Samini’s “My Own” Proves His Old Self Is Alive

Samini has been in the news for a couple of days, thanks to the unfortunate incident that played out during the “S Concert” a few weeks ago. Scheduled to perform, he left the venue after feeling disrespected by the organizers – they kept him waiting for over four hours backstage, according to him . For any unbiased watcher, Samini was very much justified in taking that action and subsequent explanations by the organizers confirmed this.

But for that incident, Samini’s name would have been mentioned not in the same sentence as ‘controversy’. Rather, it would have been because of music. His song, “My Own” scores high on many fronts. The song is a reminder of what has been ‘missing’ from Samini, specifically his music over a period of time.

For almost a year now, he has been embroiled in a beef with another dancehall artist, Shatta Wale. Shatta has constantly thrown series of shades at Samini over who is the hottest dancehall artist in the country. This beef had elicited similar responses from Samini, who persistently tried to alert all that he is still the ace on the dancehall front.

Beefs are, as I have argued elsewhere, good for the industry since it has the tendency to draw attention to a genre of music, the artists and overall music scene of the country if it doesn’t assume a ballistic (violent) nature. It also helps the creative process of the artists. In the case of Samini, the beef led to him losing touch with himself; what distinguished him from fellow ‘dancehallers’, and what endeared him to many of his fans. The downside of beefs are that, the aggressor always has the advantage since they dictate the pace.

The veteran Samini lost it, not because he isn’t good or the best to ever do it, but because he couldn’t keep up with the frequency of diss records Shatta Wale kept releasing. It’s common knowledge that Shatta is like an industrial machine that keeps churning out products with little stress.

Despite these spanner in the wheels moments for Samini, he has taken a step away from the beefing space. The outcome of this decision is his song ‘My Own’.

‘My Own’ is not steeped in the hardcore, hard drums drenched dancehall vibe. Samini didn’t spread that timbring, husky and smokey voice over this song either. What he did was to take a more softer, elegant approach.

The love themed ‘My Own’ is a cross between highlife and lovers rock. The tone is mid-tempo. Samini’s voice is very clear and enjoyable. The song celebrates love, with Samini chronicling how his lover stood by his side during his struggling years.

The anecdotes shared are mostly real life situations which many could relate to. Samini details how she was with him when he was unemployed, had no place to live or had no money to take care of her. His unfortunate condition, notwithstanding, his lover kept faith and stood by him in the rain.

It’s said today that, it’s hard finding a ‘ride or die’ girlfriends (men are trash, of course). This song is a reminder not to give up on a girl who has held you down through the low swings of life. Be thankfully for their presence and celebrate them every dime time when you make it.

The tone of ‘My Own’ is a reminder of Samini between 2006-2010, arguably his finest years. This was the period when most of his songs were national hits due to it’s tone and reflection of reality of life. Most of these songs also carried this afro dancehall/lovers rock tone. Mention could be made of ‘Odo’, ‘Movement’, ‘My Baby’ and ‘Sweet Mistake’.

What these songs had in similarities are the lovers rock tone of the songs, the clear twi spoken, the themes of life and love, and the overall melodies that were present on these songs. Samini had producers like Quik Action and JMJ understood the musical philosophy of Samini. The results chalked include Samini bagging a MOBO Award in 2006 and the ‘Artiste of The Year’ Award in 2007 at the MTN Ghana Music Awards.

It is therefore disturbing to come across online comments that seek to diminish or question the legacy of Samini. Even if these critics seek to obliterate his legacy (which would be a foolish attempt), they can’t deny the fact that his success was like a burning torch that lightened the dancehall path for of today’s artists. From General Marcus to Sonni Bali; from Pricky Yardey to Yoggi Doggie, none was as successful and huge as Samini.

‘My Own’ hasn’t been an instant hit as some of his previous works. The reasons could be quiet myriad. I sense ‘My Own’ to fall within those type of songs that grow in popularity as it ages. That’s, its popularity grows gradually over a period of time.

But then again, the excitement for me, lies in the fact that, Samini has tapped into his old vault and released a song that bears trait with some of his standout records that earned him such attention, establishing him as one of the best artists in the country. I hope he won’t get himself distracted from what matters to him and his fans.

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Year 2016 in Retrospect: Poetry in Ghana

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So, a couple of months ago, I asked writer and poet O’Zionn to share with me his best 2016 moments in the Ghana Poetry and Spoken word scene. In this post, he list a few under various categories. Here is his list.


It’s been just a few years since I actively joined the burgeoning poetry scene in Ghana. And it’s been one swing of a ride! A lot of hard work has been effected, creativity expended and challenges have either been surmounted or have been too high to scale.

This year hasn’t been any different as we’ve probably witnessed progress in various aspects of this art form. From purely poetry events and/or projects to the ones that are a blend of other art forms but have featured poetry significantly.

From SASA’s “Roots”, January 2nd to Jazz & Qoke on December 30th. Well, you decide. Nevertheless, there’s been so much that has happened and here are some of the highlights of the year for me.

Audios (Singles)

“Empty Konko” —Laud De Poet

“My CV of Sin” — Rhymesonny

“Love Yourself”— Poetra Asantewa

“Box Mentality” — Ian and Elidior the Poet

Four 21” — Poetyk Prynx ft. Ugene Kay and

For 3 a.m.” Kwaku Quansah ft. Euphoria

Some Other Place” — Mutombo Da Poet

IWITP” — Akotowaa ft. Meffstone

Dear Future Wife” — Koo Kumi

Vote for Me” — Poetra Asantewa ft. Akan

Femur” — Mutombo Da Poet

Body of Work (Albums/EPs)

Vocal Portraits 3 — Compiled by Kwame Write

“First of All” —Throneroom Perspectives

Solitaire EP — Akotowaa (Listening Session and Project Launch)

Back to Basics —Wonderword (Listening Session)

Videos

“Anti-Indoctrination” — Akotowaa

“Love Yourself” — Poetra Asantewa

“Untitled Ones” — Koo Kumi

Artists

Poetra Asantewa

•Conversations with Poetra

•One Beat Tour in the United States of America

•Lagos Poetry Festival

•Drum Roll, Please

Rhymesonny

•Lyrical Dexterity

•Lagos Poetry Festival

•Rhymesonny’s Show Tours

3. Hondred Percent

  • One on One with

Organisations

Kpodola

•Spoken Word Videos

•Kpodola Challenge

MiCheck
•In the process of establishing a National Poetry Association

•Spirited Poetry at Chale Street Arts Festival 2016

Brunch Over Books
•Meet-up with Poets

Workshops

•Gird Writing Camp 2016; Poetry Workshop

•Kpodola 10 Poetry Workshop

Shows

•The Write Experience [Inkfluent]

•See Calendar

•Keep Digging [SASA]

•Unbridled Tongues

•Beneath the Poetry Baobab with Prof. Lade Wosornu

•UNESCO World Poetry Day

•Public Book Reading: According to Sources [Writers Project of Ghana]

•Book Launch: Haiku Rhapsodies by Celestine Nudanu

•Pentasi B World Friendship Poetry Festival — Ghana 2016

•Let’s Write the Future [Poetic Justice Society & Creative Spaces GH]

•Teen Slam [Inkfluent & Mode Conceptz]

•Made in Ghana, 2nd edition

•JiVe

•Verbal Ink

•Poetry Nites with the Rainmakers [March to December]

•Chaskele

•Writers Project’s Public Book Reading with Patron Henekou

•Nkabom Literary Festival [Inkfluent]

•Book Launch: Afriku by Adjei Agyei Baah

•Ehalakasa Festival

•Ehalakasa Slam 2016

There’s quite a lot more than this which happened. I believe there are several things that I must’ve missed out on but that doesn’t mean they’ve been absolutely left out.
I look forward to 2017 and what it has timed up for poetry in Ghana.

O’Zionn (Daniel Appiah) is the 2013 Winner of Ghana Poetry Prize and has recently published Seemingly Untitled-An Anthology available on Amazon.com. Follow him on twitter @Ozionn

EL touches on fan obsession on ‘Nina’

Celebrity obsession has been covered or spoken about by many in various forms- from rappers in their lyrics, entertainment critics in their commentaries and psychologists when proffering advice on pop culture and mental health.

Extreme form of celebrity obsession, where fans see their favorite artists as god-like, is a common thing in the Western world. In Ghana and across Africa, fans tend to express their love for artists through various forms: buying their music, attending shows, defending them (sometimes beyond logic) and fawning about them on social media. Hardly do we hear tales of (a) fans obsessing over their favorite artist(s) to the point of hurting the artist or themselves when that love isn’t reciprocated. That kind of obsession is an European or American ‘thing’. That’s, Africans can’t relate to on the same level.

On his latest single, ‘Nina’, rapper EL weaves a chilling story about extreme celebrity obsession, revealing in the process the absurdity of it, the challenges celebs face dealing with fans, and how such obsession could end tragically if not handled very well.

Concept/Story

‘Nina’ rides on a mid-tempo, soft drum and kick driven beat. The story is about a female fan, Nina, a self described ‘number one Elien’ (fans of EL are called ELiens). A casual conversation with EL (via his DM) eventually leads to her desperate attempts to meeting him, which eventually blossoms into a strong love. She even leaves her boyfriend of ‘seven years’ so she could hook up with EL, who is least interested in an affair. Nina tracks him down at a show, mounts the podium, confesses her love to him and feeling unappreciated, shoot herself in front of the concert audience.

The concept of the song takes the form of police interrogation. EL is arrested, taken to the police station following Nina’s death for his statement. He breaks down the details of events leading to her committing suicide.

The narration or breaking down of events can be cut into acts: Act 1 details how they met; Act reveals how she became obsessed; and Act 3 is about the suicide.

Style of Song:

EL blends two styles on ‘Nina’. First, and more clearly is that, the story is inspired by Eminem’s ‘Stan’, except the character is that of a female obsessing over a male rapper. This is quiet interesting since it’s usually guys who fawn over their favorite hip-hop acts.

EL also borrows from his own track ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me’ where he indulged in a conversation with his ‘mum’ over the phone. On ‘Nina’, he does same, where his Nina voice is telephonic in tone (obviously for flashback purposes). Interspersing the beeping message tone at the beginning of each rendition of events gives the whole song a certain realness.

He addresses, in one bar his relationship with his former label BBnZ which he describes as ‘cool with everyone’ who treat him with ‘respect’. He also speaks about WAVS (West African Vibes). WAVs should have been out by now considering the ‘noise’ EL made about it some months ago. But, I guess the breakdown in relationship with his former label and moving on to establish VO Nation label may have dragged its release.

‘Nina’ is the first single off BAR 4, the mixtape strictly dedicated to hip-hop and his die-hard hip-hop fans. The BAR 4 would be released on Saturday 26th November, same day as his annual ‘BAR Concert’. The BAR 3 didn’t quiet hit with fans so this next installment is definitely expected to resonate with his fanbase.

What I also find remarkable about ‘Nina’; the story, imagery and flow aside, is the beat which EL himself produced. It appears mid-tempo, minimalistic, non-aggressive and easy on the ear type of beat unlocks the fluid rap flows in him. Think of the politically charged ‘State of The Nation Address’, the playful ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me’, his verse on Kojo-Cue’s ‘Lowkey’ and you’d notice this.

The reservation I hold against ‘Nina’, lies in how the story ended. The account of events sound all believable (we know how in the era of social media some female fans may catch feelings for some celebs), the final act of shooting herself ruined it. The amount of fictional paint spread at the end is similar to crashing into a stone while enjoying some good waakye.

Fan obsession is real. Eminem waxed lyrically about that on the graphic ‘Stan’. Reports of fans acting crazy or weird because their favorite celeb isn’t extending the same love they offer abound. What EL did on ‘Nina’ is to shed light on the subject once again and advice both fans and celebs on how to manage their expectations of each other.

How EL, M.anifest and FOKN Bois Used Skits to Advance the Narratives on their albums

Skits shall always have a place in the history of music especially hip hop. Since pioneers De La Soul incorporated skits on their 1989 album 3 Feet High and Rising, they became a trend employed by many hip hop artists from that time till the early 2000s when the world was ushered into the MP3 era. Rappers and labels therefore saw it unnecessary to fill albums with many skits. As Evan Rytlewski, a contributor for Pitchfork.com wrote, ‘skits are one of hip hop’s oddest innovations and most tiresome tradition’. The MP3 revolution aside, skits, according to Mr. Rytlewski ‘gum up otherwise fluid playlists and make for embarrassing moments when they pop-up on shuffle’. The interruption was a killing for fans.

Skits are placed on albums to serve two purposes: to advance the narrative or theme of the album. Concept albums may not be able to put all the stories or messages they want to convey on the songs on their albums adequately, so skits become another tool used. Also, it is placed to keep albums exciting courtesy the humorous/comedic commentary shared. Others use skits to air out some uncomfortable truths on issues (whether personal or otherwise) they feel strongly about.

Albums with incredible skits that comes to mind instantly include DAMN., TPAB, GKMC (Kendrick Lamar), Rather You Than Me (Rick Ross), Wale’s Album About Nothing (AAN). On both ‘’GKMC’’, TBAP’’ and ‘’AAN’’, the skits gave the listener a better perspective on what influenced the album, as well as a better appreciation of the songs on them.

I can’t speak on how predominant skits were on albums by Ghanaian artistes in the past. (Perhaps I am too young to remember). Interestingly, skits are making an appearance on some of the best albums/mixtapes released in recent times. It may not be a comeback for skits but could inspire the trend. As earlier stated, skits advance the tales on the albums and also tickle the listener with good dose of humour. Albums/Mixtape skits that have made an impression on me are those found on EL’s ‘BAR 1’, ‘Fokn Wit Ewe’ by the FOKN Bois and M.anifest’s ‘APAE’ mixtape.

On EL’s ‘BAR I’ mixtape, the skits were intelligently placed at the end of songs to foreshadow the theme of the next track. ‘BAR I’ had four humor-filled skits delivered by DeezyDoThis. After the DJ Juls produced ‘Best Rapper Alive (BAR)’ had run out, the voice of DeezyDoThis popped up with the following words: ‘The thing about winners be say if you no mention dema names them no go bore’. He described those who demand to be mentioned as ‘broke ass niggas’-a criticism to friends who need their personas validated by an artists (for the brags). The skit sounded more like a casual remark made during a conversation than one deliberately laid for the mixtape. He returned once again on the third track, where amidst laughter, left the listener in suspense about an up-coming skit: ‘the skit is coming, along with your girl!’

The skit came on the 8th track, just before ‘Me And Your Girlfriend’; where EL and M.anifest revealed their intentions of ‘stealing’ someone’s girl. The 37 seconds skit is a voicemail of a girl apologizing to her boyfriend after busted for infidelity. Deezy returned at the end of the track to thank ‘niggas who we dey f**k dema girls’, calling them the ‘good samaritans of this generation’-a crudely humorous statement.

Two things strike you listening to the skits on M.anifest’s 2015 ‘Apae’ mixtape. The first are the insight the skits offer about the album: the frustrations of the Ghanaian youth. The second was how the commentary by an inebriated Efo was placed. Truthfulness is found in the bottle as the saying goes and Efo shared a few on ‘’Apae’’, right at the end of the second track ‘Right Here’. Efo put into perspective the numerous definitions or instances the slang ‘’Apae’’ (which means ‘it’s here/or ready’) fit. The slang has different interpretations depending on the context of use. And as Efo pointed out, ‘Apea’ could be a call to binge drinking, promiscuity, corruption, electioneering malpractices (stealing ballot boxes). In the end, Efo left the listener with a thought provoking advice: ‘as you indulge in any of these vices, learn that today might only belong to you. But, luck might elude you next time’. In short, think deeply before you indulge in any act.

Efo appeared two tracks down the album-at the end of the JaySo produced ‘Mind Game’-where M.anifest narrated the story of an unrequited love affair-where money doesn’t get you love but pleasure. The slapping 808s, piano chords and sythns aside, Efo dropped another life gem the phoniness of relationships. With the lifestyle of a sakawa boy as backdrop, he wondered why some ladies would enjoy the largesse but opt out of the relationship with a Sakawa guy under the excuse of wanting to marry a graduate. M.anifest invited Efo once again for a short conversation how one must carry themselves when rich: ‘it’s better to be careless when you are walking in town with money on you since it’s easier to escape the radar of the pick pockets. Being too careful is a sure bet to get robbed by the FBI (Follow Back International)’, according to Efo. This conversation precede ‘Big Sixes’, a song about money and a reference to the independence fighters whose faces adorn most of the Ghana Cedi. (The reference is a metaphor for hard work).

The song also had M.anifest pondering on the nexus between riches and morals. It is often intimated that, rich people are often seen as arrogant and disrespectful with the poor reflecting the opposite. ‘A good name is better than riches’, he echoed this famous dictum. But is quick to remind us that ‘but it’s fatal to be poor’. Before the ultimate song on the album (the Someway Bi re-fix not included), Efo showed up again, this time offering the listener a sad tale of his life- how the pressures of life is compelling him to take certain drastic actions towards becoming rich. Sensing he had no answers for Efo, M.anifest called on Obrafour to share some sage words with Efo. The advice is found on the classic ‘No Shortcut to Heaven’, a song imploring all to bid their time and work hard because we’re ‘confusing our wants with what we need’. The appearance of Efo on ‘Apae’ helped in breaking down the central theme of the album for the listener.

The FOKN Bois took a different approach from EL and M.anifest in introducing listeners to their classic tape ‘’Fokn Wit Ewe’’’. ‘’Fokn Wit Ewe’’ is raw, uncensored and highly provocative. It’s an uncomfortable listen for ‘Christians’ as showcased by the first track ‘SINtro. In the midst of a church service, the Fokn Bois-Wanlov and M3nsa are heard discussing the sexual romp between some church members as well as their own sex fueled fantasies in a sardonic manner. On ‘Famous In China’, the two mock, in what sounds like a kungfu movie sketch, their outrage against payola. The duo are noted for being anti- payola campaigners (paying DJs to play an artiste’s song on radio).  The satire continued on ‘Help America’, where a son desperately called his dad to register his intentions of returning back home since Americans ‘are suffering’. (The 2012 recession that hit the US and European countries inspired this song). On the song, they requested countries like ‘Sudan, Somalia Mexico’ to ‘give them (US) something to eat’. The telephone conversation and the accent employed were comedic than even the hook of the song.

The real definition of the album and its title as suggested by the album’s artwork, is found on ‘FOKN Knews’ with Wummi. The ‘news’ item mocked the seemingly absence of pubic lice (scrubs) in this age, which ‘scientists’ attributed to the waxing of public hair for the making of Brazilian hair. But, the ‘news’ item from the ‘Yenditrumu Region’ about an absurd sheep rape incident is the codeine on the album. (‘Yenditrumu’ means ‘no anal sex’ in the Twi language. The title choice is interesting since it feeds into the homophobic attitudes of most Ghanaians. The Fokn Bois are therefore making sarcastic reference to this attitude). The farmer whose sheep was raped narrated in vivid terms (via a phone call) how the rape happened and requested the police to arrest the rapist. As if this disturbing ‘news’ wasn’t enough, the duo continued to discuss the benefits or otherwise of sheep rape on ‘Fokn Eating Sheep’. If you are the kind who doesn’t easily flat out scenes out of your mind, please skip Track 15 on the album.

Skits may be an out of fashion tool which was a common feature on hip hop albums of old. In today’s music culture, it is unthinkable to flood an album with many skits. Artists who wish to place skits on their albums must be artistic and creative about it. That’s, they need to helm skits that fit the narrative of the album. Nobody will take you serious if your skits are tasteless and placed to fill up the album.

Like EL, M.anifest and the Fokn Bois, skits are not a lost art. The brilliance of the skits attest to their creative prowess.

Dissecting the story told by Akan on Onipa Akoma – Part 3

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This is the concluding part of the story told by rapper Akan on his album ‘Onipa Akoma’.  We published the Part 1 and 2 of the story last week. You can read here

PART 3: The Clarity

The voice, as haunting and distressed as it sounded on ‘Anadwo Y3 D3’ pricked something in Akan. He found some level of clarity, like a man regaining consciousness from a spell. The voice burst that cocoon of meaningless frivolities that have blinded Akan from realizing that his main purpose in life isn’t to be reckless but achieve something greater. And our first encounter of this new phase is on ‘Helebaba’.

‘Helebaba, Helebaba. The kiddie mess up Holy Father’. This lyric, as confessional as it sounds, unties Akan from all the ‘worldly enchantments’ that blinded him. It’s akin to the confessional ceremonies of the Catholics. ‘Helebaba’ is a slang describing the Charismatic Church practice of exorcism. For Akan, the exorcism process is his first steps toward a new phase. His demons have been cast out. His old skin (life) is being shed. In its place is a new man with renewed purpose and energy to achieve his goals in life. That clarity leads him to the realization of his own intelligence and wisdom; something he believes those who performed the exorcism don’t have. Akan sees his greatness right in front of him and as he says on the interlude: ‘you’ve not seen what we are about to do/ y’all will follow our lead/ A young king is about to rule’. It’s interesting to hear him describe himself as ‘a young king’ since that has been his intention from the onset, especially on the first song of the album.

They say I mess up, Holy Father/ Helebaba/Helebaba/Helebaba

With his new found clarity and renewed purpose, Akan begins to think about how to live a better life. This time, he allows his mind and heart to dictate what should be central to him. ‘Akoma Ne Adwen’, (The Heart and Mind) is a pitching contest, with each making a strong case on why it should be chosen. Its human nature for us to let our thoughts and heart wander when in a state of dilemma. The ‘battle’ of the two usually provoke a synthesized idea(s) or solutions to helping solve the challenge. Going by the same approach, Akan weighs the unique attributes of these two elements- ‘the heart tells him what’s beautiful’. His heart tells him ‘what’s best or important’. ‘The heart tells him to fall in love’; his mind ‘advices him to stand in love’. In the end, Akan listens to his heart because ‘you can’t have life without a heart’.

Love is the subject treated next on ‘Daben’ (When?) Akan wonders when his lover would come and join him where he is. Remember, he lost his lover once he lost all his riches. On this track he makes it clear that, critics won’t dissuade him from going after the one he still loves. He also points to how matured he is now, how he has worked on his own flaws and how he is prepared to be the best lover for her. He wouldn’t mind doing menial jobs to cater for her.

Akan knows that life isn’t a race. That, patience is the vehicle needed to navigate this turbulent thing called life. Of course, there would be bumps on the way but, one shouldn’t be hurried to make decisions with the potential of ruining one’s future. That’s the theme of ‘Ehuru A 3bedwo’ (literally means there’s calmness after the storm). If you remember, his mom stressed on the need to be patient in life. The story woven on this track- about a farmer who lost the treasures (gold) on his farmland when the drought season went beyond expectation affirms his mother’s advice. The farmer’s impatience, in my estimation, is Akan’s own voice of conscience reminding him to take things easy and live one day at a time. Chasing wealth is good, but what is great is being content with what you have in hand. The pitfalls in the life of Yaw Atakora (the protagonist in the story) are the holy keys guiding Akan’s steps in his journey towards success.

My foolishness is my security for longer life

There’s a saying that, we live for death. That’s, our existence and struggles for a better life shall come to an end one day when we meet the cold blooded angel of death. No man is immortal. Like the living beings that we are, we need to think about our mortality. Having found a new purpose, fixing his flaws and realizing how important patience is in life, Akan mulls over his own mortality on ‘Awufo Som’ (Requiem Mass). This, he does by considering the various stages of the funeral ceremony- birth, work, success and finally death. Death has its own peculiar rites that need to be observed by the family of the deceased before the final interment. These are the themes Akan explores on the track.

 

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He expands on the theme on the next track, ‘Asem No’ (The Matter/Truth), where he takes a leaf from the saying that, knowledge acquired overtime must be shared with all. Akan talks about life, death, good deeds, bad decisions, legacy, wisdom and the end of humanity. Clearly, he knows there’s a journey to be taken after this one on earth. It is therefore, up to us all to make up their minds, straighten up our lives and be thoughtful of each action they take. Life may be uncertain in many ways. However, death is certain.

The clarity phase ends with ‘Kae Kwabena’ (Remember/Pray for Kwabena), where Akan admits his own human frailties. ‘I’m not righteous. I’m not an angel. I’ve never seen heaven; and never seen what’s beyond our world’, he raps. ‘Kae Kwabena’ is a plea to God to afford him the strength to ignore the desires of the flesh and of the earth since they amount to nothing in the end. A contrasting picture is seen between this track and the opener, ‘Odaamanii Abissadee’. Whereas ‘Odaamani Abisadee’ had Akan outlining his dreams and hopes in material terms, ‘Kae Kwabena’ is more introspective; where a wise Akan sees living a meaningful life and impacting his clan and humanity as paramount in life. Leaving a legacy through his good deed outlive banal acts.

Doing good doesn’t immune you from being evil. Likewise, being evil doesn’t mean you can’t be good

Conclusion

Akan, on ‘Onipa Akoma’ delivers a compelling story through 15 tracks. And as you’d realize, the album is laden with much depth and knowledge. He traces the dreams and aspirations of a young man who’s desires success. But, in chasing this success, there’s the temptation to lose your focus. It is often the case to find people who had notable intentions derail from what used to matter to them. As you chase the dream, be mindful of the fact that, you need full doses of patience. One needs to run this race of life at their own pace and time and with an open mind. Those who tend to not follow these simple life instructions tend to miss their goals eventually.

These are the nuggets on ‘Onipa Akoma’. How much of the story is based on personal life experiences and how much is fiction? Only Akan could tell.

KiDi Isn’t an over night success. His success has been a work in progress

He doesn’t have 30 billion in his account as he rightly indicated on his breakout single ‘Odo’. What KiDi (real name Dennis Nana Kwaku Boadi Dwamena) may have earned in return is deserved fame, huge recognition and showcase of his incredible talents as a singer and songwriter.

For the many who have followed the musical journey of KiDi, his talent hasn’t been in doubt. From performing covers of hit songs (mostly RnB/Soul) to recording original singles (often shared on his Soundcloud page), anyone who saw him knew his break into mainstream was ticking like a hand grenade. All he needed was a bigger platform to exhibit his abilities.

The opportunity came by way of popular music reality show, MTN Hitz Maker in 2015. During the almost two month musical show, KiDi, along with other competitors kept impressing the judges and viewers alike with their performances; all aiming to win fans’ support and votes. In the end, Kidi came up tops, voted as the winner of the contest.

In the absence of any credible music chart list, it is difficult to point out how well ‘Odo’ is doing on the charts. However, here’s a little illustration to prove the popularity of KiDi’s single. Out of the top 10 urban radio stations in Accra, ‘Odo’ gets played, at least twice a day across various programmes on these radio platforms. Though a conservative estimation, it couldn’t be farther from the facts. Also, KiDi has been a regular on the popular search list on my Apple Music (Ghanaian Store) since September. I’m pretty sure that counts.

The bright glow KiDi is currently basking under didn’t happen overnight.  Prior to competing in the MTN Hitz Maker contest, he was, like a man learning to perfect his swimming skills-splashing his arms and legs in the water (metaphorically speaking). His SoundCloud page revealed a singer who was honing his skills, preparing himself for his dream job: a successful artist.

Music has been a long-cherished ambition of KiDi as confirmed by his statement:

‘Music is how best I know how to express myself. I hope I do that well enough to get me the recognition and acceptance on the biggest musical stages the world has to offer. I hope to take music as far possible, the highest level’ – Source: Profileability

His win landed him a deal with Lynx Entertainment- also home to some of today’s young musical act such as MzVee and Kuami Eugene. With KiDi joining their ranks- which wasn’t surprising since Richie, the CEO/Producer at Lynx was his producer during the show-it was a matter of time before Ghanaians noticed him. If there’s anything Richie and Lynx know how to do best, it is helping artists find success. From 2009 to 2012, Lynx Entertainment was arguably running the music scene. Their artists- ASEM, Eazzy, Richie (himself), Ziggy- were churning out hits after hits.

Richie extended his music producing skills to other artists; helping them in forwarding or resuscitating their careers. That is, for artists- both new and old-seeking the biggest record in the country, Richie was the guy to turn to. It was even rumored that, some artists took their work from other producers for Richie to drop his ‘It’s a Hit Mayne’ tagline since that was enough to guarantee the artist a hit. 

That template, from which the first wave of artists on Lynx found success, is what the label is applying to this new crop of artists. KiDi, after his win, released a few singles meant largely as an introduction to Ghanaians than breakthrough releases. ‘Never Again’, ‘Drunk’ and ‘Bleed were steeped in R&B/Soul traditions. They made little impression on a few, mostly his fans.

However, there was a noticeable shift in both sound and style as typified by ‘Naadu’ (featuring label mate MzVee) ‘Awurama’  released in 2016. ‘Naadu’ and ‘Awurama’ for instance was very afro-pop in sound. KiDi abandoned his R&B/Soulful traits for a more upbeat, danceable music. Both songs edged him a step closer to the center of notice. The songs, especially ‘Naadu’ enjoyed airplay on some urban radio stations.

