Presented by Dj Martin
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|Saturday||11:55 pm||12:00 am|
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Kumasi hip-hop is enjoying new and unprecedented exposure, but the scene has actually been vibrating for years, patiently waiting for an opportunity to break through to the rest of the country. For Ghanaian music journalist Philip Edusei, drill is not a totally new phenomenon: it is actually a very logical continuation of the various rap waves that Ghana – and the world – have experienced. Between the 1990s and 2000s, for example, the trend was hiplife, a hybrid genre-blending hip-hop with highlife. The movement’s biggest artists became idols to the Ghanaian youth, touring and appearing all over the country. “Well, most of these artists came from Kumasi or had some kind of association with the city,” Philip tells me. “The duo Akyeame, for example, or Lord Kenya, were from Kumasi. Even Reggie Rockstone, known as the Godfather of Hiplife, is the self-proclaimed President of Oseikrom, another nickname for the city.”
Between 2000 and 2010, the kingdom’s rappers followed the same rap trends as the world, converting to gangsta rap or trap music, for example. However, there was no comparable impact to the Kumerica phenomenon. “The problem is that although Kumasi is home to a lot of talent, it has never been recognised musically because Accra is the capital,” Philip explains. “If you start to be popular, after a while you have to relocate to Accra.” “Before the drill, there was no base in Kumasi,” Rabby Jones adds. “The music was watered down, even though there were a lot of artists.” Yet, one mystery remains: what is the explanation behind the alchemy between the city and rap? What makes Kumasi so in love with hip-hop? According to online sources, this relationship dates back to the 1980s, when Ashanti men migrated to the West and came back to Kumasi with new influences, notably African-American ones. Philip intervenes: “I think this hypothesis is more about Boga highlife. A Boga is a Ghanaian who went to live abroad for a long time and came back. In the 80s, many artists came back from the US or Europe and started to integrate Western elements into their highlife. But it’s interesting to see that Reggie Rockstone, for example, is a Boga himself: he lived in London and New York before returning to Ghana.” Could the Asakaa drill be the illegitimate daughter of Boga highlife… ? My other interviewees all offer a different explanation: gold. This precious metal indeed occupies a central place in the American rapper aesthetics, filled with ostentatious jewellery which act as tokens for their success. This aesthetic probably found particular resonance in Kumasi, the home of Ashanti culture, where gold occupies an equally important place. “Our kings wear 24-carat gold chains,” Rabby simply tells me, without even needing to mention their gold rings, gold bracelets and gold thrones. The young people of Kumasi have long since made the connection between their American rap idols’ jewellery and their kings. The city was indeed a fertile ground for the birth of a hip-hop movement.