Heightened and impatient, the growing crowd begins to grumble loudly now. For hours, they have waited to be let into the large auditorium in which the concert is scheduled, but the gates have remained firmly shut. Circumstances thus fester disturbing thoughts. No one is anticipating a stampede, but…
2017 marks five editions of Sarkodie holding his annual Rapperholic concert. Also, it crowns an extensive tour of major destinations across Europe, UK, and the US with his latest album. Now bearer of the accolade “Highest” as a result of the album’s title, Sarkodie is expected to curate nothing short of that adjective. The venue has remained unchanged in the past couple of years, and to a large extent, his biggest hits haven’t either. But he bears in his hand on this occasion, an exceptional new body of work, and a sturdy desire to engrave it as a classic in the hearts of patrons gathered here tonight.
Once inside, the crowd is much relaxed, but also very alive with debate, legend, and gossip. Tonight, everyone is a GH rap expert…Sarkodie serving as the primary reference. Across the hall, numerous zealots are already drenched in their own sweat. Attired in Sarkodie merchandise, they have significantly been roused by music being spun by DJ K Krack ahead of performances on the night; flaring their hands and chanting along to songs as performers would, as if it is they who penned them in a modest home studio that quiet morning. There’s something to be learned from this sight –the marvelous power of the well-crafted spoken word.
Things escalate quickly –a rapid succession of riveting acts (mainly emerging stars) ensures this. If there lingered anywhere in the venue, any remaining shadow of monotony, the opening round of performers dispels this outright: Article Wan, A.I, Kwesi Arthur, B4bonah, energy machine Epixode, Sariki, Teephlow, and Yaa Pono have proven true revolutionaries in this new chapter of Ghanaian music. Their offerings in recent years have served as party staples as they have facilitated soul-searching. That Rapperholic brings them all together on one stage is commendable.
DJ Mensah, and UK band The Compozers constitute Sarkodie’s corner tonight. It’s not an unfamiliar team, and their aptitude is impossible to question. As has been the situation with the Rapperholic franchise over time, we are on the verge of something momentous.
Rapperholic has always been about a lush atmosphere. Everybody is there with a jollification mindset, and when people are united in this purpose, very little can hold them back. So intense is the vivacity in the realm that it thickens the very oxygen circulating in the room, making it tangible to the naked eye. In Ghana, only a handful of names are potent enough to summon such spirit –the name “Sarkodie” is one of them. Since his 2009 debut Makye, Michael Owusi Addo (as he is privately called) has remained the darling of music lovers in these parts. With superior wit and delivery, ingenuity and simply an innate desire to rap, he has risen to the foremost echelons in the country and beyond. In the past decade or so that he has practiced music professionally, he has been a key contributor of songs which constitute our top picks.
Furthermore, Sarkodie’s magnificent stage charm, fostered over the course his career, has made him a true performance icon. Whether single-handedly, or in the company of the notable contingent of surprise acts that supports him each year, he has always held his own. That is why Rapperholic sets in particular, are always keenly anticipated.
“The hunter ages, but not his skill”, translates a popular Ga adage. Legends will always remain legends. There is not a dull moment at Rapperholic 2017, and every performance is important for a reason; Jayso, Strongman, and Teephlow reecho the essence of pure rap, Feli Nuna, Freda Rhymes, and Eno boost our confidence in the female rapper’s competence, Kwaw Kese typifies brazen originality, King Promise, Kurl Songx, and Akwaboah are antidote for the ladies, Koorede Bello and Yung L augment the West African feel, and BBNZ boys Shaker and Ko-jo Cue ooze the worth of the pen and paper. But Obrafour’s appearance is undeniably the most significant on the night. The rapturous reception which meets the Rap Sofuo’s triumphant entry unto the stage is the sort of thing that shatters glass ceilings. As he performs alongside Sarkodie, not even he can hear himself. The crowd takes over, roaring well-received collaborations from the pair: Saa Okodie No, and Life, as well as classics off Obrafour’s unequaled catalogue including Yaanom, Kwame Nkrumah, and Ohene (which Sarkodie impressively recited with perfection).
