“You think you walking on this path alone? You think everything you do is by yourself? Oh no! You best give all glory to God…Jesus Christ, our lord and savior. He walks with us all now. Talk to me now” blurts an animated preacher to all within the sound of his voice.
Directed by Pascal AKA, the accompanying video for Mighty Jesus, Edem’s latest joint, is characterized by astonishing quality. It is set in a large church with beaming choristers in long robes, practiced hands guiding bows up and down violin strings, a hundred lit candles outlining a crucifix-shaped white isle on the floor, as well as other striking artistic and cultural placements depicting the victory of God over evil.
Four seconds shy of four minutes, the video, off his forthcoming fourth album The African Answer, is rendered entirely in black and white, and adds to a radiant collection of visuals with which the rapper (born Denning Edem Hotor and previously trading by the stage name “Ayigbe Edem”) continually distinguishes himself as a worthy name to be associated with poetry and melody. Since his breakout single Bougez (You Dey Craze), the Dzodze native has methodically cemented himself in hiplife/hip-hop circles – and Ghanaian music in general – as a true revolutionary. The 2009 video opens with a powerful pronouncement: “Hiplife is back…”. That statement was indisputable then as it is now, for Edem was anointed by the one outfit possessing the audacity to make a pronouncement thus: the Last Two Music Group. Headed by veteran producer Da’ Hammer (whose work on Obrafour’s Pae Mu Ka album a decade prior has yet to be matched), the imprint is responsible for the careers of majority of reputable hiplife acts the country has seen. And over the years, Edem has lived up to the billing, serving as easily the Volta’s most influential name in music.
Mighty Jesus, like The One, or Heyba, is superb in how it embodies Edem’s identity and creative outlook. Though influenced by elements from without (including Caribbean tempos and code-switching lingua) the VRMG front man has remained genuine to his ancestry – always ensuring that he leaves traces of his heritage in his craft. Be it in language, rhythm, or via visual representation, Edem has permanently exhibited a commitment to his uniqueness.
Church, did you know the Lord is undefeated? One million and o, one billion and o, infinity and o. Can’t nobody stop Him, so don’t you dare try. You better testify…
With the not so mainstream medium that is the Ewe language, the Koene man has remained resolute in his goals, dispatching the Ghanaian mission blamelessly, and now setting his sights on proving himself as “the African answer”. Hip-hop across the continent is currently at a dicey phase in history: on one hand, it remains popular despite the global annexation of Afrobeats/Afropop. Sarkodie, Olamide, AKA, Kaligraph Jones, Nasty C, M.anifest, (fundamentally hip-hop brands), rank among highly sought-after acts from the continent. South African rapper Cassper Nyovest has, since 2015, filled up stadiums across the country – the latest being his monumental concert at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. Drawing close to 70,000 hip-hop disciples to the arena, it becomes the biggest ever witnessed in the nation, even beating numbers recorded by American superstars Rihanna and Justin Bieber during their dates in SA.
On the other hand, elders in the game (most prominently, Nigerian rapper Jude “MI” Abaga) have registered their displeasure at the ethic of many a contemporary Nigerian rapper. In You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives, MI laments that he, in the twilight of his career, must return periodically to sanitize the terrain as the younger generation is doing a poor job at upholding hip-hop’s true essence. Nigeria is an essential contributor to music on the continent. That, coupled with MI’s influence over the genre in Africa, makes his sentiments on You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives impossible to gloss over.
There requires someone who will restore in the likes of MI, faith that African hip-hop is safe. That is why Mighty Jesus, and indeed The African Answer, are so timely. Produced by American hip-hop doyen Coptic, the song is a blistering way to kick this new phase of his career off. Mighty Jesus sees Edem (as usual) display finesse and balance expected only of masters in navigating their environment. Founded on church organs, violins, a militant drum pattern, and passionate melody of an electric guitar toward the end, the arrangement is speckled intermittently with arresting cries of “Mighty Jesus”.
Hip-hop is defined by nerve. At the same time, it is guided by sincerity. Nerve to stake your claim as the very best, and sincerity to admit that you depend on a higher force. Hip-hop requires that you show yourself as a titan, but also to admit to your vulnerabilities. Pascal AKA conveys this compellingly in the scene in which a mother clutches desperately to her baby, afraid of fiends waiting to strike, but who are obstructed by the protective screen that shields her.
I feel the electricity right now, cause the electricity is coming from the only power source that I know…the only battery in my back – Jesus Christ.
Since Bougez, and though he gets little credit for it, Edem has portrayed superior tact, and proven a true visionary regarding whom he assembles for his songs. Having chalked massive underground success via witty fast-paced freestyles, Sarkodie needed a joint to properly introduce him to the mainstream. Bougez is practically the song that opened the doors for the SarkCess CEO. Another record, Oleey, is a principal reference in arguing that Gemini ranks among prized lyricists of his generation. Also featuring Sarkodie, the song portrays GH rap at its finest. The trio stun the listener not only by the dizzying pace of their rap, but by the content of their verses too. Both Oleey and Bougez rest comfortably among hip-hop classics of the 21st Century. He does something similar in Mighty Jesus, recruiting Ghanaian rap vertebrae Jayso and EL.
Mighty Jesus is iconic for hip-hop in the country both sonically and visually. Again, like The One and Heyba, it serves both as a testament to authentic rap from these parts, and blueprint to young ones looking for a proven path.
“See, what I’m trying to tell you is, in the end of days, in that final game, in that final super bowl of life and death, you better make sure you’re on the right team –and that team is with the lord and savior Jesus Christ. You ain’t get no do –overs…”
The verification that Edem has come full circle is displayed in how videos for Heyba and Mighty Jesus end. In the final frame of Heyba (directed by Phamous Philms) Edem, after stomping gallantly through the ghostly milieu designed through adept camera maneuvers and miraculous graphic sleights, hoists a microphone symbolically high above his head …high above the earth. King.
In Mighty Jesus, he joins his hands prayerfully before his bowed head. “I’m still the revelation, but I dey my Genesis.”
A new era!
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 among others.
“The African Answer” is due for release in 2018.
Watch “Mighty Jesus” below: