bring this to life.” His devotion to teamwork reflects in the bond his crew and cast appear to share on Off The Top, a factor which has made the show a favorite of the public. The chemistry between the cast members is strikingly free flowing, which Joseph jokingly attributed to a large supply of alcohol on set, but mostly to their personalities. “They just vibe on their own, and it’s interesting because the very first time I put the cast together the Whatsapp group I created was quiet because most of them didn’t know each other very well. Yet as soon as they met, they clicked, and even where there’s a guest member, they never make anyone feel left out.” This is why Joseph believes it is important to ride on authenticity, where in as much it is important for your influences to reflect and be given their due, your individuality as a creative must shine through. “It’s good to know your audience,” Joseph mused, “But if you’re being yourself, which is all you can be, the people who genuinely like you, will like you.”

The bubbliness Off The Top and Sincerely Accra exudes has become a point of motivation for many, to which Joseph shared he has been often told his work has helped people get through dark times or helped them feel at home, a high point which fuels his work. The team’s chemistry could not have blossomed without Joseph’s specificity with representation, where he realized although he began these projects with the simple intention of wanting to create, he also wanted to give everyone a chance to see themselves.  “Loud people, quiet people, funny people, everybody simply deserves a chance to be seen.” Admittedly, it has not been particularly easy being known as a beacon of joy, where a difficulty Joseph shared with facing in this field is feeling the pressure to continuously perform for his audience. “People can be very impatient with content posting. If you take a break, they don’t understand, As a human being, sometimes you’re just tired, you don’t want to do some things. My character on Sincerely Accra is very energetic, so because of that, when you meet me, people can be underwhelmed because that’s not me 24/7. So sometimes even when I’ve had a bad day, I have to force myself, and I end up performing happiness. It just feels like there are no days off. Also, the more popular I’ve become, the more I’ve been afraid to tweet. I feel like I don’t have problematic views, granted, but we live in sensitive times.” In spite of this, Joseph snapped right back to expressing gratitude for the growth of his work, excitedly rambling on how pleased he is with its progress. The crux of Sincerely Accra and Off The Top appears to be humanness, and it pours through every episode. When asked what Joseph has learnt about Ghanaians from this experience, he couldn’t help but laugh, screaming, “Everyone is a mess! I remember this girl that wanted to sleep with her brother, or this letter on Sincerely Accra where a father sent his children away to be with his lover. EI!” As manic as this response sounds, it is the very reason why the popularity of Joseph’s work continues to skyrocket, because at its bedrock is people simply being themselves. Joseph Nti exhibits the raw joy which can be found in pure individuality, whilst being intentional with collaboration, effectively propping Sincerely Accra and Off The Top to become a space of comfort for many Ghanaians. We write about Joseph Nti today because he is a reflection of one’s seeds of creativity becoming an energy source for many. “Final question before we leave! What would you tell your future self, when you’ve touched the pinnacle of your success?” With one last cheeky grin, Joseph dropped an unforgettable dime. “Always have your money ready, cause you never know when Beyoncé is coming.”  Check out Joseph’s Social Links Below