This series is a Top 5* List of Come-ups and Legends. These are the people, places, and things that give me “VIM” a.k.a energy/life/power just thinking about my next trip home. * I'm cheating a little bit because within each category I name like 10 things, but you get the idea.
It's hard to pick just one Ghanaian artist that I'm excited about, especially since most MCs and singers are always vying for No. 1 status in their lyrics (As the No. 1 people pleaser at your service: I just wind up agreeing with them all). But really, so many of them do deserve the praise. Here are a few of my current faves, in no particular order…
Ebony Reigns was the epitome of fire and vim. I only heard about her about a year ago, in November 2017 and was immediately hooked. My cousin and I visited New Orleans and she played me some of Ebony's songs and for the rest of the trip whenever we were in the hotel room it was Ebony's videos on a youtube loop. She represented this unabashed, unafraid sensuality that isn't something that I expected so brazenly from a contemporary of my mother-country. This is partly because the surface image of Ghana is Conservative Christian heteronormativity with lip-service to Western patriarchy and ideals, thus we are seemingly repressed. But like a centimeter beneath that surface, everyone knows and acknowledges that the women of Ghana run shit. Likewise, Ghanaians have big hearts thus, we have space for lifestyles outside the patriarchy if we would be honest with ourselves.
So for me, as a 1st generation American whose whole family lines (more-or-less) always lead back to Ghana, I thought maybe my reading and acceptance of her with open arms was because I see her through this "American" lens. *you know, not the Conservative Christian Hetero-normative American, but that other American that screams hedonistic liberal feminist propaganda*. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Young and old Ghanaians, nay West Africans, love her music, as I experienced in January 2018 when the DJ at my aunt's chop bar had all of Ebony's hits BLARING on a loop all day long. But the youth of Ghana certainly took to her as a symbol of acceptance. Her candor about her sexuality and about her creativity was refreshing. Yes, people loved to hate on her image and what it meant for the morality of said youth, but if the innuendo in most Ghanaian highlife, hip life, RnB, and pop songs are any indication, Ebony's music was hitting a sweet spot.
Almost a week shy of her 21st birthday, we lost Ebony in a car crash, along with her friend Instagram/Youtube comedian Frankie Kuri and their bodyguard Francis Atsu Vondee. It was surreal and devastating to watch unfold, and I couldn't help but think of the promise this young woman held and how much her existence and her music meant for a whole generation. Many were and are still in a funk about what her death has meant, but Ghanaians are also big on celebrating one's life even in the face of death so her name says it all: even though she's no longer with us, Ebony Reigns.
Kojo Funds is an East London based rapper and musician. His Ghanaian and Dominican roots are often cited as inspirations behind the new Afro-Swing/ Afro-bashment beats he creates.
Some of my faves are “Check” featuring RAYE, for that timeless Craig David sample and “Finders Keepers” on Mabel’s EP (daughter of Neneh Cherry).
Some might think that the inclusion of comedian/actor Big Shaq’s “Man’s not hot” on the musician's list is a bit of a joke. I mean the song is heralded as a novelty single, but this particular Roadman, aka Michael Dapaah, still garnered envy-worthy viral video status with the single and whole articles penned to decipher his whirlwind ascent— which included the BET 2017 awards and a return visit to Ghana in December 2017 after a 9-year hiatus. He’s followed up with “Man don’t dance”, but hopefully he can continue to make us all smile while decidedly not dancing.
King Promise broke out in 2016, just shy of graduating from University, with the hit song “Thank God’ and he’s had roughly five songs since then that have been in heavy rotation on Ghana airwaves. This of course isn’t including the scores of featured hits he’s collaborated on in that short time. King Promise is like the poster boy for the new era of Ghanaian music where social media really helps to gain traction and exposure to opportunities like performing overseas. It’s a movement that wouldn’t have been possible several years ago. Plus his music is just good.
The self-proclaimed dancehall king (after a short-term Jamaican residence) is certainly prolific and never shies away from drama. But it feels like he’s been around forever so he kind of just gets a pass-- similar to when you let your old uncle/auntie get away with saying some offensive ish. When in Ghana, it often feels like you can’t help but like his music, mainly because it’s inescapable when in GH. I particularly couldn’t get enough of remixes for this somewhat repetitive ear-jam:
Sarkodie is kind of like the old-Kanye of Ghanaian rappers. He’s prolific on the scene, having collaborated with many heavy hitters and new comers across the continent. He even headlined at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in August of 2015, well before the One Africa tour made it to American shores. Sarkodie has this steady rhyme delivery that kind of hypnotizes you a bit, even if you only grasp a few words/phrases at a time. Hopefully he never crosses over into the undecipherable/unintelligible tropes of this brave new-Kanye Era.
Elom Adablah is kind of the Drake of the Ghana Music scene. Very in tuned with his emotions and definitely live performer. Even his new production company rings of Aubrey Graham-esque intonations: VO Nation Records. E.L. first caught my attention because of all the fun catchphrases at the end of his songs circa 2011. Not going to lie I mainly like E.L because I can easily grasp what he’s saying and he’s usually incredibly cheeky. He’s also got a formidable fashion sense. His short performance on the Diaspora Calling bill was enough for me to ignore the erratic and inconsistent performance of the event’s headliner—the lovely/volatile Ms. Lauren Hill— which is saying something.
More Musicians Soon Go Come…