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REVIEW: Cloud 9 – Shatta Wale!

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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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Edem stirs up “hurricane” on new joint

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All hip-hop is a battlefield, and one’s ability to drill panic into his opponent’s knees is core to the game. A specialist in this regard; Edem’s unique style of executing this menace has always been a delight to watch —from the fence, that is. As an opponent though, it must be a nightmare. In fact, the Heyba man is so poised in his proficiency as lyrical Goliath that, these days, he directly taunts his rivals; “hello, hi rappers/ I make you no dey bed eh?” 

Indubitably, Edem has attained gold status, and with his upcoming fourth album, The African Answer, he looks to seal that reputation for good. Throughout his career, every time he has tendered a rap number, it has come with a tide. On his latest single, featuring rock Lads Dark Suburb, Jojo Abot, and Teephlow, he whips up —well —a “Hurricane!”

Produced by American rhythm dons, DJ Pain and Coptic, the joint dispenses another vicious experience. If —for some reason —anyone ever derided Edem’s choice of title for the album, Hurricane, like Mighty Jesus, its predecessor of six months, is the sort of evidence which silences you. Hurricane is centered on amplified electric guitar, intransigent drums, unsettling sampling, and an overall loudness that is essential to the fear factor, and sounds off with a bold declaration via a throaty roar: “we’re here to win, we’re here to stay!” —and if that is not enough, it is reiterated in a haunted hook by spirit child Jojo Abot:

Believe it or not, we’re here to win

Like it or not, we’re here to stay

Pull up on your block, no masquerade

It’s a hurricane, it’s a hurricane

The VRMG founder (born Denning Edem Hotor), while he has excelled at genres outside of hip-hop, has always retained a diligence to the rap form which nurtured him. That attentiveness, which is the mark of an exemplary student, has now made him a master, ensuring that he’s able to build upon it by infusing other elements to craft striking new models. The song is a hybrid of hip-hop and rock, accentuated by a unique, aboriginal vibe —therefore, works as a local staple, while still holding transnational appeal.

Pascal AKA –directed visuals which complement the number, also entrench Edem’s status as repository of premium music videos. Everything you can’t make out due to your inability to comprehend the “minority” dialect that is Ewe —which constitutes majority of Edem’s poetic expression —is ably translated via the expert hands of AKA (who heads the Breakthrough Studios in Accra); who also worked on visuals for Mighty Jesus. Alternating between jungle scenes irradiated by the golden hue generated by fire-eating men in the background, where both Edem and Abot appear most —to smoke-filled sets off which Dark Suburb’s guitar sections echo —to an all-white one on which an Off-White clad Teephlow recounts his music journey using clever puns and an incisive stream, AKA reenacts the themes in Hurricane immaculately. The video also sees GH rap bigwigs as Tinny and Gemini make cameo appearances.

Hurricane is also a convergence point for old and new. Not uncharacteristic of Edem in recent years, he lines up the brightest of burgeoning stars; feeding them energy from an experienced hand as he feeds off their green energies. He also name-drops “brothers” from his native Volta-land who are making waves: Kemenya, Kula, Keeny Ice, Agbeshie, Cano- Z, or as he puts it; “Number 9 army, Togbui Tsali soldiers, Agorkolii soldiers.” It is a tested method, if you want to remain relevant. By all means, innovate, experiment, adapt, or —well— die.  And in all your gettings, guar your originality. When you have grasped that balance, you too can declare, like he does in the song; “this be ma playing field/ this be my arena/ don’t try to test me, let me manifest/ wontomi engyina!”

At the same time, the song also serves an opportunity for guest acts to assert themselves as worthy— at this point, one way to tell if an artist has washed his hands well enough to dine with elders, is if they land a spot on an Edem record. All three guest acts on Hurricane arrive to the table with space-age greatness and alternative genius; possessing an unnerving mystery for wearing skull masks, and their steady success with alternative rock in a country as Ghana, the quintet have courted fear and admiration in equal measure, and have landed collaborations with A-listers as M.anifest, and E.L. An eccentric goddess, Jojo Abot is currently among Ghana’s prized music exports. Creating music across Afro-soul/Reggae and Afrobeat, the chanteuse —who hails from Ho in the Volta Region, and is author of the 2015 EP FYFYA WOTO —has performed at the world-famous Times Square (New York), toured with Ms. Lauryn Hill, and shared stages with Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth, Jesse J, and Demi Lovato, and in May 2017, headlined the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland alongside South African jazz great, the late Hugh Masekela.

Alumnus of of the ‘Next Big Thing in GH Hip-hop’ reality show, Teephlow is already acclaimed as a wordsmith. Earlier this year, his 2017 record, State of the Art, off his Flowducation EP, was named “Record of the Year” at the Ghana Music Awards. When he sets out on his verse 2 minutes 38 seconds on the joint, a new exuberance is instantly felt. This vim elevates steadily, and by the 4: 30 mark, it has exploded into real danger – a brisk jaw-dropping fit. Edem receives the baton back from his fellow Da’Hammer disciple, at a similar pace, and then guides it into Abot’s concluding hook —the exact four bars the mediocre lot will dread to hear. Going by Edem’s work since 2009, it will ring in their ears for a very, very long time.

 

Believe it or not, we’re here to win

Like it or not, we’re here to stay

Pull up on your block, no masquerade

It’s a hurricane, it’s a hurricane

 

*A multiple-award-winner, Edem is author of critically received albums as Volta Regime, Mass Production, and Books and Rhymes, as well as numerous singles including Ghetto Arise, Bra Fremi Fremi, Nyedzilo,Kpordawoe, Wicked and Bad, Gogaga, Fie Fuor, Power among others.
“The African Answer” is due for release this year.

Get Hurricane on iTunes

Artist: Edem ft Jojo Abot, TeePhlow & Dark Suburb

Song: Hurricane

Label & YearBrooklyn Bridge Ent / VRMG 2018

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REVIEW: A King’s PROMISE & THE Beauty of his ‘CCTV’

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A King Promise album, when it finally arrives, will be disruptive for sure – not the aggressive kind, but the sort of impact that is seamless –like seduction that precedes steamy amorous congress. How can one tell? By the artist’s own previous work; “Thank God”, “Oh Yeah”, “Hey Sexy”, “Selfish”. It is often a strong wind that announces a downpour, no?

Every record that LLE singer King Promise (Gregory Bortey Newman) has put out since he first tasted mainstream success in 2016, has been outstanding. Very few colleagues have equaled such a feat. That he’s a born showman cannot therefore, be up for debate.

And while he bears the specific 90s lover boy persona that attracts female admiration, Promise’s most prized (and vital) asset would be his voice; that exquisitely tidy apparatus through which he conveys his truths – intimate emotional experiences that are just as valid to the hearer. With “CCTV”, his latest offering and now most prominent song, he reiterates via the unique silky texture of his singing, the widespread assertion that he’s a leading name among the new generation of vocal specialists on Ghana’s airwaves. Evidently honed since childhood, the voice retains effortless R & B magic; a uniquely sublime method of sailing the specific octaves that house the deepest emotions. Man and voice have remained allies for a significant period, and have fashioned a technique so reliable that today, Promise can break into awe-inspiring acapella sessions amidst running the length of a stage during performances.

When he offers comfort; “so make you no cry oo, no cry oo, say ego be, make you still try oo”, adding that the grace of God is sufficient; or concludes Verse 1 (“Baba God dey for my side so no shegey”), one feels it in his own chest. Making music is a mysterious process — the artist is creating in private, but his work is meant for public consumption. The balance is always chancy, but honesty to one’s self is a good place to start. “CCTV”, like most truly abiding tunes, invades the listener’s inner nerves in a manner that is both shocking and comforting; because these are not unfamiliar sentiments, but again, they address the consumer’s battles which have yet to be named out loud to anyone. “How did the singer know I am battling such and such?,” you find yourself wondering. Ultimately, that’s how you know we’re all connected beyond our skin tones and last names. The song is therapy for both its creator and user: “make you do your best/ Use your sense/I shun the stress since I put God first, chale.”

A two – edged blade, Promise navigates inspirational themes as effectively as he treats love stories. In both spheres, a commanding vocal spirit is the core criterion. Promise meets this, thus, evidently, is recipient of constant glowing feedback both for a “Thank God” here, and a “Selfish” there. Two – edged blade.

Production-wise, “CCTV” retains churchy piano, violin and xylofon placements targeted a influencing mood deeply, as well as victorious drums and claps which recall a gentle kind of jama. It discharges a faith that is not desperate – the kind of confidence ensured only in the shadows of the Most High.

The singer’s regular creative sidekick, Killbeatz (who programmed “CCTV”), is a living legend – evidence of his competence as a maker of hit records litters radio locally and across international markets. Sarkodie, Kuami Eugene, Ed Sheeran, Fuse ODG, R2Bees, WizKid among other Afrobeats influencers have all benefited from his wizardry. Indeed, Killbeatz (born Joseph Addison) is a major player in branding Tema as a melody headquarters. He’s also sensei at marrying the party and the temple — his most prominent references would be R2Bees’ “Life” (2012), and his own “Bokoor” (2016); which are tenable to dance as they are apt for spiritual reflection.

Lyrically, King Promise has always stuck to simplicity, confident in it, is psychological puissance. He has shone there, creating instantaneous sing-alongs that also radiate elegance. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, pontificates Da Vinci. Light-years on, singers like King Promise continue to vindicate him.

The apogee of “CCTV” — and this is not a comment on Promise’s delivery, which is flawless anyway — may have come from elsewhere though; specifically, how (unsurprisingly) well Mugeez’s hook-making gift comes to play. The singer – half of Afrobeats duo, R2Bees, is respected for his genius with the great chorus. That flair is displayed on the joint, with the naturalness that is the result of being born with a talent, rather than having to learn it. Sarkodie sprays an inspirational guest verse, with the precise wit which has made him an African superstar, to complete the joint.

Promise’s game plan coming into the industry was not to detonate abrupt hits — it was to win his way into the hearts of music lovers in a style that was deliberate and unrushed, so that, now, an organic trust has been fostered, and trending on YouTube for an entire month, and racking up a million views in that period, feels like the natural order of things.

