Sitting across from me this late afternoon, at the balcony of the GhanaWeb offices in Dzorwulu, where he currently works as a multimedia journalist and host of “Bloggers’ Forum,” Abrantepa Benefo Buabeng cuts his usual tidy look: a fresh haircut, short-sleeved African print, and spectacles. The man I have come to speak with looks nothing like the story he’s about to relate.
A broadcaster, yes. A publicist, sure. A blogger, of course. But a rapper?
It is not until he dispenses emphatic freestyles ensconced in a flow that calls up Okyeame Kwame, and linguistic depth that honours Obrafour — at various points during our sit down — that I am fully convinced of his shiny talent as a musical entertainer.
When he first sprays me rap, at the beginning of our chat, I laugh, and then stop almost instantly. This isn’t one of his habitual jokes, I realise. He notices the shock (and remorse) on my face, flashes an “I told you so” smile, and resumes waxing, swiping at imaginary objects with his fingers.
Jesus! Abrantepa, the rapper!
He may not currently be in active practice, but during the period in which he was, as an undergrad at the University of Ghana in Accra, and within Kumasi’s underground circuit, he was the real deal.
Born in Obuasi, Abrantepa, the sixth of seven children, names hiplife, Ghana’s response to hip-hop in the 90s, as the genre he was most influenced by. “Although I listened to highlife and other genres, I realised my strength was rap so I decided to work towards that,” he tells me, returning to the unassuming persona that led me to misjudge his rapper-side.
Which specific names served as technical models for him? “Obrafour and Okyeame Kwame,” my earlier guesses. “ I admired their lyricism and style. I was moved by their diction. Their lyrics were clean, they punctuated their bars with proverbs that make the Asante Twi language beautiful. They sounded mature,” he notes.
Due to the above, and his heritage as an Akan, an Ashanti, he particularly appreciated the tapestry in the lyrics of the hiplife titans.
If you listened to Kumasi-based Focus FM and K FM circa 2008, this story should induce added nostalgia, for Abrantepa was a fixture on the former’s “Freestyle Friday,” then hosted by Kojo Akoto Boateng, now with Citi FM; and the latter’s “Freestyle Saturday, which was anchored by Mahony.
“It was such a great opportunity,’ Abrantepa recalls. “I battled a number of rappers and the quest to always be ahead of them made me remain focused.”
Among his mates on these shows were Eno Barony, Ghana’s foremost female rapper at work today, and producer Apya, who at the time, traded by the showbiz name “Spydee.”
In 2012, while reading Political Science and Theatre Arts at the University of Ghana, he was adjudged “Most Talented Entertainer” by the institution’s Student Representative Council Community Excellence Awards. This, he received for his emphatic rap performances at entertainment functions organised in the school.
“During my days at UG,” he brags, beaming: “ I was huge on campus, having showcased my talent on countless occasions. I performed at almost every Artiste Night and the response was always positive.
“Mete rap ankasa!’ he chuckles.
In 2013, he was named Radio Univers Personality of the Year by the same award scheme. This time, “ for my impactful reports as a student journalist with Radio Univers 105.7FM [the campus radio dial, where he was honing his skills in his current vocation].”
As a journalist who covers music with the benefit of being a musician, Abrantepa observes the following about Ghana’s current climate:
“It’s been good. Some new talents are climbing the ladder of success and it’s so refreshing. Some older folks are still relevant and that’s another thing to be proud of. There are challenges but I’m optimistic we will get better. Like many stakeholders have chorused, we need to strengthen the structures so right owners will enjoy the fruit of their labour accordingly.”
We return to the tales of his campus celebrity, a wistful Abrantepa proclaiming: “I had a huge fanbase there. With the numerous Artiste Nights organised during hall week celebrations, I had platforms to showcase my talent. I always aimed at leaving people wanting for more whenever I left the stage, so I worked towards that and carved a niche for myself. I was a hot cake.”
Per the man’s account, anytime he grabbed the microphone and thundered “dasoramete,” his signature, he sparked a fire.
So, why put such a promising rap career on hold? I ask.
“I decided to focus on other things,” i.e broadcasting and multimedia journalism.
If my face is leaking disappointment, there’s no need, for he assures me: “I’ll come back.”
“When the time is right,” he says, stopping short of furnishing me with a specific date.
No matter how much I’m suddenly fascinated with it, Abrantepa strikes me as cavalier when it comes to his rap career. How has such a glowing talent been reduced to naked morning freestyles before his mirror at home and fleeting performances during office trips?
“I don’t intent to do full time music, so I needed to get my priorities right,” he offers an explanation.
“It was for this reason that Yaw Stone (Mentor 6 winner) and I split. We were a group, he wanted to do active music but I wanted to focus on media. So when I gained admission to University of Ghana, we had a discussion and we agreed he compete in TV3’s talent show!”
Even if he’s not active, Abrantepa still engages in music creation of sorts. “I still write when the inspiration comes. And I still rap. Anytime I hear a nice beat, one that calls for bars, I spit.”
Here’s my cue to try again… probe for specific details surrounding his triumphant return. What will it take?
No such luck.
“Time,” he returns, casually. “The right time. When the time is right, I’ll be back.”
And what is “the right time”?
“When Apya dashes me a wicked beat. That stubborn guy has been browning me since since,” he laughs.