“Naadu’ is definitely one of his best songs.” – @SwayeKidd 

“I’d choose ‘Never Again (Ebe  Like Say)’ over Awurama anyday” – @MannyFBC

The second and third quarters of 2017 marked the birth of KiDi who moved from the rare view mirror to the centre of conversation. He earned himself a huge musical visibility. It began with the release of ‘Say You Love Me’; a catchy, danceable, mid-tempo love song that saw him asking his girl to confess her love to him. His singing was crisp and heartfelt. The relatability of the message coupled with his ability to blend pidgin and Twi meant an easy to sing along song. The success of ‘Say You Love Me’, mostly on radio gave KiDi and his team at Lynx the surety that, they can win more if they go by this pop-style tunes. Next single to come was ‘Odo’.

‘Odo’ is undoubtedly one of the biggest songs out this year. It’s brilliantly composed and produced by KiDi himself. It’s like a big cake adorned with many icing flavours. I’m not going to delve into what these ‘icings’ are. The good folks at Harmattan rain had done an excellent analysis of that. The attractiveness of ‘Odo’ rest in its composition (the melody). The song has an adorable Yaa Amponsah guitar riff that is strummed throughout the song.

For purposes of education, especially for non-Ghanaians, the Yaa Amposah guitar sound is pivotal in classic highlife music. It is similar to the electric guitar riffs in rock music or the traditional guitar riffs on country music. Letting that direct the rhythm of ‘Odo’ was to indigenize the song and enthrall listeners.

The opening lyric was deliberately done; to stir attention his way. By flipping the Davido line ’30 billion for the account’ on ‘If’ to ‘I no get 30 Billion for my account’ and proceeding ahead with ‘but I got so much love to give you’, perked the ears of the listener, thereby drawing attention to himself. By virtue of the proceeding lyric, he put himself out as an ordinary, average ‘Joe’ who is being truthful about himself and his love.

For a section of KiDi fans, his success notwithstanding, consider him as a sell-out courtesy his quest to chase commercial acceptability. Although the success of ‘Odo’ resulted in Davido and Mayorkun adding verses on a forgettable remix, some feel he’s sacrificing his authenticity for popularity. Truth be told, I wasn’t sold on ‘Odo’ when I first heard simply because it felt like a forced creation; a piece of collage- the song feels like something produced to fit into the Afropop wave thereby lacking a certain authenticity. The many interpolations on the song is evidence to support my claim. This fear is what some of his fans harbor. The quest to be accepted as a mainstream artist would lead to him losing the very quality that endeared them to him in the first place.

For KiDi and some of his fans, this new found fame is what he has been chasing from the onset. His talent needed to be seen by all; and if it would take him reclining from his authenticity, so be it. After all, each artist has a plan to unlock the mainstream door. And being signed to a label like Lynxx Entertainment means one thing: You are groomed for pop stardom.

It’s incredible to hold on to your authenticity. It is great to keep serving your fans what they know you for. But again, a measure of an artist’s growth is the ability to step into new frontiers without necessarily leaving behind what makes them authentic.

KiDi is currently enjoying both fame and success. How he strikes a balance between his new musical indulgences and his old, left-field tendencies would be an interesting act worth watching carefully.

As rapper EL once opined: sometimes you need to sell-out to become a sell-out hold true in this case.

All photos used is sourced from KiDi’s IG page

 

Video Review: Ko-Jo Cue and Lil Shaker celebrate their idols on ‘Untitled’

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‘We had wanted to screen the second video for y’all tonight. But, our video director say e no finish am’. This was Ko-Jo Cue talking to the very few who got invited to the album listening session for ‘Pen & Paper’ at the BBNZLive Bar at Nima, a week ago.

Both Cue and Shaker would, at the least opportunity, express their disappointment at how the planned screening didn’t pan out as expected. But, he made an emphatic statement to us: ‘If you loved the first video (Pen & Paper), this next one would blow your mind’.

Everybody who had seen the video for ‘Untitled’ would applaud them for conceptualizing an astounding piece of artwork. The video is the second to be released, after Pen & Paper. The duo are ‘hopefully’ looking to release videos for all the 12 songs on their joint album.

The video for ‘Untitled’ is a re-visitation of the past, and a homage paying venture for the legends that inspired these two young rappers to pick up the mic and rap. It is their way of saying thank you to their idols. When i asked Cue why they went with this concept, his answer was straight forward: ‘Homage. Everything i do has to pay homage to the old generation’.

Before I begin dissecting the video, slide by slide, let me state that, this probably is going to be the best piece of video you’d see in 2017. Ko-Jo Cue, Shaker and the video director Esianyo Kumodzi really put in work. As Cue and Shaker told MsNaa on her show some weeks back, all their videos would be shot by Esianyo Kumodzi. It’s very obvious to note why.

Back to the ‘Untitled’ video. This review would cover the many iconic musical references, the various interpretations for each scene and why they chose this concept.

The beginning opens with the two rappers, dressed in all black (seems that’s the costume for the album), walking towards a simple, open air music studio. Whereas Cue carries a microphone and chords, Shaker has in his arm a keyboard. As they proceed towards the ‘studio’, the two turn back, staring straight into the camera, and by extension, the eyes of the viewer.

That scene is drawn from the Jay Z and Kanye West Otis video (off their ‘Watch The Throne’ album). If you watch the beginning of the Otis video carefully, you’d see Jay Z peeping into the camera.

Ko-Jo Cue’s re-creations of his favourite music scene

Ko-Jo Cue’s love for Daddy Lumba runs deeper that you can imagine. Adopting the moniker YDL (Young Daddy Lumba) isn’t only because Lumba is from Kumasi as Cue, but an attestation to Lumba’s influence on highlife music and pop culture.  So, seeing a 24 inch black and white TV set beaming the visuals of the very iconic ‘Aben Wo Ha’ video is no coincidence. (Did you hear the music playing at the background?) Ko-Jo Cue goes ahead to re-create the opening scene of the ‘Aben Wo Ha’ video as it was done almost 20 years ago (video was released in 1998).

Pardon Cue for those dance moves (if we can call it such).   couldn’t have put it any better.

We again see the re-creation of that Obrafour ‘Kwame Nkrumah’ ‘rapping triplet’ scene (that scene had me wondering if Obrafour was a three-man group or just one person, days after watching the video some decades ago). Cue again re-creates M3nsa (of the Fokn Bois) ‘spitting fire on a mic’ video scene from ‘If You Don’t Know’ video (featuring VIP). We finally see him and Shaker, in their Last Two emblazoned T-Shirt living out moments off Edem’s ‘Keva’ (You Dey Craze) with Sarkodie video.  The re-creation of the images by Cue is his way of showing appreciation and paying homage to the past.

It is worth saying that, apart from the Daddy Lumba video, all the rest were directed by legendary videographer Abraham Ohene-Djan and his OM Studios acolytes.

Lil Shaker Re-creates Iconic Album Covers

Lil Shaker enters the scene to continue from where Cue left off. This time, he pays homage to the very iconic hip-hop idols he grew up listening to. Shaker did this by re-creating some of their major album covers like TuPac’s ‘All Eyez On Me’, Ja Rule’s ‘Pain Is Love’ (shot by the legendary Jonathan Mannion),  the iconic ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ by 50 cents (shot by Sacha Waldman), and Jay Z’s classic ‘Black Album’ (shot by Jonathan Mannion).

Beneath the album covers is an interesting sublime statement about his own career path. Lil Shaker could be drawing parallels between him and 2Pac with the reference about his own path to greatness off Pen & Paper album. Don’t forget 2Pac was in jail in 1996, after being convicted (falsely) of rape. His album ‘All Eyez On Me’ became the No.1 album on Billboard. The legend of 2Pac was cemented by the album. So, Shaker is telling us this is his time to grow to greater things.

Since joining BBnZ, Shaker has been criticized for his diminishing role at the label. The optimism which many, including myself, had when he joined the label began to wane, after he chose to be more T-Pain than TI. The bullet ripped glass scene he re-created from 50 Cent’s GRODT cover could represent the criticisms that fans have leveled at him-shattering the glass house he found himself inhabiting. Not incurring any injuries, he’s more inspired to be the best. The theme of inspiration segues into the re- enactment of the Jay Z Black album cover, which could also mean his aim at greatness or Pen & Paper is definitely a classic. In short, those images or scenes sum up Shaker’s past and offers an insight into his future (henceforth).

Towards the end, Lil Shaker ask us to rewind the song to the beginning and listen again. The video then shuffles back to the Ko-Jo Cue as daddy Lumba ‘Aben Wo Ha’ scene. This is where the Untitled video ends, unceremoniously.

Some few points of notice:

‘Untitled’ is a continuation of Pen & Paper video. There’s a striking theme between the two. The video is shot in black and white. And we saw in the P&P video references to Obrafour’s ‘Pae Mu Ka’ poster and old cassette tapes. In ‘Untitled’, these themes are explored on a wider scale- paying real homage to the legends.

Both Cue and Shaker referenced four idols each- Lumba, Obrafour, M3nsa and Edem/Sarkodie. For Shaker, it was 2Pac, Ja Rule, 50 Cent and Jay Z.  Splitting the number to the middle indicate how the making of ‘’Pen & Paper’’ is a shared creative effort. With Cue idolizing Ghanaian artists and Shaker referencing legendary hip-hop icons, they tell the story of many Ghanaian rap fans; inspired by home grown and US rap stars.

My only reservation is that, they could have done away with the reference videos they re-created. Imagine how compelling it would be if they had allowed the viewer to identify their scenes from the original sources that served as their inspiration? The nostalgic feel would have been outstanding.

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In the last scene of the video, we see the two rappers set up their ‘studio’ and a cardboard with the inscription ‘DIY Studios’ sitting at the left side of the screen. Despite the reeking humor in the name, it points to the DIY (Do It Yourself) spirit that many indie artists embody when chasing their musical dreams.

And could the last scene be the album cover?