In many regards, Obrafour is hiplife. The genre may have been originated by Rockstone, and properly established with the input of a hundred other pioneers, yet, Obrafour has embodied that sound more effectively than anybody else. Starting with Pae Mu Ka (1999), his approach has served as both soul and blueprint for hiplife, while operating on the everlasting “Last Two” pulse.
The model apprentice, Sarkodie has, since the beginning of his career, always deemed Obrafour as a godfather. Their performance, and Sarkodie bowing to him in a remarkable act of reverence and gratitude is simply heartwarming to behold. Both rappers are reportedly brewing a joint album following a passionate appeal by veteran producer Da’Hammer some weeks ago (who is producing the work). Judging by the distinction achieved on every one of their collaborations so far, the project is bound to be emblematic.
Maybe it is the December spirit, but recent days have witnessed images of great solidarity and mutual admiration that normally is infrequent in a fiercely competitive terrain as showbiz. At his December 22 concert, Stonebwoy genuflects before guru Samini during their performance. In neighboring Nigeria, archrivals Wizkid and Davido seem to have patched things up, appearing on each other’s concerts. Davido’s recent 30 Billion concert witnessed a Mo’Hits reunion, with D’Banj, Don Jazzy and other original members of the once supreme music label all performing side by side.
At Rapperholic, Sarkodie is Nas, and Fela, and Bob Marley. He’s Marvin Gaye, and Kojo Antwi, Daddy Lumba, and Paa Dogo. The stage is made for him, and affords him opportunity to explore the many extensions to his creativity than he normally would.
No limitations exist. Rapping or singing, backed by a band or DJ set (or both), Sarkodie simply reigns. Over highlife, hiplife, hiphop, Afrobeats, or reggae, he shines brilliantly.In an era where rappers particularly are constantly berated for their obsession to mime onstage and nothing else, Sarkodie proves that an all-round performance can be achieved by a rapper too.
His image as a performer is highly boosted by the Rapperholic concert, and serves as necessary springboard for the subsequent year. So, even in spite of RuffTown’s Ebony, Sarkodie will make a more than decent showing at the 2018 VGMAs.
The mere mention of this name causes deafening cheers, and when he finally surfaces onstage, dressed in black, and performing Light It Up amidst fearsome fire breathers, he does render a performance worthy of the applause and long standing ovation that characterises his sets. Other songs follow, off Highest as well as previous offerings, and the cheers remain constant. Beloved colleagues join him: Samini, Joey B, Magnom, Captain Planet, Efya, Becca, Kwaw Kese, Adina, R2Bees, Big Shaq…This party just goes on and on.
By the time he performs Glory, his inspirational new single featuring Nigeria’s Yung L, it is unanimously agreed that he has tucked yet another successful edition neatly in the annals of history. His swan song for the night, and indeed, a great 2017, the number causes him to shed a joyful tear. His story is a deeply moving one, and for anyone who has followed his journey over the past 10 years, it has been one big blessing.
Glory, the Jayso-produced joint, sums up Sarkodie’s new album and life too: no matter where you are, dreams do manifest if you keep at them, and are patient and resilient enough to see them come to pass.
“King Sark till I die/ nobody can ever pull me down”, goes a line in the song. He can afford to say that now because he has come from far, and remained alive. And when accounts of an artist now frequently takes the form of a tribute, maybe they have really become legends.
Thoroughly thrilled and content, the crowd files out of the conference centre leisurely now. Pockets gather here and there, conducting their postmortem. For hours, they have truly jammed to some of the biggest songs of 2017 –the fatigue in their bones, and their sore feet are testament to that. The reviews are generally positive, and nobody seems to even remember the poor crowd control by organisers at the beginning of the show, or its late start. Rapperholic 2017 has ended well.
A multiple-award-winner, Sarkodie is author of five albums in all: Makye (2009), Rapperholic (2012), Sarkology (2014), Mary (2015), and Highest (2017). Compered by Dancehall singer Shatta Wale, this year’s Rapperholic concert is a joint collaboration between the rapper’s SarkCess Music, and A Team Productions.
More images from the concert courtesy Sadiq More: