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Reviews & Interviews

REVIEW: Cloud 9 – Shatta Wale!



Artist: Shatta Wale
Album: Cloud 9
Label and Year: SM4LYF Records, 2017


Happy birthday Shatta Wale! You for come visit me for Flagstaff House o!”, read President Akufo Addo’s tweet to Shatta Wale on Tuesday October 17, as the singer turned 33.

The Head of State extending you birthday felicitations –in Pidgin –is the sort of thing that lands you on Cloud 9. Unprecedented, it is even more evidence of the controversial singer’s influence on Ghanaian social life.

The president’s tweet is surely the most monumental thing about Shatta’s birthday this year. But something else deserves mention about the day: the release of his Cloud 9 mixtape.

With little to prove in dancehall and Afropop, the Kakai man explores hiphop solely on the project. This year, as has been the case for five years straight, his songs are among the most impactful: Taking Over, Ayoo, Forgetti, Level, Dem Confuse, Umbrella, Low Tempo

All six songs on Cloud 9 prove creditable contributions to the genre in Ghana this year, which is significant to say about a dancehall act. Because hip-hop everywhere is a jealous field, and while this project earns him notice in the genre, it doesn’t suddenly grant him “access” into the ranks that matter.

But again, this is Shatta Wale, who has never been good with rules, nor waited for permission to do anything. Largely misunderstood, he has turned that into fuel, and now he’s invincible. He storms in, takes, and leaves. There’s usually little anyone can do about it.

Dancehall may be his forté, but he is no stranger to the fundamentals of hip-hop: nerve, originality, and truth. These are elements of dancehall too, if you think about it.  He exhibits these abundantly in Cloud 9, which is entirely self-produced.

Again, Wale is no stranger to hip-hop melody: as far back as his starting days in music, he has dabbled in the genre. He partners Yoggy Doggy on an early compilation by veteran producer Da’ Hammer. In May 2016, he drops Bingo. One of his major songs this year is Mayaa Tra (featuring Pope Skinny). So, it will be inaccurate to view the project as his first attempt at hip-hop. If anything, it’s reintroduction of sorts.

His delivery on the project is natural and unforced. The deftness he exhibits on Just Make the Money, for instance, is terrific. His command over, and method with rap language is both impressive and driven by the confidence which comes with practice. Blending his native Ga, Pidgin, and Patois over classic boom-bap, he waxes with blistering force about his abilities –a staple theme of the field.

Grow Bad, as well as My Friendz’ In, depict Shatta Wale’s real motive with the project: to blur any lines that exist between genres, and question the insatiable obsession to label/ categorize art in the first place. “I be different guy. Music, that be what I dey do”, he says as Grow Bad comes to a close. It is neither fair nor healthy to pin artists to a specific genre as it is widely known to stifle creativity, and he will not be pinned to one thing.

Also dispatched with playful elegance and expertise, Shit is Lit is what Trap sounds like, proving that while his music is dominated by Jamaican slang, he’s also proficient in hip-hop lingua and culture in general. Instrumentation on this song, as with the other joints on Cloud 9, is first-rate and infectious: infused with peculiar nuances that identify a sound as hip-hop. Shatta Wale’s versatility isn’t only exhibited in how he operates his husky voice, but also with how he comes up with rhythm and melody.

Shatta Wale’s performance on Feel So Stupid is one of his most vulnerable till date. He’s a musical genius, and his celebrity makes him something like a superhero to many. But away from what we see on TV, he’s just a man. He goes through daily human challenges too, including feeling unappreciated in a relationship. To hear the mighty Shatta admit to experiencing low points in a relationship provides new perspective to what makes a superhero: admitting to fears and weaknesses doesn’t make you less of a man. Every superhero is first of all, a man.

“God’s plan isn’t man’s plan” is how Shatta Wale begins Track 6: We Never Plan for This. Uttered in Ga with something that sounds like the the voice of God himself, the words resonate heavily with the listening ear. Shatta Wale possesses a work culture that is unmatched. He’s always publishing new music. Success rewards a good plan and hard work.  Still, when it finally arrives, you’re both surprised and overwhelmed. If you’ve followed Shatta Wale’s story, the following words are especially inspiring. Before singing the chorus one last time on the record, he confesses:

“You know, every man dey come in life to make am. Me and my dogs [comrades] always dey make sure say we go make am. Yeah, we mean am. But we no know say den ego happen this soon. We no plan for this time kraa…”


Listen to Cloud 9 below:


















T’NEEYA is reshaping Africa’s New Ubran Sound!



German-Cameroonian chanteuse T’neeya (Jennifer Tania Takoh) is fast-becoming one of the continent’s favourite new-age voices.

Using Soul, Alternative Afrobeat, and Dancehall, the self-taught Ghana-based songwriter affects listeners in a way that is intimate and immersive. Whether via covers or her original compositions, T’neeya’s sound, because the multi-layered texture it arrives in, appeals to a wide spectrum of audiences.  And when one takes a look at the greats she cites as her influences (Micheal Jackson, 2 Baba Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu et al), it is not entirely surprising that her sound is gradually permeating with such superior effectiveness…courting critical reception even in Ghana, and guaranteeing her a place on key stages in the country.

Her recent collaborative piece with Ghanaian counterpart and “Tomorrow” man Darkovibes, swiftly makes a strong case for her as a constant name on a playlist of must-have African love songs today. Happy and playful, it is also sensitive in the vocal texture it is delivered in.  Thoughtful and greatly relatable lyrics, as well as a pristine guest verse from Darkovibes, ensure that in spite of it being new, it is already observed as classic material.

Simply referred to as “T”, the sultry  singer is already widely considered a pioneering name in the contemporary urban music space, her graceful eccentricity and avant-garde melody ensuring that.

Alumnus of the University of Applied Sciences (Berlin), T’neeya is also author of “Hold Me Down”, a submission which adds to an elegant catalogue she’s building. Produced by respected programmer VACS, the song is widely-rotated across various platforms in the country, a clear testament to it’s quality.

T’neeya’s relationship with music started at a tender age: taking herself through the rudiments of songwriting, and steadily growing a committed following for her performance on a number of talent shows in her native Cameroon. She herself did not realise the potential of her gift, till her parents started paying attention: “singing professionally wasn’t a reality for me, until my parents started noticing, I sounded good and gave me their blessing”, she recounts.

Heartfelt and moving, T’neeya’s songs usually centre on themes relating to love, joy, and struggle,  crafted from a variety of experiences, and carefully conveyed via a masterful blend of Pidgin, English and French.

Listen to more T’neeya here:

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Long Reads

On the Sixth Floor with Simi – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW



Earl Heights Apartment, Accra. 


I DO NOT KNOW FROM WHICH DOOR SIMI EMERGES, but it’s most likely the one at the end of the hall. When I lift my head from my MacBook, she’s already by the couch on which I’ve been waiting. I wonder how I didn’t hear the sound of her high heels clacking on the tiled floor as I rise to shake her hand.

29, the petite singer looks saintly this afternoon – her plain attire barely reaching beyond her shoulders and knees. Jewelry glistens on her ears, left forefinger and on both wrists…her face, radiant with elegant makeup. As she settles in the corner of the couch, she looks like a prized artefact in an art museum.  Indeed, the room itself looks like a gallery: spacious and alive with rich colors and compelling paintings.

Simi’s schedule is tight. Since yesterday (October 12), the Ghana leg of the media tour for her sophomore album Simisola, has seen her on quite a number of TV and radio stations in Kumasi and Accra. In half an-hour, she should be on GH One TV, and then on Live FM, and then Class FM. A similar timetable awaits her tomorrow, as well as the day after.

Like in her home country of Nigeria, Simisola is also well-received here. On September 8, when all of Ghana’s attention should have been focused on Sarkodie’s fifth album Highest, artwork for Simisola was just as prominent on our timelines. And why not? With a voice the texture of  confectionery, and stories that touch, she’s as beloved here as she is on the streets of Lagos and Abuja, and is imaginary fiancée to many young Ghanaian men.

That last line sounds like the perfect icebreaker for our conversation – either that, or rapper Patapaa’s One Corner craze. I opt for the latter: would she do the dance, at least for the culture? “No, I don’t think I will”, followed by a giggle, which is also heard frequently throughout our intercourse. She has not tasted the famous Ghana Jollof yet, and the revelation bruises my heart, but does not make her any less cool.

When she speaks, Simi’s words flow rapidly and with teenage pitch – just like her laugh. She exudes a persona of effervescence and sincerity, and rich wisdom is apparent in her every sentence.

Signed to X3M Music, it has taken Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye four projects (two albums and two EPs) to truly establish herself in Nigeria’s mainstream music circles. Her sound is qualified by superior purity and street soul, which has seen her regarded only as an alternative to the mainstream instead of an alternative in it, too. This has often meant that her music has been largely a “well-kept secret” – only available to those who diligently search.

With Simisola, which was led with Joromi (a kind of homage to highlife great Sir Victor Uwaifo), Simi has finally found renown, and she didn’t have to conform to any norms to get here. If anything, she’s the exception, redefining whatever rules exist.

The world over, “commercial music” has often referred to one tailored strictly for dance –lacking in wholesome content, and perishable after a few months. Simi’s songs are sacred and possess longevity. Due to this (and out of respect), the adjective is seldom used for her records.

But Simi finds this definition faulty. Concerned, she theorizes: “everybody does music to sell it. Commercial is something you sell, so unless I’m giving it out for free, it is commercial”. This definition is striking in its accuracy.

She submits a similar explanation when I inquire if she’s comfortable being “pigeonholed” into the category of “Afropop”, seeing that there’s more to her music than the sub-genre.  She disagrees that it is a pigeonhole in the first place. Citing British chanteuse Adele, she reiterates a substitute variation of Pop music (of which Afropop is a limb) – that it simply refers to popular music. And as long as we agree that her music is popular, we are not wrong. If anything, she adds, the label gives her “more room to explore”. And why not? Afropop encompasses virtually all melody from the continent, and while many consider it a vague and often sluggish way to describe sounds from these parts, Simi embraces it – exploiting it to her advantage. No one is going to look at her suspiciously when she experiments with various rhythms, and as as artist, one needs all the freedom one can get.

Simi takes her poetic licence seriously: “at the the end of the day, music is supposed to be more expressive than organized”. At the same time, she admits to the obsession of wanting the music sound a specific way: “when I’m writing or recording, I’m very very precise. I’m a perfectionist. Do you understand?”, her eyes trained keenly upon mine as she inquires. She didn’t need to, because it is evident in how her melody is executed. She’s very hands-on with how her songs come out. Nuanced and thorough, Simi’s sound offers something fresh with every listen – charming sleights sprinkled throughout various compartments of her songs: in the placement of string/ horn interludes, her diction while ad-libbing, the stainless tone of backing vocals which deliver her choruses.

The flair she demonstrates mixing and mastering her songs have even earned her top clients, such rapper YCee of Omo Alhaji fame.

But how does she walk this tightrope of technical precision and the liberty expected of artistry?

“I don’t mix any two of my songs the same…It’s just about knowing how to keep a balance and not get carried away. Every song is different”, says MixBySimi (when she wears that hat). Only she knows how she delivers emotion and technical genius in equal doses. Maybe it is in the fact that her team is close-knit – mainly comprising producer Oscar, and friend/regular collaborator Adekunle Gold (providing guest verses and backing vocals).

A purist himself, Adekunle is very much part of the sound Simi has grown into over the course of her career. The “Urban Highlife”groove that he conceived continues to serve as a special ingredient for the Simi vibe.

When she talks about Adekunle, Simi smiles, and then breaks into her laugh. Same with when she discusses her creative bond with Falz, with whom she collaborated on the lovely Chemistry EP.

Simisola consists 12 deeply affective tunes which could easily be referred to as classics. Because it is self-titled, and due to her convincing delivery of stories about love and loss, self and faith, the work feels autobiographical, though she is quick to point out that while all the stories are true, they aren’t necessarily about her.

The conversation is too short for me…I need at least an hour with precious Simi. But there are other journalists waiting for their turn. Not forgetting the GH One interview.

When the interview is done and I make my way down the shiny elevator, I plug in my earphones and hum along these words from Original Baby, which she names as her favorite song off the project. Both verses from this powerful personal testimony of self-love end thus:

“You gotta take me as I am. I’ll be better, but I’ll never be somebody else”


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Events & Places

Africa’s Legends CAME OUT FOR A Party… IT WAS SEEEERIOUS & FULL OF “Kwassa Kwassa”



Flanked by spirited backing vocalists and curvaceous gyration specialists, Congolese maestro Kanda Bongo Man’s exquisite falsetto towers perfectly over his band, permeating all corners of the elegant Banquet Hall of Ghana’s State House this fine evening.

Before him have been sterling live performances from fast-rising chanteuse eShun, and fellow African powerhouses Charles K. Fosu (Daddy Lumba), and Take Away man AKA Blay.

A seasoned performer who’s widely considered a revolutionary of soukous music, Bongo Man, 62, steers the élite gathering with superior style and aura. It is astounding, yet not unexpected of this particular stage –The Vodafone African Legends Night. It is mounted by only top-tier acts from the continent.

Not every song Bongo Man performs tonight is as familiar as “Kwassa Kwassa”, which has also served as his nickname for something like two decades, but it doesn’t matter, because his charisma and stagecraft are delightful beyond measure. Delicious guitar interludes and enchanting choreography pepper each one of those extensive songs.

Bongo Man may have performed a song too many – this is the general sentiment across the room. “A concise one-hour act would surely have been more magical”, says a dark bald man with an ample grey beard to his plump Afro-haired Plus 1. But who can blame Kanda? He is author of nearly 20 albums. He can go a whole day if he wants. Plus, he’s an African legend: it is impossible to “overstay his welcome”.

Perhaps even more anticipated on the night than Kanda himself, Abrantie Amakye Dede proves an iconic crowning to the already thrilling evening, maximizing the most, this neat home-court advantage. He’s not nicknamed the “Iron Boy” for nothing. When he chants “seeeerious”, it is not child’s play. His craft is evergreen, and the adored graty cadence of his voice, still whole. While he has not released new material in several years, he’s a god of classics, and the emotional practicality in his lyric and melody make them beloved sing-alongs.

Primarily navigating love, money, and the journey that is this life, these masterpieces as the great Mmaa Pe Sokoo medley, Su Fre Wo Nyame, Se Se Odo, Sika Ne Berimah all invoke excited hip sway, famously amongst former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, and Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful among a host of key dignitaries who grace the perfectly-organized night.

The 6th edition of he 2017 Vodafone African Legends Night was put together by the Global Media Alliance, with legendary broadcaster Kwame Sefa Kayi (Peace FM) performing MC duties. Other notable African performers to mount the enviable stage in the past have included Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, Freddy Meiway, Gyedu Blay Ambulley,  Akosua Agyapong, Kpanlogo man Amandzeba Nat Brew, Nana Tuffuor, saxophonist Steve Bedi, and Ben Brako.

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Reviews & Interviews

BOOK REVIEW: Of Etsey Atisu’s “Epistles to My Bubune”



Starting out a couple of years ago as simple thoughts to his partner, Etsey Atisu’s column Epistles to My Bubune swiftly became manna across much of Ghanaian social media. So that, every time he submitted a new missive, it was pounced upon like vultures would a carcass.

It is not exactly surprising that the essays were widely embraced, judging by Etsey’s clout on Facebook–even if they were intended for a sole audience. But more than that, their impact was due to what they addressed, as well as the style they were rendered in. Sometimes, it would take months for a new letter to arrive, but the internet waited fervently, confident that each new installment was pregnant with realistic arguments for the contemporary love affair. Affection stories evolve with every generation, and so it is important to be afforded accurate perspectives on dealing with love in Facebook era.  Testimonies from our elders are indispensable, but so are Etsey-esque accounts.

Epistles to My Bubune consists nearly forty articles naturally and intrepidly collected by Atisu’s gifted hands. And while it is expected of him as an Ewe man to possess superior audacity, the courage that is evident in the book oozes from a special depth: honesty. When we speak the truth, we shall fear no evil.

And so he takes on the weighty as well as the trite, sidestepping all political correctness: homosexuality, fashion, tiffs, spirituality, fears, death…even the dimples that have earned him the alias “Freshie” are explored in this compelling read.

Epistles to My Bubune is the picture of young love: foolishly hopeful and drenched in youthful zeal. At the same time, it feels like one which has taken on several decades and emerged prevailed. That a man –anybody south of 30 years can invoke this unique dualism is striking –again, not necessarily because he’s an Ayigbe man. Etsey is talented and committed to writing in a way that is probably not healthy. This may be his first book, but he could well submit another one by Sunday, and three more within a fortnight. Indeed, a key reason for his growing influence is the fact that, with one toe over the next, he pens long thoughtful odes to anyone who has even slightly been acquainted to him. Once more this “hobby” of his is significant in our dispensation because it restores hope in our capabilities as millennials to care for something/someone other than applications on smartphones. Today, birthday wishes have been reduced to mere emoticons, single hash tags and the exceedingly clichéd one-line post “happy birthday” –or its irksome abbreviation “hbd”. Obviously, these are intended more for the records than anything. Thankfully, this generation can boast of one person who aims for the heart. This is what it comes down to –humanity! Etsey typifies humanity.

“Bubune” translates from Ewe as “reverence to the almighty”. Let’s talk about that for a second. The book is strewn with verses from the Holy Bible –unapologetic reference to his faith as a Christian. Like his affection for the beautiful “Bubune”, his relationship with God is not something he is prepared or inclined to hide.

“I don’t see myself marrying anybody else except you but it is not a “do or die” affair. Everything I am doing now is geared towards that life with you and it is not to satisfy some public stunt or charade but because I feel it is right for me.”

As is the experience on each page of the book, lines as the ones above are deeply affective. It is the ambition of everyone on the quest for love to be able to utter such words. Love cannot be all you find in this life, but if you do, guard it with keenness. Etsey deserves commendation because he has valiantly mustered these words…in public. This fairytale with pretty Bubune (whom he has been courting for nearly three years) will work –and it must, because it is founded on honesty.

“I’ve always wanted that because you make me happy” reads another extract. “You can be a little difficult nut to crack but you still make me happy. And even when it seems impossible to please you, you still make me happy because you understand that we are in this relationship with only one goal – till the end”, it further reads.

Till the end!

“Epistles to My Bubune” may have started out as routine documentation of his journey with his journey with his partner, but it applies to everyone:

“…it is about simple and everyday issues that break or bind relationships, written in simple diction but with deep messages for the reader, especially young people in relationships”, observes ace journalist and fellow writer Manasseh Azure Awuni.

“…Etsey never lets go, as he explores, discusses, explains, and ruminates on the issues ranging from the mundane to the insane nsempisms that are germane to his relationship with his beloved Bubune. In the end, one cannot help but admire the love and openness shared with Bubune, and by extension, the reader, profiting much thereby”, renowned author Nana Awere Damoah also opines about the work.

And as these two are among our foremost Ghanaian scribes today, their words are powerful testaments to the quality of the work rendered by Atisu.

What gives all art its power is the willingness of the artist to go far into himself…how prepared he is to harness his own vulnerability. When we read Epistles, we feel the very sentiments Etsey is feeling as he pens his paragraphs –they are true to us as they are to him. That is what gives this work its profoundly trait of communal ownership…that is why it is unputdownable.


See first images from the launch:

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Guest Blog - The Other View

REVIEW: Date Ur Fada – Ebony



Artist: Ebony

Song: Date Ur Fada

Label, Year: Rufftown, 2017


The new single from Ebony continues her documentation of the sexual terrain.

On ‘Sponsor’, she was caught between an older man with money and one of those “broke guys” with “lots of energy”. She was the one you can’t let go because of what she does in the bedroom on ‘Poison’. Those songs were controversial mostly because of her image as a sexually confident young woman. With ‘Date Ur Fada’, she is almost wilfully seeking controversy with her lyrics. Already, there are complaints: a relationship counsellor has called her “a disgrace to femininity.”

Perhaps no publicity is bad publicity. And Ebony has herself said her image is no show. “The bad girl brand people see out there is a true representation of me,” she has said. “This is how I have been even before coming into the limelight.”

On other songs, Ebony has been sultry and inviting; she is threatening on ‘Date Ur Fada’. Her opening line—“If you break my heart, I go date your father!”—is dire and direct. Break my heart, she says, and I’ll break up your family.

That’s a rather scandalous sentiment to say aloud. But Ebony’s music is crafted for the confessional age of social media: Her lyrics are salacious; her songs are very danceable; her attitude is incredibly sassy. Ebony is singing songs as much as she’s providing viral content.

This, of course, might lead to her being dismissed as all show, but she’s a talented pop act. While it’s unclear if her songs are written by someone else, she has proven to be a decent interpreter of those lyrics. Though she came on clearly claiming dancehall music on her first single ‘Dancefloor’, she has since shown that her voice is a flexible instrument fitting for the broad field of pop.

Because Ghanaian pop is thought to be conservative, at least compared to Nigerian pop, Ebony might be thought to be quite the alien in her country. Yet, Ghanaian pop has seen its share of sexually bold women in pop, the most prominent in recent times was perhaps MzBel.

Yet the current female pop stars—BeccaEfya to name two—are more prone to talking love and heartbreak or, like, Sister Deborah, cradling crass lyrics in comedy. Becca served some sass on ‘Na Wash’. But she was more or less the commentator. She was watching others. Ebony is both narrator and subject in her videos. Her sass is not limited to her words. Even the production on ‘Date Ur Fada’, heavily percussive, is suggestive.

As a result her popular peers in the contemporary moment are not in Ghana but in Nigeria. On ‘Kupe’, her best song, she cleverly references Davido’s ‘Aiye’—“Me I no like Versace, and I no like designer,” she says—but her directly sexual lyrics elects her to the Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shaysorority.

Ebony is bolder than both on ‘Date Ur Fada’. (It is almost unimaginable to think of either Nigerian act singing these words on a single: “If you break my heart I go date your father. You gonna be my son; you go call me your mother.”) Despite their sexual lyrics, Tiwa Savage and Seyi Shay are vendors of monogamy. Ebony talks taboo, and convincingly. Her latest single will draw flak. It will also draw fans.

Buy ‘Date Ur Fada’ on iTunes

Credit: Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

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Reviews & Interviews

A ‘Sark’ FULL OF Glory… Sarkodie – THE ‘Highest’ ALBUM REVIEW



While Sarkodie’s catalogue easily sets him apart as a remarkably gifted rapper, he has proven just as fertile with dance-ready anthems. Since his 2009 debut Makye (DuncWills), the BET laureate has made a bold case for African hiphop, dispensing regular bountiful fits of dizzying, dazzling, and clever wordplay (justly securing him a place among topmost names of his era). At the same time, the man is an expert in party songs: Baby, You Go Kill Me, Pon The Ting, Adonai, RNS, Fa Sor Hor, Gboza etc.

A lyrical phenom, Sarkodie is both Jack and master of many trades. This is why his fifth album Highest (SarkCess, 2017) was anticipated feverishly by all of Africa. Consisting 18 songs, it was published on September 8.

The CD follows Mary (SarkCess, 2015), which was published to immense critical praise. The project is a moving highlife album, which is also tribute to his grandmother Mary Lokko. Co-written by label-mate Akwaboah Jnr., it was swiftly touted as his most ingenious submission yet. Does Highest knock it off that pedestal? Most certainly not. Still, this new album is one fine piece of work.

It was led with Painkiller (ft. Runtown), which is listed as a bonus track. According to the rapper (born Michael Owusu Addo), the album title best encapsulates his current state of mind.

But when has the rapper never felt like the highest? If there’s one thing Sarkodie is known for in the past ten years or so that he’s done music professionally, it is his flair with braggadocio. It is what the culture of hip-hop requires, and he has studied to show himself approved. It seems pointless to list examples of songs which are strewn with infinite adulation of himself and his abilities, as it will mean citing nearly everything he has released but the Mary album. Still, there lingers an itch:  New Guy, Lay Away, Saa Okodie No, Hand to Mouth, Illuminati, Oluwa is Involved, Rap Attack, Original, Preach, Take it Back, Kanta, Return Of the Spartans, Bossy

REVIEW: On 10 of Sarkodie’s best

There features a sufficient amount of conceit on the album, as can be noticed on Silence, We No Dey Fear, Highest, Light it Up, and Certified. But more than that, the work navigates “higher” themes such as notions of beauty and self-worth, focus and dedication, faith, and the subsequent recognition which crowns hard work.

And so, a song like Glory (ft. Yung L) bears great significance. Track 18 on the project, it is also easily the most loved number so far. Accentuated by delicate saxophone melody over what is essentially highlife, the song feels like church, and calls to memory another Sarkodie classic – Adonai (ft. Castro).  Adonai and Glory  bear similar themes: there’s light at the end of the tunnel, especially if God is involved. Accompanying visuals  for Glory (directed by IKŌNE) depict the exact point desire metamorphoses into reality. Rendered in compelling black-and white, it shows the rapper, his partner Tracy, daughter Titi, and members constituting the nucleus of the “SarkCess” team reveling in the good life made possible by his consistency atop the throne.

Glory works flawlessly as what the album comes down to: 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. Thus, after citing a certain Kwame Boadi, one of the many doubters of his elaborate vision, and having fought off many battles over his career and emerged victorious, he can afford to declare:

“King Sark till I die/ nobody can ever pull me down.”

Highest is as much a rap album as it is melodic, something made possible by the layered approach of a typical Jayso production. Born Paul Nuamah Donkor, Jayso (who’s also listed as Executive Producer for the project) is widely considered a key player in Ghanaian hip-hop, especially for his inroads with the Skillions. Especially since the beef with M.anifest  last year, one could argue that Sarkodie has felt the need to reassert himself as a prized lyricist, or at least remind all that while he strays occasionally, his feet remain firmly rooted in hardcore rap, and he does that conclusively in Highest. The nifty act he is, he serves the Afrobeat constituency a number of songs too: Overdose, Your Waist, Far Away, All Night.

 There may not be a “massive hit” on the album, at least judging by the rapper’s own standard, again, referring to such songs as You Go Kill Me, Pon The Ting, Adonai, RNS, Fa Sor Hor, and Gboza. All songs on there require repeated play to fully engage with and properly appreciate –which is how albums should be consumed anyway.

Regular collaborators Efya, Mugeez, and Akwaboah are absent on this Sarkodie album, and that is note-worthy as they have served as central sonic complements for him over time. Protégé Strongman Burner is also missing. Instead, Sarkodie experiments with Victoria Kimani, Moelogo, Praiz, Korede Bello, Jesse Jagz, Bobii Lewis among others. The result is impressive.

Highest is one for the grown man. It is not as vulnerable as Jay- Z’s 4:44 for instance, but it is personal enough — more personal than Sarkodie has ever been. Notice how closely he holds Titi to his heart on the cover, the earnest with which he beholds her perfect eyes. Observe how flagrantly he worships the many sides of wife Tracy, very carnally and most notably on Baby Mama (ft. Joey B). And indeed, the nuance with with he remembers his journey.

There are even deeper interiors he can venture, and we expect that of him with time. On this project though, Sarkodie proves that he’s unafraid to confront his very depths. He has it in him. And if you really think about it, he’s always possessed this trait.

*Highest is Sarkodie’s fifth album after Makye (2009), Rapperholic (2012), Sarkology (2014), and Mary (2015).

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