Rapperholic 2016 saw a significantly late start, and was threatened by technical glitches at the beginning, the security detail could have been better, and there were more people than should have been let in (so did every other show this month). Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s reminisce what an extraordinary show the Accra International Conference Center saw two nights ago.
It’s unbelievable; what is happening –the music is reverberating against your chest, and the ground under your very feet is shifting from the quake of everybody else doing the Sarkodie Bounce. It is what happens for five hours straight at last Sunday’s show.
Still stunned when the show ends, a sweaty young man jokes while waiting for the crowd making for the exits to subside; “Herh, I dey owe Sarkodie extra GHC 100”. He (like over 3000 others), has just partaken of the ultimate Christmas party that is #Rapperholic2016.
Sarkodie has hosted the annual concert since 2011, and has been praised for what success he chalks with the event each year. This edition though, is certainly the most explosive of them all!
Whatever expectation you held prior to the concert was not merely met…it was surpassed! It was always going to be an electric evening. The advertised line-up (and rumoured surprise acts) was something for the record books: King Promise, Efya, Nii Funny, Wisa Greid, Jupitar, Koo Ntakra, Medikal, Stonebwoy, Donzy, Pappy Kojo, Ras Kuuku, Strongman, Tee Phlow, MzVee, Guru, Bisa KDei, Joey B, Flavour, Patoranking, Reekado Banks, Omar Sterling, Edem, A.I, Runtown, Shatta Wale…
Sarkodie has come full circle since capturing our notice with dizzying Kasahare Level freestyles and outrageous smug pronouncements intended more for comic relief than much else. Today, a song like When I Grow Up (off his sophomore offering: Rapperholic), Adonai (ft. Castro), his collaborations with hiplife legend Obrafour, as well as this specific ode to God on D-Black’s Omega, prove instructive:
“Took me from blessing to blessing, watch my progression/ the favour you gave me and all my possessions, business connections/ the wisdom to go through the highs and the lows, the friends from the foes/ they ask me so how do I do it? Baba God, I suppose”.
Sarkodie’s story has unfolded right before our very eyes, and for true Sark Natives, it is a powerful message of motivation. This concert affords them the chance to share in victories which the rapper attains each year.
Here’s an interesting observation about patrons to shows like this: E.L’s BAR Concerts, and M.anifestivities — it’s an already “ready” crowd. They’re not necessarily looking to be impressed –this cult following –its their party, to start with. Everything works for them because they’re home. The true hip-hop concert it was, the audience was fired way before the start of the concert, with pockets rapping along to popular jams Live FM’s DJ Sheldon showered as precursor, or contributing to heated arguments regarding Sarkodie’s stature in the industry. Another turntablist, Tema-based K Krack, deserves special mention, for his skill with manipulating the crow, navigated contrasting genres is just shocking. Satanic!
Sarkodie bursts through a white silk screen with a freestyle after midnight, summarising his journey and acknowledging a core team of believers to have coordinated his actualisation (just seconds ago, that white screen had served as canvas for a startling graffiti live painting by a muscular artist). He makes his way through an army of buoyant street dancers to an eruptive multitude in a standing ovation. His head and upper body are covered in black velvet, and he’s wearing black shades and denims to match.
He sets off with hardcore classics that have become backdrop to his signature bounce: Original, Hand to Mouth, Shots on Shots…
He also (for the first time since its release), parades Tee Phlow, Medikal, Strongman, Koo Ntakra, Donzy Chaka, and Pappy Kojo onstage for an era-defining performance of Trumpet . Like his predecessors, Sarkodie, with the song, sought to provide a deliberate peek of what coming decades of the rap scene should look like –and who better than him, who has been at the very pinnacle of the game for something like a decade? He, who is the country’s most frequent representative at continental and global concerts, award ceremonies, and indexes… At the end of those awe-inspiring nine minutes, they all stand side by side, with wide smiles of accomplishment, acknowledging thunderous cheers. And in that very moment, Sarkodie’s intent with Trumpet is distinctly displayed.
Sarkodie’s act has been enhanced over the years, so that now, his performances transcend mere miming. He’s sharing his very emotions from the stage.
When he returns for his second set, he’s clad in all-white, and in the company of SarkCess Music colleague Akwaboah and a live band, he delivers songs off his current album Mary, and an affecting tribute to late highlife great Daasebre Gyamena. He is unable to follow that performance through to the end; the projected image he’s pointing at, conversing with –is too vivid, too alive. He chokes on the last few words of his re-make of Kokooko (Daasebre Gyamena’s 1999 hit featuring rapper-turned-pastor Lord Kenya), because he’s overcome by grief. The tightening in his throat is felt by everyone else across the auditorium, and onlookers are left with no other option than to applaud Sarkodie’s bravery at confronting Daasebre’s story in the first place.
Daasebre reportedly yielded to heart failure back in July, and was reportedly working on a gospel album detailing his recent trials till his death. and the controversy surrounding his burial could have been avoided…should have been avoided. But it’s all over now, and he remains among our favourite highlife crooners. He’ll always inspire strong emotion in us.
He rounds up the night with a marathon of collaborations with top acts from Ghana and Nigeria. And when he mentions; “someone is late”, everybody knows it was dancehall singer Shatta Wale. Shatta does turn up minutes later, and in the company of Sarkodie and Burnaboy, “shatts” down the show. A playful dance battle among them (featuring Alkayida, breakdancing, and well, Shatta Wale) continues to play in the minds of fans fatigued with happiness as they vanish into early Monday to tell their own #Rapperholc2016 experiences.
Sarkodie is highly favoured, and is considered brother by many –the support he receives from fans and industry colleagues is one hell of a statement. His authority has soured with each year, and if #Rapperholic2016 isn’t enough evidence of his place in Ghana music, well…
*Rapperholic is also the name of Sarkodie (born Michael Owusu Addo)’s sophomore album, and he’s reportedly finalising work on his fifth solo album “The Highest”, which comes out early next year. This year’s concert was hosted by Giovani Caleb, comedian DKB, and OgeeTheMC, with music from Live FM’s Sheldon, and DJ Mensah.
Recipient of several local and international awards including the prestigious BET Best International Act: Africa in 2012, Sarkodie (born Michael Owusu Addo) has released Makye (2009), Rapperholic (2012), Sarkology (2014), Mary (2015), as well as the joint album TMG with producer Jayso in 2013.
See more photos of the event below coutesy Kwei Asefua and Paul Addo: