How Sarkodie Is Staying Relevant In This Changing Music Scene Using His Bag of ‘Tricks’

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Having success for a year or two; that’s being hot. We call it hot: that’s being in demand for a short period of tme. Excellence is being able to perform at high level for a long period of time. In a genre of music where it’s almost microwaved and where your career is almost like in dock years right; you last three years in hiphop, it’s fantastic. You last five years, it’s like, wow. It’s amazing. If you last for a decade and beyond, it’s almost unheard of.

Jay Z speaking on Oprah Winfrey’s Masterclass


For the many that keenly followed the legendary radio programme ‘Kasahari Levels’ hosted by Dr. Duncan on Adom FM circa 2006, Sarkodie was one of the few rappers many tipped for success. He had it all: his style was unique (he rapped in a unique accent considered ‘too local’); his lyrics were filled had depth seasoned with humor. He could tongue-twist. He had presence, composure and a strain of palpable hunger for success echoed loudly in his weekly performances.

Fast forward to now; a decade after breaking out with his first freestyle ‘Push’ and his real single ‘Baby’ featuring Mugeez (of R2Bees), Sarkodie has become the king of rap in Ghana, and one of the foremost artists on the African continent. His pile of awards, albums (currently at 5), singles and features and a strong, respected brand bear testimony to this fact. Sarkodie is unarguably the most successful Ghanaian artists ever.

Like vintage wine, Sark keeps evolving and improving. He knows rap, like any other sport requires the participant to continuously work and be in better shape to compete. This evolution and mindset is clearly apparent in how he has survived the game when many of his compatriots, some whom he battled on ‘Kasahare Levels’ have paled in comparison. Most have nosedived into the valley of obscurity. Others couldn’t follow up after their initial success and those who did survive the times barely have a foothold like Sarkodie does due to inconsistency.

Like Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War , Sarkodie keeps making a killing, figuratively speaking. He is like the Prince described by Machiavelli in his classic work As As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote: ‘’One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves’’, Sarkodie possesses the cunning of a fox and the bravery of lion. These qualities have combined effectively to serve him well.

Whenever he has felt his throne threatened, he comes after his ‘enemies’-imaginary or real- with grave force. We all are aware of the ‘godMC – Kanta’ entertaining debacle. If he favours an artist(s), he doesn’t hesitate to show them love, either by endorsing them or jumping on their song. (I know there are many who have issues with this kind of ‘endorsement’ arguing these ‘favours’ benefit Sarkodie than the young artist(s) in the short to long term).

Sarkodie Celebrates Love, Solidifies His Spot As The Best On Highest

 

In similar ways as products and companies entrench their brand or attempt to win a larger market share in their area of business operations, Sark continues to stay innovative by finding ways to keep his visibility afloat. And he is doing so in two major ways. The first ‘trick’ of Sarkodie is remixing songs by the new generation of artists such as B4bonah, Kwesi Arthur. He does this by adding a verse to the original and shooting a video as well.

A self-confessed ‘private guy’, Sark has been offering fans a snapshot into his life through his social media pages. He doesn’t only post about his music, videos or concerts like some of his compatriots, Sarkodie makes time to interact with his fans. This invariably has added a layer of visibility to his brand and in the process cultivating new fanbase as well.

Lately, Sarkodie has found another avenue of keeping his name and voice in our ears. This trick comes in the form of freestyle videos. Over the weekend, he released a short video of him freestyle over ‘Jaden Smith’s ‘Icon’ beat.  The response from social media was phenomenal, which come to think of it isn’t much of a surprise from an artist who for almost a decade been at the top of his game. In March this year, he released his first freestyle video, where the content was a blend of braggadocios and ever present rags to riches epistles. The reaction was met with great reception. But, before these intermittent releases, Sark had ‘tested’ the waters with clips of him rapping along to songs from artists he describes as ‘his favourite legends’. One of such videos was of him in a hotel room during an European tour rapping to a song from Komfo Kwadei’s album.

Piecing all these developments together, I have come to the conclusion that, Sarkodie’s latest ‘trick’ is influenced by the success that GroundUpChale is chalking with its short videos, some which go viral of some of their artists on the come-up. This strategy has successfully launched or given some of these young acts the opportunity to leverage on this exposure, Mention can be mad of artists like Kofi Mole, Twitch and of course, BET nominee Kwesi Arthur.

Sarkodie, even after scoring such huge success in his long career still entertains the hunger of a young artist desperately looking for a break by exploring all available avenues that could aid their success. In simple terms, he is a superstar who doesn’t consider himself as such. He steps to the mic with the same hunger, composure and dedication he was oozing during his days as a freestyle rapper on ‘Kasahare Levels’ a decade ago.

Sarkodie hands meaning expression ‘you don’t stop running when those chasing you haven’t stopped’. The hip hop game is like a pendulum where fortunes of artist swings from one end to the other. Considering his career thus far, Sarkodie seems to be holding the pendulum from swinging any farther. He controls its swing.

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Kojey Radical Reflect On Being Black on “Water” (If Only They Knew) Video.

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Kojey Radical celebrates his blackness and black excellence despite the odds stacked against black folks on ”WATER”


Water is a powerful and important resource. It quenches thirst. It causes havoc in the same way it brings refreshment. It could bring about peace or provoke war. As the UN estimates, the world would face a striking water crisis by 2030 if steps aren’t taken to save the world from the debilitating effects of global warming and climate change.

But, if there’s one quality of water that is both striking and fearful, it is its power of malleability. It is said that water takes the shape of its holding material. It also find its way around any obstacle on its path, either through occupation or circumvention. The occupation is done through force of destruction.

For his new work, UK rapper and poet, Kojey Radical employs water as a metaphor to tackle a variety of themes. His 8 minute video, aptly titled ‘Water (If Only I Knew) explores the subjects of race, blackness, excellence and humanity through the medium of dance and music. These themes aren’t new fields of exploration for the experimentalist rapper. His three previous EPs- :”Dear Daisy” (2014), “23 Winters” (2016), “In God’s Body” (2017) – have all explored social unrest, racial divisions and identity within his own environment.

The United Kingdom, like many other European countries have laws that discriminate against people of colour-no matter how much they tend to deny these facts by believing their country as the cauldron of multiculturalism. The recent unfortunate fire disaster at Grenfell Tower where hundreds of residents, mostly immigrants and people of colour died in the flame, and the Windrush immigration have further exposed the inherent racial imbalance apparent and backed by British laws and existing within the society.

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In an era where alt-right movements in Europe and US are pushing their governments to tighten rules on immigration, overlook police brutality and killing black kids for no justifiable reasons rather than being black and immigrants fleeing wars, hardships and havocs in their native countries getting discriminated against and their rights to live as human beings are being curtailed, Kojey Radical’s “Water” is of great significance.

The firsts part of the video – “If Only”- begins with the image of a black person in handcuff. An image of a young black girl sitting pensively on a swing outside follows. A preacher man is seen gesturing to the young girl to rise up. Two young black girls are seen enjoying the beauty of the universe. The raspy voice of British actress and Black Mirror actress, Michaela Coel accompanies the visuals. She points out how the system isn’t built to accommodate black folks and how black folks become victims of cultural appropriation and exploitation.

With colour pigmentation, you must accept that your historically pivotal leaders were likely to be killed. With darker pigmentation, you become an example of exoticism under the Western microscope’. Michaela delivers this hard truth in a soft, deliberate tone reminiscent of a mother sharing some hard truths with her kids yet cautious enough to not scare them. This was after her lucid presentation on how, as a young child, had to conceive and live within a certain realm: ‘I built my ideals on standards I learnt as an infant and I had imagined my own”. This statement by Michaela is informed by the unfavourable system existing and how to navigate through it.

The two girls from the begining of the video breakup and begin to dance. Kojey Radical finally appears, joining them to dance. Pegging the commentary of Kojey and the dance movements, one can draw parallels with the heralded “This Is America” video by Childish Gambino minus the chaotic background happenings in the Gambino video. Over hard hitting trap beats, Kojey Radical, in a gravel-like voice opens his verse with this striking lyrics: “If only you knew/ I got fresh wounds bigger than you/ funny how they all wanna watch my steps/ but they can’t run a mile in my shoes’. Though it sounds like a personal statement, the lyrics capture sentiments of people of colour who get battered by a system not built for them.

And for all of it, you must smile and dance. Yeah, keep dancing knowing revenge would taste so much sweeter once you’ve made it – Michaela Coel

The 24 year old rapper and visual artist has built a reputation as a vocal and opinionated rapper. A social commentator who has been compared to American superstar Kendrick Lamar. He is a firm believer of free expression. In a 2017 interview with the Guardian newspaper in the UK, Kojey spoke on what it means to be describes as the voice of his generation: “I’m waiting for a day when the idea of speaking out and being opinionated is the norm. That’s when being a voice of a generation means something, otherwise I’m just a voice in a generation.”

As the verse continues, Kojey poses the question: ‘how did you sleep through the violence? You just get used to the sirens, you just got stuck in the cycle’. The descriptive lyrics reflect how people have either become numb to the abnormal due to excessive exposure or those tasked with fixing the system seem unperturbed. At the end, he speaks of coming up tops despite the obstacles surrounding him.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you – Maya Angelou

The second part of the video- “Water”- shows the young black girl on the swing once again. This time, she’s in an alley heading home. She finds a morose looking boy sitting on a bench outside his home. The next scene set things in perspective regarding the demeanor of the boy: His parents are having a fight inside. The fight eventually turns into a very beautiful ballet dance that highlights the various shades of love: the good and the turbulent periods. The expression of love continues outside where three ladies sit watching the affection on display.

Kojey Radical is seen in a boxing ring with the preacher man in scene one as his trainer. There’s a switch in song style but not message. The beat assumes a tropical reggae-hiphop ambience, with uplifting horns serenading the edges of the beat. Kojey Radical takes a dig at today’s media. ‘I still don’t watch the news, barely trust the facts now’, he raps. This is a criticism of today’s media where through news tampering and propaganda, what is churned out is mostly suspicious and unworthy of one’s trust. As George Orwell wrote in his book 1984, ‘he who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” The media is guilty of propagating falsehood and anti-black sentiments for centuries- and still continues in this century as well.

Mahalia Burkman, featured on the song, provides a dose of soulfulness with her singing and biting raps about ‘coming back to this’ after being gone for a long time. (“This” refers to the discriminatory system). She blames it on ‘something in the water’; a phrase that Kojey Radical builds on calling on God to ‘come and take away the pain’:

Something is in the water, bad things in the water. Something is in my brothers; something like no other’, she sings in a calm manner. That ‘something’ is the poison that keeps holding people of colour back like the discriminatory laws designed to keep people of colour at the periphery of society. ‘I can’t put my finger on it/ all I know is we don’t want it/ all I know is if we carry on we’ll fall/ all I know is if we take this honour we’ll lose it all’’, she sings towards the end of the song.

“Water” (If Only I Knew) is a celebration of blackness- excellence, strength, love, beauty- while projecting the challenges that affect people of colour. The water must be purified.

Why ”Odaamani Abisade3” (Mankind’s Request) Is One of the Best Songs on ‘Onipa Akoma’

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‘Odaamani Abisade3” showed how steeped Akan is in the traditions he takes pride in as well as its cultural ethos. Artwork by BoyMichellez

 

Akan is a brilliant rapper, songwriter and performer and this bold conclusion is unanimous and incontrovertible. Anyone who has listened to his album, ‘’Onipa Akoma’’ or seen him during his live performances would attest to his special talent.

The album continues to receive great reviews from listeners, six months after its release. This is largely based on the fact that, ‘’Onipa Akoma’’ is an excellent piece of art that highlights the conflict between the desires of a man’s heart and those of his mind. These divisive thoughts are what Akan battles with his 15 track album.

The conflicting ideas aside, the album also serves an educative purpose: it showcases the richness of the Twi language as well as the cultural traditions of the Akan people. Akan’s mastery of the Twi language would leave your septuagenarian relative grinning from ear to ear. His storytelling gift is of cashmere quality.

I revisited the album again as I prepped myself for an interview with him. (You can watch the four- part interview here). What struck me was how he tapped into a very important Akan musical tradition on ‘’Odaamani Abisade3’’, the first track on the album.

‘’Odaamani Abisade3’’ which translate as ‘’Mankind’s Request’’ is the perfect opener on the album, and could rank among the best intro songs on an album ever. On the song, Akan projects, in vivid terms, the conflicting thoughts of a Man: the desires of his heart versus the desires of his mind; evil versus purity; physical or earthly needs versus spiritual fulfilment.

These cravings of the heart and mind are amply demonstrated in the barrage of lyrics that follow. For every wish of long life, there’s the desire to use it to commit adultery and fornicate. When he asks for good health, it is to support his drinking habits (“I need a healthy liver to aid my drinking habits”, he rapped). And each prayer for knowledge is to exploit the weak in society; and for every power he aspires for, it isn’t to fight or change the circumstances of the people he loves, but to abuse them for his own selfish gains.

Death, he knows, would come knocking one day. For Akan, his show-off to death rests in the number of kids he has fathered in his lifetime and not necessarily the legacy he has to leave behind. Akan offers the listener, a snapshot of how power and riches can be abused.

A Man of Tradition and Culture

When a tradition gathers enough strength to go on for centuries, you don’t just turn it off one day. –Chinua Achebe


‘’Odaamani Abisade3’’ showcases Akan’s deep knowledge of Akan traditions and culture. The song begins with a stream of conscious thoughts, where he questions humanity, man’s desires, God and what life essentially is. What becomes clear later on is that, each spoken sentence elicits a response from an assembly of women. Here, Akan assumes the role of a priest sharing a message with his subjects. And for 40 seconds, his voice takes centre stage, the female voices lending support, in a lead and response manner. (The words are translated for the benefit of none Twi speakers.)

His opening words to the song are translated by @NYboateng. The original lyrics are available on Genuis.com

We came to this world naked so if there’s anything to fight for, it should be a piece of cloth to cover our nakedness

Have you ever thought of feeding your soul after feeding your body?

If you criticise the beliefs of a person, they don’t accept but rather do counter criticism

The bible says that the wages of sin is death but if it is so, why does both the sinner and the saint die?

In sum, Akan is trying to say that, every material thing we hold on to dearly is vanity. This summation interestingly feeds into what he had intended naming the album: ‘’Vanity Slaves’’

This style-call and response- is called ‘’Abre’’ and “Nnwonkoro” respectively. “Abre” is signified by the single voiced chants or rants that Akan performs with no form of instrument accompanying it. The female responses that greet each sentence during the performance of the ‘’Abre’’ is referred to as ‘Nnwonkoro’.

In the Akan tradition, “Nnwonkoro” is performed exclusively by a female ensemble, amidst dancing, drumming, clapping. Those who witnessed the burial of the late Asantehemaa may have seen it being performed.

On ‘Odaamani Abisade3’, Akan breaks from the ‘rules’ of the performance. Instead of a female lead, Akan, the man, takes lead. This is not a rare occurrence as it’s very pervasive in roots rock reggae music (kochoko).

Spirituality Versus Earthly Desires

The bloodless conflict between the heart and mind-with a tacit spiritual influence- is evident throughout the song. Akan draws biblical inferences on human actions, as heard during the performance of “Abre” by making reference to a quote from 1 Corinthians. He again pivots the question: have you ever thought of feeding your soul after feeding your body?

Akan is a confessed spiritual being. In my recent interview with him, he explicitly said this: ‘I don’t know everything. The little I know is what I share on the songs. I believe there’s something bigger than all of us. I know there are good and bad spirits around’. This spiritual side is eloquently present in some of the lyrics masked with biblical quotes, starting first with the rendition of the creationist story as found in Genesis Chapter 1, where God made Man (Adam) and subsequently handed him dominion over everything He created.

Accompanied by a solemn flute tune heard mostly during funerals, Akan ends his commentary with a profound reminder from 1 Corinthians 10: 23: ‘’Everything is permissible, but not all things are beneficial or helpful”. He further asks the question, ‘man, what’s your heart desire?’. This question angles itself to have you ever thought of feeding your soul after feeding your body? as found in the book of Luke 12:19.

Over menacing trap drums and bouncing beat from Twisted Wavex, he proceeds to highlight the desires of the heart. But before that, we hear a voice urging him to ‘to tell the truth’. That voice is his conscience: the mind. His opening lyrics emphasizes his desires to live long since he has eaten enough salt.

The salt reference has two connotations. First, it’s for preservation. In the culinary world, salt is used to prolong the shelf life of food, especially fish or meat products. In the Akan language, salt is used as metaphor to describe one’s longevity (age wise) hence the proverb that ‘me di nkyin’ (I’ve eaten enough salt) or ‘nkyin y3 d3’ (salt is sweet). Salt is again used to cast away demons or evil spirits. In all these instances, salt is used figuratively or literally as insurance for long life on earth.

In the lyrics that followed, Akan confirms what the Bible says about the heart of man: it’s filled with folly. Like Kendrick Lamar’s song, ‘’Wesley’s Theory’’ off ‘’To Pimp A Butterfly’’ where he rapped, ‘’when I get signed hommie, I’ma act a fool’’ and went on to describe how he’d ‘take some M-16s to the hood’’, Akan’s desires include sleeping with multitudes of women and rejecting paternity of some of his kids, using his education and knowledge to rip people off; becoming rich and powerful and suppressing others with his power; grow eternally handsome. Even though he is aware of his own excesses and reckless lifestyle, Akan isn’t prepared to listen to advice.

The Evil verses Good Nexus

On the 3:04 second mark, a voice punctures through, screaming out the cautionary words found in 1 Corinthians 10:23. That voice-his ‘conscience’-urges Kwabena to be cautious in life; to consider his decisions and actions before taking a leap. This captures the concept of ‘’Onipa Akoma’’: a battle between the contradictions of the heart and the clarity of the mind. The mind wants him to live a simple life guided by wisdom and God.

The verse is however without controversy as Hamza Moshood indicated in his review of the album. Akan references his desire to have  white skin rather than a black one so that ‘people would note his good mind and intentions’. This tone is, in Hamza’s view racist and fed into the stereotype of the black man being evil minded.

“Though he isn’t obliged to, Akan might want to do some explaining to some of us regarding his assertion on the opening track – Odaamanii Abisadeɛ – that black people’s skin and their heart’s have come to be one and the same and therefore…

Such things aren’t inconsequential as they may seem; especially in a society where anti-black sentiments – “black man, black sense” et cetera – are so pervasive. Assessed at face value, Akan’s remark seems to be in tow with that line of thought; and, should that actually be the case, it goes without saying that it’s a rather unsavory sentiment. Hamza Moshood (Yoyotinz)”

Perhaps, Akan used this popular saying to highlight how certain crop of people are often excused for their excesses when they should be held accountable. And if his heart desires are to be fulfilled, he needed not to be judged. He wished for that kind of free pass.

It becomes very clear in the end that, amidst the conflicting thoughts, Akan is a man begging for answers to the many questions floating in his mind. He is a man trapped in a vault, unsure of which part to go since the numerous worldly forces surrounding him keep pulling him towards different angles or pathways.

”Odaamani Abisade3” shows how steeped Akan is in the traditions he takes pride in as well as its cultural ethos. His ability to wax poetically about life, its conflicts and linking it to biblical verses is a mark of excellence. As he told me in the interview, changing his name from Kwabena Shy to Akan was to reset his own focus and ambitions as a rapper: staying true to his own calling.

 

 

Tribute: Ace Highlife Artist Jewel Ackah’s Voice Shall Continue To Ring.

For some of today’s generation, Jewel Kofi Ackah is known as the man who composed the popular “Arise, Arise” anthem for the National Democratic Party in 1992. Ghana was transitioning from military dictatorship to democratic governance, and the last leg of the completion process was an election to be held in 1992. The then military leader turned democrat, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings (incumbent) was up against Prof. Adu Boahene, a renowned academic running on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Like any important activity that deserves people’s participation and awareness, a catchy music that sells the ethos of the party is of prime importance. For the NDC, that task fell on one musician: Jewel Kofi Ackah, a famous highlife/gospel musician.

This is how he recounted the decision to compose a song for the party:

“I met the President because I knew him way back from Takoradi, then I agreed to do the song which I didn’t charge because I was afraid, so I only told him I need a studio. They gave me the lyrics which I did some changes to and did the entire composition and since then I became part of the National Democratic Congress and I later did other party songs,”

In the estimation of many, this move by him rang the death toll on his career since many felt his political affiliation went contrary to theirs. Ghanaians weren’t politically sophisticated to differentiate or accept the fact that, an artist can align with a political party. His once high flying career suddenly hit a snag.

Birth & Albums

Born in 1945 in Axim, in the Western Region, Jewel Kofi Ackah picked up a job with Palm Line, a shipping company after school, but quit the job to join a traditional music group where he was spotted by legendary musician Ebo Taylor.

He later played with legendary CK Mann leading to the release of his debut album, ‘Gyaki Mea’ in 1974. He went on to record a song with Pat Thomas titled ‘False Lover’. In the early 90s, Jewel Ackah was signed by the music label Megastar under which he released a couple of albums.

By the time of his death, he had released 27 albums. Some of his major releases were “Akarika- Chi Special- Beat For Children All Over The World Vol. 1” (1984),Electric Highlife (1986), Jewel Ackah and the Tema Anglican Church Choir (1988), Me Dear (1989), Jewel Ackah and the Butterfly Six (1993). In 2010, he released Fill The Hilife Bump which had songs like ‘Kyere M’ase’, ‘Evil Man’ and ‘Abena’. His last feature was on ‘Nyame Eguama’, a gospel song by Joyce Blessings, where he added a tone of soul to the tune.

Ailing Years

According to reports, Jewel Ackah had been battling stroke and other sicknesses for over a decade. Somewhere in 2017 during a TV3 interview, he disclosed his battles with ill-health and how the NDC had abandoned him in time of need. He urged them not to wait until he’s dead before they display their love for him.

Following media reports of his predicament, the CEO of Zylofon Media donated $10,000 towards his medical bills. Unfortunately, this kind gesture seemed to have come a bit late.

Memories

There are a few memorable moments I have of Jewel Ackah. Obviously, one can’t wash off his stout look from his/her mind. I recall seeing him in 1996 during the Pan-African National Festival (PANAFEST) in Cape Coast. The Centre for National Culture (CNC) had been built and was hosting a music event. Jewel Ackah was the headline act. As was the case, my family were there to enjoy a night of great music.

Like his other highlife compatriots, Jewel Ackah’s music were mostly reflections on life. Subjects like love, God, swings of life and happiness were very prominent in the music he made. The relatability of the subjects resulted in the success and fame that came his way.

The plight of Jewel Ackah during his last years after retiring from music is similar to those of many veterans who had passed on. They live their last years ailed by diseases and in penury. They have to seek public support to undergo one surgery or survive.

Jewel Ackah may have suffered from political indecision or naivety regarding the choices he made by aligning himself with politics. That was just one chapter of his life. The other chapter shone light on his incredible talent; a man who contributed not only towards the making of highlife music an enviable genre across the globe, but his uniquely husky voice soothed every ear and melted hearts.

The Real Heat: Top 12 Ghanaian Rap Remixes

Remixes, as far as hiplife (rap) is concerned, are not commonly done. One cannot really point to any reason(s) why (especially with the current state in our music scene, where contact between artistes is very cordial and reaching out to one another is easy) remixes should not be a common thing.

Unfortunately, unlike the norm in the States, where a hit song garners a lot of remixes from mainstream right down to underground artistes, (take Drake’s Hotline Bling as an example) the number of hiplife or rap remixes in Ghana can easily be counted at one’s fingertips. This notwithstanding, the few successful remixes released have grown to become, in some cases, bigger than the original songs themselves.

In this post, we list some of the biggest remixes that have remained with us years after their releases. The ranking was based on the impact of the song from the time the remix surfaced to present day; how it still get people getting bouts of fits born out of excitement when the song booms out of the speakers.

Note: All criticism and disagreements are welcomed.

Below are our Top 10 Ghanaian Rap Remixes.


12. 4×4 feat fresh Prince, Asem, Caroline, Castro, 5Five, Tinny – Hot Girls (Dot Com) Rmx

At the height of Crunk music, around the mid-200s, 4×4 became the first group to experiment with the sound. The success of the original tune which featured fresh Prince called for a posse cut remix for the song. With Richie as producer, the remix courted the necessary attention it deserved.

11. Asaase Aban feat Sarkodie, Five5, Bradez – DABENDA

Objectively, not much was heard of the original song. The remix however, dominated both radio and television. The remix was an opportune time for both Sarkodie and Flowking Stone to prove to Ghanaians how good they were and to end the long debate on who was the better. You decide.

10. Kwaw Kesse feat 2Toff – Nayatale

Nayatale, originally produced by KSN helped elevate the profile of Kwaw Kesse. With its big infectious beats, Kwaw Kesse didn’t disappoint as he gave radio presenters and club djs something to play all day. The remix featuring 2Toff America, I assume was a gesture Kwaw extended to his friends. The only Na Ya Tale we acknowledge is the original. Just saying. (Couldn’t find the audio for the remix. Enjoy the original)

9. Praye feat Wutah, Samini, Tinny, 4×4 – Jacket

One cannot say why a remix to this song was made judging how good the original was. No video was shot for the original song but a video for the remix exists. Not much was known of the remix till the video dominated television. It featured some of the huge stars in GH music around that era.

8.Dee Money feat J.Town, Sarkodie, Ice Prince, M.anifest, Paedae, Reminisce – Finish Line Rmx

Dee Money brought together his Ghanaian rapper friends and Nigerian friends for the remix of ‘Finish Line’. With J.Town serving a memory hook about hardwork and rewards, it was Paedae who showed his skills on this tune, bodying every other rapper on this song. Still a jam

7. Kokoveli feat Samini & KK Fosu

The only song we remember Kokoveli for is Zaaza. The song, released in 2002, got Kokoveli national attention. Zaaza and the dance that came with it-as described by Samini in the remix- was inspired by Kokoveli’s Kwabotwe (Mfantsipim School) mate, Zaaza who was a footballer. That dance was his trademark celebration after scoring a goal. The remix featuring his Trinity pals (K.K. Fosu and Samini) ensured that Kokoveli and his Zaaza dance lasted a bit longer on the musical shelves than his own career.

6. Kwesi Arthur feat Sarkodie & Medikal AMG – Grind Day Rmx

The original song was a certified banger on arrival. Crowds go mad anytime Kwesi Arthur performs it. The trap/rock beat courtesy the producer, Kayso is very alluring and Kwesi Arthur didn’t joke on it. For the remix, Sarkodie and Medikal hopped on to give the already banging song some celeb endorsement.

5. Tinny ft Asem, Richie, Okyeame Kwame – RINGTONE

Tinny’s ‘Ringtone’ had many remixes. The one which stood out and received much airplay was the remix produced by Richie featuring Asem, himself (Richie) and Okyeame Kwame. Artistes featured really held their fort but Okyeame Kwame’s verse till date remains one of the best delivered.

4. ASEM feat Richie, Tinny, Andy Dosty, Bradez – Give Me Blow

‘Give Me Blow’ announced ASEM to Ghanaians. The song, thanks to Richie Mensah, formally introduced the “Crunk” beats into our music. It was the first ‘underground’ song to transcend into mainstream radio despite some of its overly suggestive lyrics. Despite the huge success of the song, a remix was still released. The outcome: a completely impressionable music. All featured artistes brought their A-game but the crown definitely will rest with the Bradez whose delivery remains one of the best technically and complex verses ever heard.

3. Obrafour ft Tinny – Oye Ohene Rmx

The original song saw Obrafour as usual displaying supreme lyricism. Surprisingly, the song didn’t make the anticipated impression, at least from a Management point of view. The song took a life of its own when Hammer introduced the talented Tinny and some complicated yet ear soothing kicks and snares on the beats for the remix. The rest was history. The opening horns and the line ‘Obaa W)’ (you’ll sleep) will definitely not be lost on us.

2. Sarkodie ft Castro – Adonai

The original song featured SK Blinks and was on Sarkodie’s third studio album, ‘Sarkology’. The drafting of Castro on the remix changed the song’s fortunes. One could not hide from the song as it was everywhere-from radio to pubs, clubs to churches; where the chorus was used in praise sessions. Adonai is undoubtedly one of the biggest songs in the career of Sarkodie. Fans would simply not forgive Sarkodie when he mounts any stage without performing this song.

1. Okyeame Kwame feat Richie – Woso RMX

People will be surprised to learn that ‘Woso’, one of the smash hits from Okyeame Kwame’s repertoire, produced by Lynx Entertainment’s Richie, was actually the remix to the song. The original song, produced by Jay Q did not gather much airplay until the song was re-done with Richie, who added a voice and his signature ‘Crunk’ feel to it. ‘Woso’ went on to win Okyeame Kwame four (4) awards including the top award for the night-Artiste of the Year Award at the 2009 Ghana Music Awards.

TeePhlow Avoids the Beef Bait By Choosing Maturity Over Exuberance On ‘Preach’

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I stole the hearts of many you can accuse me of thievery/ But where dem dey dem days I was paid so measly

How can they compete with me they ain’t half what I used be /Work thrice as hard as they would ever do usually

They tweet and try to bait us, pick fights and debate us/ But no free publicity doing nobody favors’’

M.anifest, Never Feel


When ‘Charcoal’ by Strongman surfaced online in January, it took fans very little time to describe the song as a direct attack on fellow rapper, TeePhlow. As expected, there were calls for the latter to respond. Some of these calls were borne out of genuine interest, others wanted a headlock because its hip hop; a competitive sport and also, the lyrical fight would garner attend attention for the artists and Ghana music depending on how it is played.

That response never materialized. Teephlow chose rather to promote his debut album/EP, ‘Phlowducation” which he released in September, 2017. Four months into the year, Teephlow has released ‘Preach’, which many suspect is a response to ‘Charcoal’.

My immediate reaction upon listening to “Preach” was: something might have hit him. He sounded very much introspective, forthright and confident in himself and of course, threw in punches to nameless artist(s) he considers ‘enemies’. His demeanour was one of a man whose nest had been rattled, but instead of coming out screaming and cussing, he looked at the extent of the damage, sent out a caution and went back indoors shaking his head.

Rather than going ballistic as many would have expected, Teephlow chose maturity and introspection over vengeance. He took an overview of the state of music- the pitfalls, how to navigate through the maze, the gimmickry, and hypocrisy- whiles humblebragging about his skills set and selling his album in the process.

In short, Teephlow played the wise older brother who leaves his competitor in the cold, shut his front door and chose to watch him through his window instead.

On ‘Preach’, the Spyder Lee Entertainment signee sounds very reflective. The HBOO produced piano stubs and soulful beat set the mood for him to speak his truth, by first pointing out how eagle eyed he is when it came to studying the rap scene.

Mehn, I’ve been in the industry for a while so I know what’s happening/People claiming good face, what they preach be opposite what they practice’ he rapped on the opening of the song; setting records straight as to why the bait set for him is nothing but industry gimmick.

This apparent beef between these two have been discussed within the rap hallways since the two protagonists began releasing music as indie acts. Strongman has seen his profile and presence rise since joining Sarkodie’s Sarkcess Music label. Teephlow had a bit of clout among rap fans before he got officially signed to his current label. With them coming up at the same time, belonging to the same generation, this seeming friction was to be expected.

‘’It’s amazing, how in a quest to find some small cheese, we end up in a rat race’’, he noted how rappers should rather strive for success and not fight one another for the short term gains. Indeed, the music market in Ghana is small and earning a formidable spot is truly hard. However, trying to ruin another for personal gain, in his view, is unnecessary and waste of time.

The Ghana music industry is bedevilled by myriad of ills that stampede the growth of artists rather than propel them to higher heights. From lack of investors, poor or lack of royalty collection systems and overall failures in the music space, many aspiring rappers abandon their dreams with the few brave ones having to endure many years of losses before finally cracking the treasure box.

Padding all traits of subliminals in ‘Charcoal’ with the back of his hand, Teephlow uses ‘Preach’ to boost his image by alluding to his complex wordplay and punchlines, which his managers confirm as ‘too deep, sometimes you for dumb it down’.

The advice for rappers with complex rhyme schemes to ‘dumb it down’ is a pervasive one. The reason, despite being a flawed argument, is because many Ghanaians aren’t knowledgeable enough to dissect these lyrics; makes their music unattractive to many.

In hip hop, beefs are mostly a sport for high ranking rappers who want to cement their status as the ‘bosses’ in the game through explosive lyrical exchanges. The person who suffers the most loses everything he has worked for over the years, like respect and in some cases, fame.

It’s similar to how a mafia don would steal a territory from a rival family. In Teephlow’s estimation, being a sick lyricist and being unseemly underground at the same time is senseless. That any rapper armed with a skill of lyricism should earn mainstream recognition.

Lemme ask one question: You be sicker? No… But you sure say u dey feel well? You dey flow but you’re still underground. Does it feel well? The industry is damaged yet if you speak they make u feel bad.

After broaching the various themes of hatred, the phantom music industry, chasing success and humblebrags, Teephlow ended on this bold note, calling ‘beefeers’ out to a full blown battle: If you are down, send a beat, come let’s kill, that be what go fit bring proof /Until then, me am trynna phlowducate your fans, I no get time to diss you.

Teephlow didn’t bite the bait that was sent his way. He knows spending time on a response would derail from what lies before him- promoting his album, ‘Phlowducation’. (‘State of the Art’ off the album, won the Record of the Year award at the VGMAs). He also understands how such friction might benefit his competitor since the visibility would be shared, a point that reflect the M.anifest quote above: ‘They tweet and try to bait us, pick fights and debate us/ But no free publicity doing nobody favors’

And instead of hitting back hard, he responded with a thought-provoking song that addresses a much bigger issue than make this a personal tiff. Like the 50 Cent GIF riding in an Impala, Phlow just let out a smirk and sped off.

The 2018 VGMA Came With A Bit of Twist

For the first time in the history of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA), the ceremony-organized by Charter House and sponsored by Vodafone- came with a lot of twists, shattering expectations of many who have observed over the years, how the awards have followed a particularly predictable pattern.

This year, the top award of the night was conferred, deservedly on Ebony. She became the first female artist to win this award in the 19 year history of the music award.

Ebony died tragically along with two other friends- Frankie Kuri and Von Dee- on February 8, through a motor accident while returning from Sunyani after visiting her mother.

In addition to winning the top prize of the night, she also took home the ‘Afropop Song of The Year’ and ‘Album of The Year’ awards respectively. Her manager, Bullet was adjudged the best ‘Songwriter of the Year’ for his work on “Maame Hw3”, a song that highlight the evils of domestic violence. (Her album, ‘Bonyfied’ contained 15 tracks 13 of which was written by Bullet with 8 songs ending up as certified commercial hits).

But, her win wasn’t the only ‘twist’ in this year’s event. Another twist on the night came during the announcement of the winner for the ‘Best African Artist’. Over the years, since the introduction of this category, the award has ended up with the artist present on the night.

This year, two of the nominees-Nasty C (from South Africa) and Nigeria’s multiple award winner Tiwa Savage, were present and both performed on the night.Despite being in Ghana for the event, none of them went backstage with the trophy. Rather, it was the Nigerian pop star Davido who picked the award.

Another interesting twist came by way of Fancy Gadam winning both ‘Hiplife Song of the Year’ and ‘Popular Song of the Year’ awards off the back of ‘Total Cheat’. Even though Fancy Gadam put in the desired work last year, many thought KiDi or Kuami Eugene would end up with the award considering how huge their hit songs ‘Odo’ and ‘Angela’ were.

However, his win is comprehensible considering these categories are voted for by the public. If you have an artist who fills the Tamale Sports Stadium that holds 25,000 fans, you can’t be mad at his win.

Tema based rapper, Kwesi Arthur and TeePhlow went home with an award each on the night in the categories of ‘Best Hiphop Song’ and ‘Record of The Year’.

The night wasn’t only one of twists. There were interesting moments as well, both positive and negative. Here are a few

Positives:

Ebony Tribute:

I have never seen an artist celebrated in this manner on a VGMA stage like what transpired on the night. The organizers rightly selected the best female acts around to serve a benefitting tribute to this young talent whose life was cut short by her tragic passing. MzVee, Efya, Adina and veteran, Akosua Agyapong took to the stage, offering a very memorable performance in honour of the late talent.

Satisfied Fans:

This year’s event hadn’t solicited the kind of backlash that comes along with each edition; from fans being mad their favorite artists didn’t win to rants by artists who feel cheated. It appears, the outcome of this year’s winners were to be expected. Months before the nomination list were even announced, the consensus was that Ebony deserved to pick the biggest award of the night, not out of reverence for the dead but because she worked hard during the year under review.

Performances:

Samini, Sarkodie and Stonebwoy made a claim once more why they are some of the best performers in the country. Backed by a choir, Sarkodie performed for two song performances, he turned it up, performing songs from his old catalogue, relatively old and new ones off his ‘The Highest’ album.

Samini, backed by a live band was flawless with his performance. With a set including some of his very popular tunes, he proved himself a master of live performances. He improvised, bust freestyles and introduced a young act, Deon Boakye as one to keep an eye on.

Except for his outfit on stage, Stonebwoy also offered an exuberant performance. He performed songs from his latest album, Epistles of Mama, which won Best Reggae/Dancehall Award . Despite the poor performance of the band (we shall talk about them), he was did his thing.

Praye Reunion:

Didn’t see this coming at all. Seeing them on stage dishing out some of their best known hit songs on the night was pure nostalgic. They reminded everyone of how important a group they were before their personal issues suck out their unity. Hope their reunion means more than just showing up for the show.

Negatives:

The MCs and Band Were *Yawns*

What goes into the selection of MCs and Band for the VGMAs? Can someone have the answers? Let start with the MCs on the night. Both Berla Mundi and John Dumelo were absolutely awful. Their body language, dry jokes, face in palm antics failed to make an impression. They looked too self-conscious, scared to make a mistake.

The VGMAs have always scored low when it comes to MCs since ace radio/TV presenters Kwame Sefa-Kayi and KKD ‘retired’ and actor Chris Attoh last hosted it. The last MCs to thrill the audience were KOD and artist Eazzy (Baby).

Oh gosh. The band was terrible. Charter House must realize that, a show like the VGMAs, beamed across the country, continent and rest of the world shouldn’t be mediocre. Excitement and experience must be their priority. What unfolded on the night was unforgivable. With the exception of Samini and Stonebwoy who held their own, the poor performance by the band contributed to the lackluster display of some of the artists.

If the VGMA organizers want, I’d suggest to them three bands who could do way better than what we heard last night: The Musical Lunatics, The Band FRA and Senku Band. I’d have added Kwame Yeboah’s “OBY” Band but maybe they won’t be able to afford.

Aww What A Pity, TV3:

I know how people can be petty but last night, I witnessed the real meaning of pettiness from TV3, broadcast partners of the VGMAs. It happened when out of nowhere, they cut the live feed when their former employee, Nana Aba Anamoah came on stage to hand the ‘Best Video’ award.

This was the height of pettiness and again, why should a company of that reputation black out the whole of the country from watching that a presentation because they hold grudges like bad judges?

Bullet Was A Disappointment:

How do you choose such a platform to ‘sell’ your two new artists while taking an award on behalf of your deceased artist? That was a very low level to descend if you ask me.

King Promise’s Sneaker:

Man, that $850 Balenciaga Triple S sneaker though. Wild. And why didn’t King Promise bring out former Black Star captain, Stephen Appiah out on the night? That would have gone down as a memorable moment, even if he went home with no trophy.

The organizers need to be commended for the befitting tribute to Ebony. But, I felt they could have extended a little of that to the veteran legends we lost like Paapa Yankson, Ewura Badu and C.K. Mann. If for nothing at all, to remind all of the incredible music they made and introduce to younger music lovers who may not know them, what these artists did for Ghanaian music.

The VGMAs will be entering it’s 20th year in 2019 and as the CEO of Theresa Ayoade indicated, the 20th anniversary event would be a grand occasion. We hope all the flaws that would be identified in their post analysis of the event would be fixed.