“CCTV” became a hit the very second it was published. It is the song we had been waiting for, for though it deviates from popular subject matters of amour and boogie (the trusted formula for radio success everywhere), it speaks to a prevailing, albeit overlooked situation: we may dance to music of flamboyant instrumentation and smile at overused lines which characterize Casanova pitches, but we cannot also be starved of motivational spiels as are packaged in the song. That it was instantly latched unto like ticks on a preferred host, is incontrovertible proof. To be able to gauge social temperature this accurately, and meet it with such a masterpiece, is telling on the value of Promise’s craft.

Buy “CCTV” by King Promise on iTunes

Artist: King Promise ft. Mugeez, Sarkodie
Song: CCTV
Label, Year: Legacy Life Entertainment, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wiz (Kid)’s embrace for a RESCUE MISSION & a Patapeezy ‘Skelenke’ night of fun – 8th Ghana Meets Naija – A REVIEW

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“Ghana, I have a big surprise for you tonight”, announced headliner WizKid, midway through his explosive Ghana Meets Naija set over the weekend. The crowd, 15, 000 strong, was expectant. The euphoria with which his “second coming” had been greeted (his first appearance was in 2013), remained at a sternum-rattling decibel.

“Yo E, bring down the lights”, he continued, panting. “Ghana, I have my brother with me tonight. Make some noise for the dancehall king!” If one thought the noise at the Fantasy Dome in Accra couldn’t get any louder, one was terribly wrong. Shatta Wale, of whom Wizkid spoke, is mayor of the city, and like Jesus Christ, his entry is always triumphant. Donning a red tracksuit, his hair bleached, the controversial singer charged unto the stage, and headed straight into the waiting arms of WizKid for a brotherly embrace. Wale went on to perform two of his most notable hits recently; “Freedom”, and “Gringo”. He also called Wizkid his “fucking blood”, which, in regular English, means “brother”. It was pure chaos.

The gesture was a key highlight of the concert, and marked the deflation of any fracas that existed between them –a situation which had been sparked by Wale’s November 2017 comment, that he did not perceive the “Ojuelegba” singer to be a superstar. The remark, when it was made, had generated friction between the two West African nations; while some perceived Wale’s statement a legitimate posture by an artist confident in his craft, others called it blasphemy, emphasising that on the African continent, WizKid remains unrivalled.

It is instructive that their “reunion” happened on at Ghana Meets Naija particularly. For eight years running, the show has served as grounds to play out sibling competitiveness that has existed between both nations for as long as can be remembered. Put together by Bola Ray’s Empire, the concert is among the most significant on Africa’s music calendar. A major proving ground for anybody who is “anybody”, the show has been mounted by top musicians including Davido, Tiwa Savage, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Naeto C, Don Jazzy’s MAVIN crew, Falz and a host of others.

Because of his clout today, WizKid is not only aeronaut of the African sound, but also an influential unifying force. Like his forbear, 2Baba, his running message for a long time has been this: “one Africa, one love”. And though he’s been a darling of Ghanaian music lovers since the start of his career in 2011, bringing out Shatta Wale during his performance, endears the Surulere native deeper in the hearts of Ghanaians.

There’s a disparity between “best” and “favourite”. WizKid’s claim to the first adjective may be contested, but there’s hardly any question about his legitimacy as the second. Often, while performing, he would boast; “the problem is, WizKid got too many hits”. It’s founded, because very few colleagues have as many everlasting anthems in their catalogue. And when an artist has solidified his foundation in this manner, everything else falls in place. WizKid’s stagecraft is effortless, and the charming smile that vivified his face proved how much honest fun he was having. The man is loved! Every few seconds, a zealous fan would slip past the many muscled men who constituted WizKid’s onstage security, if only to touch the helm of his garment (a neat white sweater on whose chest the letter “A” was carried by a red heart symbol, over blue denims).

Fans charged to the stage to party with their idol.

Save for Ghana’s Patapaa, who earned widespread praise for his “man of the match” performance, no other act was ceiling -shattering  as anticipated –perhaps due to the sound challenges; perhaps, due to how long the event dragged (it ended at 4 am, June 10). Best known for his 2017 breakout single, “One Corner”, Patapaa’s big night was heralded by appellations from an eloquent young girl clad in colorful kente and traditional regalia. Via songs as “Kumchacha”, “One Perma”, “That Thing”, “Akwaaba” among others, spirited dance moves, and the determination of a warrior, the man also known as Patapeezy, left a lot of head scratching among his skeptics. Many brushed Patapaa off as a flash in the pan, certain that after “One Corner”, his talents were incapable of securing him permanence in the music industry. When he lost out on “Most Popular Song of the Year at the Ghana Music Awards months ago, it was expected to dispatch him into oblivion – but no – it turned out to be momentum for him; a momentum that has seen him appear on works on established colleagues as Medikal, Guilty Beatz, Article Wan, Shatta Wale, and FlowKing Stone. His thrilling set brings the following proverb to mind: “the stone the builders rejected became the head cornerstone”.

Patapaa earned widespread praise after for his “man of the match” performance

In the final analysis, the Fantasy Dome did witness a party for sure – a solid lineup as the one that was paraded on the night, would guarantee that; Mayorkun, Dice Ailes, Mr Eazi, Fancy Gadam, Stonebwoy, Yaa Pono, Kuami Eugene, TIC, KiDi, Kurl Songx, Sista Afia, NanaYaa, Wisa, KME, Asamoah Gyan, Tiwa Savage, King Promise, Mugeez, etc. The ultimate African playlist was on rotation, and it was a sumptuous buffet. DJ Nii Ayi Tagoe, DJ K Crakk, DJ Vyrusky, and Vision DJ were also efficient in holding the crowd; with timely interludes or as sidekicks for performing acts.

Without question, West Africa commands African melody. Led by Ghana and Nigeria, the sub-region enjoys a shared musical spice and ancestry, thus, bears a sonic sameness that has birthed numerous collaborations between these countries.

At this point, the franchise is bigger, and has become an African affair. At this edition, themed the “rescue mission”, the show welcomed Gambian acts signed to Sierra Leonean record label Kabaka Multimedia and Entertainment (KME). A UK leg was also recently held, and organizers have announced European editions in coming months. WizKid maintains that the continent is home to musical gold, however, the quest to become a strong global force must be done on the back of an African agenda. “Together we push”, he reiterated at the show which is indispensable in the attainment of the goal of world dominance.

This year, the show welcomed Gambian acts signed to KME.

To musicians the continent over, Accra is a second home – testament of Ghana’s identity as a hospitality hub. The nation, while it holds firm its musical identity, is also welcoming of “sounds from the other side”. It has constantly served as a solid peripheral support base for many acts on the continent, and a bonding agent for music lovers across Africa. This solidarity is best witnessed at Ghana Meets Naija, on which, lifting a finger above his head, WizKid proclaimed: “one love to Ghana, one love to Nigeria. Africans, we are one”.

Sponsors of Ghana Meets Naija 2018 include Kasapreko Alomo Gold and Storm Energy Drink, Allied Oil, Somoco Ghana Ltd, Nasco Mobile, Kirusa, Point and Play, Rova Surveillance, Dame lashes, Pernod Ricard, Tang Palace, Fix Consult, EIB Network (Starr FM, Live FM, Gh One TV, Kasapa FM, Empire FM, Ultimate FM, Abusua FM), Graphic Showbiz,  Y FM, Aftown Music, Muse Africa, Ghana Music.com, West Hills Mall, Achimota Retail Centre, Accra Mall, and Timepiece Gh.

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Father (Obrafour) & Son (Sarkodie) take on ‘Moesha’ IN NEW SONG – LISTEN

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The Obrafour/Sarkodie collaboration is the most looked-forward to in this town –it has been the case for years. The reason is simple: aside being artistic livewires by themselves, their partnerships perennially prove to be cornerstone material. Typically, motivational spiels on humanity, these records often function as timely vehicles for sober retrospection and soul-searching.

Within a spate of weeks, we have been served two more mighty joints from the pair; Brighter Day –that moving number Sarkodie premiered at the 2018 VGMAs, and now, Moesha which, going by the title alone, appears to be commentary on actress Moesha Boduong’s controversial CNN confessions.

Actress Moesha Boding admitted to CNN’s Christine Amanpour in a recent interview, that she sleeps with a married man to support her lifestyle. The statement generated severe backlash from many Ghanaians, who found the statement unfortunate and embarrassing.

Like Brighter Day, Moesha is produced by JMJ (most famed for his work with Samini, and Kaakie), and so boasts of airtight production that only a veteran can offer. However, whereas Brighter Day expounds the need to identify the blessing in every situation, the latter grieves a hasty love decision –Moesha, with whom the narrator used to share romantic affection, but whom he has left for flimsy reasons, must be won back urgently, as leaving her has turned out to be a costly mistake. All sections of the song capture the desperate honesty that is the feature of all heartfelt remorse:

“We’ve broken up longtime ago

Still can’t believe why I let you go

It was a mistake but now I know”

While they appear prosaic, these words, which constitute Obrafour’s first words in the song, promptly strike uncomfortable nostalgia within the listener who, very likely has thought these words at some point in their life. The purpose of all great songwriting is to awaken emotion, and for as long as the rapper has done music actively, that box has been ticked. Writing for highlife –the genre to which the record leans –is tricky business: one is tasked with the delicate goal of inspiring dance and deep thought concurrently. Again, Obrafour is one of a handful of recording artists who check this box. His entire account on Moesha –his sensitive verses and hook (which see him blend slickly, the English language and his native Twi), portray a master storyteller at work. Often, actual mood is heard, not in words, but in the voice through which they are carried. Obrafour excels here too –for his aching voice suits supplication perfectly. That same voice has, for decades, served as a trusted instrument for social commentary.

Sarkodie’s voice too, has assumed archetypal familiarity due to his leadership in GH rap this past decade. Few contemporary rhymers have to their credit, as many notable verses as Sarkodie — a clear testament to his current stature in the genre. His technique is riveting, and his style the subject of imitation by many an upcoming rapper. How he has kept his place at the apex regardless, is one for his biographers. On Moesha, much like on stuff he has published previously, his voice is not merely heard, but also felt intensely. These days, Sarkodie’s narrative procedure is criticized as “cliché”, but every artist must have vocal identity, and truthfully, were other rappers to have published as much content as Sarkodie has put out, their style too would bear a similar tag.

Representing significant phases of the Hiplife arc (Obrafour as forebear and language guru, Sarkodie as icon of modern glory), the rappers share genuine mutual respect for each other’s artistry, and their unique creative chemistry has been crowned with habitual masterpieces.

At first, Moesha looks like a marketing gimmick, but this is Obrafour, who has never required to latch unto a trending issue to remain relevant, more so at this point in his career, when his legacy is firmly in place. Indeed, when artwork for the record was released days ago, it was widely anticipated to be obvious commentary on the actress. Clearly, we thought wrong.

“Now I know your love was so divine

Wish I go fit reverse the hand of time

Don’t know what to do to bring you back”

But maybe the song is indeed about Moesha after all. Sometimes, the best way to address something is to navigate it through other things. Obrafour is a lyrical mastermind; a clever old man who has frequently stirred social action with his music. Genius resides in his DNA, which is why the following theories, however wild, are worth considering: (a); backlash which followed the socialite’s CNN comments was so intense that she reportedly was afraid to return to Ghana. Listeners will most likely come to the song with a set of negative preconceptions, but the tune, by the time it plays fully, portrays “Moesha” in a rather positive light; courting for her, ample empathy. The song doesn’t immediately repair her public image, but it definitely sets her on that path. It could be subtle reference to the adage that when your child excretes unto your thigh, severing that body part is extreme, (b); the song reechoes Ms. Boduong’s apology to Ghanafo (which seemed to have done little to restore her in the people’s good graces) – the song’s title serving as a crafty metaphor for the country, the remorseful men, Moesha on her begging knees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GRINGO Vs. The Republic of Opinions, Only one Sheriff matters… HE is EL Shatta

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“Now this story begins in a small town, in the ass crack of nowhere. A mining town of yonder, on the edge of the frontier. A land of crooks, villains, gamblers, drunks and wild women. Even in this crazy old town, there has to be some sort of law and order…”

While one group, after seeing Shatta Wale’s new visual offering, hails it as an unprecedented display of creative valor, making it the most iconic submission by a Ghanaian musician in a long time, another, a more cynical faction, simply can’t fathom the fuss, and deems the work as exclusively an ostentatious picture of contradictions.

Whichever standpoint you take on the Gringo debate, the talkability that it has commanded upon release, is massive. And seeing that it is in Wale’s nature to fester daily debate, more so ahead of a new album, it has proven wildly successful. It currently sits atop both iTunes charts and the YouTube index.

Directed by the famed Sesan Ogunro (who also shot the singer’s Bulletproof, among other works for other top GH acts), the 7-minute video/ short film complements Gringo, the first single off the dancehall firebrand’s forthcoming The Reign album. It is also his first major release since joining new creative powerhouse, ZYLOFON Music. Clearly this wasn’t just another release, hence the pomp that has characterised both its making and eventual release.

“Now here’s something you don’t see everyday. Who do we have here? A wandering stranger. Skin’s dark as night. Clad in the finest of silk, gold, and cotton. Is he lost? Whoever this ombré is, he sure ain’t here to ask for directions”.

 

The Shatta Factor:

Since the turn of this decade, Shatta Wale, who is known to his mother as Charles Nii Armah Mensah, has remained at the heart of the GH showbiz discussion. A combination of factors has ensured his perpetual residence on tabloids in these parts; for one thing, he has been a core contributor to what songs truly move Accra.

On Don’t Try, a scorching 2016 warning to whomever  it concerns, he roars: “we dey drop hit song each and every year”. At the time he made that claim, he had amassed an extensive catalogue to back it up, and his infinite penchant to unleash street anthems with little effort, continue to corroborate him as prophet, for he is what one may call “a hit factory”. For another, he is bearer of an abrasive fearlessness which knows no bounds. Many of his actions as a result, because they stir controversy, have kept him newsworthy. Thirdly, his fierce charisma has courted for him, a mammoth constituency of disciples. It takes something to be Shatta Wale.

Now, on any other day, folks would get on about their business, but you see, this ain’t just another day.

 

ZYLOFON Vrs. Cultural Imposition

The ZYLOFON approach has always meant a bigger budget, and so though official numbers have yet to be published, it shows in the video –the ample financial dollar on which the work is founded.

Again, the ZYLOFON approach, as has been pontificated to us all along, is one of cultural imposition; Ghana has so much wealth in terms of craft and culture. For a long time, the rest of the world had tasted it in little doses, but this was a new dawn; and they were going to be inundated by it. And yet, it is difficult to identify anything relating to this theme in the highly-publicized work – not in the song, not in the video, which was shot in Texas, USA. If anything at all, the reverse it what appears to be happening –Shatta Wale rather seems enamoured by, and is keen on perpetuating the cowboy culture. And that causes great unease. But hey, he made country folk sway to dancehall music. That’s something.

And so here we are. Sundown. There can only be one big dog around these parts, and as the saying goes, every good thing must come to an end. I guess bad things come to an end too.

 

Song Vrs Video:

Gringo is set in Smalltown (1886), on the edge of the frontier. EL Shatta, played by the dancehall firebrand, having won the heart of Jasmine, the beautiful girlfriend of the dreaded Snake Eye (sheriff of the land) fights to defend his love and honor. Insofar as it captures Shatta Wale’s heroism, the work is well-made. The remarkable journey of an outlier who, against all odds, swoops in fearlessly to challenge the status-quo, and prevails, is rendered compellingly via powerfully rich narration, arresting cinematography, and immaculate post-production. That it doesn’t really do justice to the song is for another paragraph.

The school that holds that the video conflicts with the song, presents a solid argument: the song loiters about many themes which are hard to piece together: approved apparel for a “bad man”, how far into the womb a good penis should reach, rapper Cardi B’s luscious body, why Shatta’s crew is the talk of town, who is custodian of the best marijuana, bleaching, domestic violence…On the song, he hollers at one Gringo; in the video, he turns out to be the Gringo (which translates from Spanish as “stranger”). It sounds like Shatta was led by rhyme and not much else, for the dissonance couldn’t be more glaring, and real substance is lost on the consumer.

 

Peculiar reticence to music videos:

Typically, Shatta Wale would rather release music than focus on publishing a video. The streets don’t demand much…just the download link to the song. Because he’s modelled his career on street love, music videos have never been the priority. It is apparent in how many of his hits cannot boast of fitting accompanying visuals, or visuals at all. Indeed, sources close to the singer, divulge that he only recently got purged of his curious reticence towards publishing music videos. And so, one may even say he deserves some accolades for releasing as many music videos as he did last year, for instance.

In a way, Wale does have a point; a good song needs not a video to sell, and examples abound to back this assertion. But when a musician gets to the heights that he has, a music video –a great music video — becomes fundamental. And if it arrives as anything less than the quality expected of an A -list name, then backlash is close by.

Shatta Wale hardly gets enough plaudits for what a mastermind he is with (self) promotion, and how versed he’s demonstrated to be over the years, in the dynamics of branding. If a music video is now a prerequisite, it will be done only on his terms. More likely than not, the brouhaha surrounding the video to Gringo was all deliberately planned, and in a boardroom somewhere at East Legon, team members are popping expensive champagne, laughing and congratulating one another for such a genius plan.

 

Shelf life

Artistically, a video does so much for a song/ album in terms of determining its overall tone, and even serving as an extension of the work. David Nicol – Sey’s work on the first couple of videos off Sarkodie’s Highest is testament to this. Sey’s videos were excellent in packaging the overall feel of the project. It is unclear that Gringo does same for The Reign, aside making it showbiz fodder. Again, time will tell.

But Gringo will fly, solely because it relates to Shatta Wale, and as an artist, he complies by no rule. Again, the Shatta demographic consists no pushovers. They will find a way to seize mainstream buzz. However, as his best foot forward regarding The Reign, it is unconvincing, especially going by the singer’s own standards. After the Storm, his last album, followed a plethora of explosive singles (Mahama Paper, Baby Chop Kiss, Kakai, Hol It, Kill Dem Wif Prayers, Bie Gya, If I Collect, Dancehall King). The same cannot be said about The Reign, which remains very much a mystery at this point. Perhaps this new approach has made all the difference, and posterity will prove Gringo’s merit, and by extension, The Reign‘s.

As one story ends, another begins. Who is this strange cowboy? Whoever he is, he will never be forgotten.

 

Cast:

Shatta Wale

Jade Flury

Dennis Allyn

Chad Thackston

Leoard Lay

Woody Willson

Christopher L. Winbush

Matt Williams

Patsy Deleon

Michael Dominey

Mike Alavardo

Sandra Baskin

Cynthia S. Dire

Vicky Dempsey Burns

Weldon Ovliver

Jason Campbell

Aimee Michelle

Christopher Mills

Charlie Motz

Lauren Cook

Tara Davies

Linda Jo Dominey

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Hail Mufasa, FULL of Grace, Everlasting King – CASSPER Nyovest – AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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MUFASA [noun]: king!

Of Swahili origin, the word feels like thunder. It implies exemplary leadership, and assumed global prominence via the 1994 Disney classic, The Lion King. These days, it’s also an alter-ego that South African hip-hop titan, Cassper Nyovest, functions under.

When, in 2004, he sought his parent’s blessings to drop out of school to pursue music fulltime, it was a heavy blow to them. His father, Latsebela Phoolo, for one, was a renowned teacher in the town –and it was not a good look. The house was not exactly thrilled. But 16-year-old Nyovest (whom they named Refiloe Maele Poolo) was resolute in his ambition: “…I’d rather chase my dream, which I believe is going to work out, than keeping it safe and regret it my whole life,” he had told them.

Today, at 27, the rapper is in every way, Mufasa – emperor of African hip-hop, a multi-platinum selling act who has shared stages with the very greats, and is famous for regularly drawing multitudes to his concerts, including a record-shattering 68, 000 fans at the First National Bank (FNB) Stadium, Johannesburg last December.

Today, at 27, the rapper is in every way, Mufasa. Images: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST


STARR FM, Meridian House – Accra.

A young photographer rushes into the studios first, holding a black camera with both hands. Nimbly, he pans the shooting device around the room. Starr Drive host Giovanni Caleb, is blending pop tunes behind a console, and co-host Berla Mundi’s eyes are glued to the screen of her MacBook.

The camera’s lens returns to the glass door through which it’s handler has just walked.

Enter Cassper, leader of the force!

He is followed by an entourage of four, and holds an iPhone to his face. Handshakes and felicitations bounce around in the room. Before he sits down in the sofa by the wall, Cassper takes several selfies and, alongside a picture of the Starr FM logo on the purple wall, he tweets: “Ghana tune in!!! We here!!! STARR FM!!! 103.5!!! 

Cassper in the studios of Starr FM, Accra. Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Accra is clearly home to the Mafikeng native just as much. Notice the calm liberty in his gait, and the overall peace in his demeanor. He sports a full beard, and sparkly jewelry hang from his neck, out his ears and left nostril, and on both wrists. But for the black sunglasses behind which his eyes are hidden this afternoon, his colour of choice is pink. His t-shirt is bereft of sleeves, and his majestic biceps are on full display. His shorts end at the knees, and his feet are covered in trendy white trainers. He’s just climbed up the Meridian House for a radio interview, but he could well be going to the gym.

When Ed Sheran’s “Shape of You” comes on, he nods and sings along ardently. He’s deeply impressed by the mix, and his face contorts into one of intense passion when he yells to Giovanni over the loud music: “Is that you doing the mix?”. Giovanni smiles and nods in the affirmative. “That’s sick bro!” says Cassper (who also constantly uses urban jargons “lit” and “dope”), shaking his head in awe.

Due to time constrains, my conversation with the rapper, which happens over a fleeting ten minutes, but which he describes as “dope” nonetheless, takes place right in the Starr FM studios, during a lengthy musical break, contrary to a nearby restaurant we had earlier scheduled it.

 The rapper’s motives for visiting these parts are simple: “to check out the scene, spread the name, record some music…”. But, in 2018, what is the evidence that one’s trip to Shatta Wale’s Ghana has truly been worthwhile? He must perform the “One Corner Dance”, submit positive judgment on Jollof from this town, and experience Shatta heat simply for calling someone else his favorite dancehall singer. Before he flies out to Uganda on Thursday for the Full Moon Party, Cassper undergoes all these rites. Therefore, he was here some!

The alias Mufasa, more than aptly defines the rapper’s stature in African hip-hop, especially over the past few years. For one thing, it is testament of how steadily and imposingly he has proven himself in the ranks of African hip-hop. If anyone still harbors misgivings on why his name is so frequent in discourse about the continent’s biggest rap exports, here are one or two facts: all three albums he’s published have gone platinum; he’s been honored nearly 40 times by a plethora of high-profile schemes (Channel O Music Video Awards, MTV Africa Music Awards, South Africa Music Awards, SA Hip-hop Awards, All Africa Music Awards – AFRIMA, Urban Music People Awards, etc); topped many “Best MC’ lists, collaborated with culture elders as The Game, Talib Kweli, MI Abaga, Kwesta, HHP, DJ Drama, Black Thought among others; and filled up arenas where pop giants as Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Chris Brown, and Trey Songz have all fallen short.

“I felt like I was in the position to…kind of…lead in African hip-hop,” says Cassper about his decision to adopt Mufasa as alias, and there’s no debate there. Easily the fastest –rising act South Africa has ever witnessed, Cassper’s feats have yet to be matched.

Easily the fastest-rising act South Africa has ever witnessed, Cassper’s feats have yet to be matched. Images: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Family!

Like the character in the Disney film, the rap Mufasa holds his household very dear. Two of his albums: Tsolofelo (2014), and Thuto (2017) were named after his sisters, and his family has constantly been the subject of his songs. When anyone has made unsavory comments about his kinfolk, they have had to face legal action for instance, because he’s always held that his family functions as his backbone, and will be respected. The man even christened his record label Family Tree.

“Family means everything to me. I’m family-oriented. Also, my blessings, I believe, come from the prayers my family send up [to heaven]. My family has made a lot of sacrifices for me to get to where I am… and t’s just my support structure. I live with my sisters. My mum is also practically at my house all the time, so I come from a very loving family”.

He divulges, with genteel pride, that his grandmother, at a point, had not less than 26 people living under her roof – something that has influenced his culture of having a large family around. Indeed, he also admits that, for his FNB gig, he was willing to part with everything (including his cars, and resort to taxi service, Uber) to make the concert happen, but could not bring himself to letting his house go – not just because it was a beautiful place, but more importantly, because of who inhabits it – his family.

FAMILY! Image: Mzansi Stories

It is Possible!

Hip-hop portrays a precise story: the journey from penury to opulence. It is perhaps, why the philosophy of trophies is so dominant in the culture. Whether they are plaques, or jewelry, or cars, or record sales, they represent a redemption. For the teenager who nurses faith in a better tomorrow, the aggressive profligacy displayed in the lyrics and music videos resonate with him in a peculiar way.  “It is possible! My life will not always be like this”, he would assure himself with a sigh and a smile. Young Cassper experienced these exact thoughts: “I grew up loving cars and stuff…”

“I grew up loving cars and stuff…” Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

It’s Bigger Than Hip-hop! 

By all means, supercars are a significant accomplishment. But having finally achieved all these, he would realize that higher desires existed in this life, such as the need to shift culture: I got to a point [where] I still enjoy having sports cars and whatever, but they don’t mean as much to me anymore”.

Rather, he deems them as investments. It is why he didn’t hesitate in putting his cars up for sale for the FNB show:

“At that moment, my dream meant more than having a car…you know what I’m saying? Having a car doesn’t mean anything when the stadium is empty, or you don’t have [the] exact stage that you wanted to have, and you don’t give people the experience that you wanted to give them…so, I would [rather] do without everything I didn’t need to make sure that this dream comes true”.

 Again, the FNB gesture was to prove how seriously he takes his craft, and the influence that it has accorded him, “… to show people that I’m all in – and I needed them to be all in as well. I’m not half-stepping”.

“I wanted to’ to show people that I’m all in – and I needed them to be all in as well. I’m not half-stepping.” Cassper performs to 68,000 at the FNB Stadium (Johannesburg) in December, 2017.  Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

 Also known as Soccer City or The Calabash, the FNB is the largest stadium in Africa. Casper’s bid to fill it was the boldest attempt by any SA musician. Just 7000 shy of the 75, 000 target, the numbers were still an iconic milestone, swiftly catapulting the show unto global headlines. But what did it mean to Mr. Nyovest himself?

 “It was important for me as an African in general. When you break it down to me firstly being a South African, then me being a South African Hip-hop artist, and then being an independent South African hip-hop artist, then it becomes too personal. But for me, it was really more about just being an African and making headlines all around the world about what happened in Africa last night”.

 “…it felt good for me to make news as an African for the good reasons –cuz we’re always in the news for …you know what I’m saying…corruption, poverty, and all that stuff that’s going in our continent, so it was just dope to be in the news for some dope stuff.”

At this point in his career, filling up stadiums has become normal. This year, he intends to take the series to the 85 000 capacity Moses Mabhida stadium, Durban. Fearless ambition has ensured that the man is ahead of the pack by quite a stretch.

At this point in his career, filling up stadiums has become normal. Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Cassper is not only music overlord of the “rainbow nation”. His inroads elsewhere are also noteworthy. For example, he has performed in more African countries than any other rapper, and this year will see him consolidate his impact on the continent. Indeed, his trip to Ghana is in this direction.

Rap virtually requires an arrogance from its practitioners. It’s about mounting your flag and defending it with every drop of your blood. And yet, at its very core is respect for the efforts of other worthy soldiers in the game. This is a key element to his solid footing as a leading name in rap circles. He does not hide his admiration for fellow African acts who are excelling too, because he subscribes to the notion that everyone is king in their land. “The best thing to do is collaborate […] it’s all about growing together as Africans, and building each other…”, he suggests –so that, a time will come when he will be able to sell out venues in Ghana, and colleague Sarkodie for instance, can do same in South Africa. It’s bigger than hip-hop.

Often, the man a person becomes is homage to the man who raised him. Specifically, in this regard, Cassper’s dad is Superman. Image: Instagram/ CASSPER NYOVEST

Superman!

Often, the man a person becomes is homage to the man who raised him. Specifically, in this regard, Cassper’s dad is Superman.

“My father is a great man cuz he made a lot of great people. He was a teacher. So, my father was never like a successful businessman, but he taught successful businessmen. There are so many people that came from him…from his teachings. I’m one of them…my popularity mostly comes from my humility, and that’s what I learned from my dad, so I’m a product of my father”, Cassper relates about his dad.

The way he closes this glowing homage, one gets the impression that Latsebela Phoolo is not merely a name, but a title too: “his name is Latsebela Phoolo!”.

Full Circle!

Cassper’s mum, Mme Muzuki Phoolo, calls him “messiah” now.  And why not? His career thus far is proof of what a powerful visionary he was, even at 16. The decision to allow young Refiloe to chase his dreams has paid off richly.

“It’s overwhelming for my mum to put me on such a high pedestal and to motivate me in such a way, especially with Bible scriptures …because she’s such a great person, and such a wise person. So, anything that my mum could say that shows that she’s proud of me really makes me proud …it makes me feel good about myself and the steps that I’ve taken. Because, also, I come from a point where my parents were not really happy about me dropping out of school, so the fact that they’re happy about how my life turned out is really dope”.

With our dialogue over, Cassper walks up to one of the swivel chairs, across the massive table from Giovanni. He wears one of the large headphones, and before he sits to engage Accra, he does a minute of the famous Shaku Shaku dance, a recent pop invention by Nigeria’s Olamide. Guy’s got moves, too.

All hail the Mufasa.

* A multiple-award-winning musician, producer, and businessman, Cassper is CEO of Family Tree Records, his independent imprint. At the forthcoming Vodafone- sponsored Ghana Music Awards, he has ben nominated alongside Davido, Wizkid, Toofan, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, Tiwa Savage, and Olamide for “Best African Artiste of the Year”. Get Thuto, his latest album here.

Cassper reunites with Stonebwoy while in Ghana for a follow -up to their 2015 joint, “Fever”. Image: Instagram/ Cassper Nyovest

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