When Hip-Hop emerged in the 70’s it provided a way for the African, Carribean and Latino communities in New York to escape their reality, express themselves and show off their skills in epic block party battles. As the mixtapes of these parties began to travel beyond the states, communities around the world began making their own versions intertwined with music from their cultures springing up hybrid versions unique to specific areas. When the music reached Ghana, Hiplife was born.
Pioneered by artists like Reggie Rockstone , Hiplife was a combination of the culture and rhythm of US hip-hop with the language “Twi” spoken by the Asante people of Ghana and traditional Highlife music, used by artists like Reggie to express issues affecting young people in the country.
Evolution of Rap in Ghana
Hiplife quickly took over airwaves with subgenres evolving out of the movement such as “Kasahare,” loosely translated as “Fast Talk”. This genre was especially highlighted by local rappers Obrafuor and Kwadei below.
In the noughties, rap group Skillions came along gaining popularity among high schoolers and university students with their more westernised and humorous approach to Hiplife. Led by producer Jayso with his catchy beats, the crew gained popularity in the country. Coinciding with the onset of music going digital, they were all anyone had playing on their MP3 players and discmen across Accra, Kumasi and beyond.
Ghanaian producer Hammer also played a big part in this movement, his discovery of Ghana’s biggest rapper Sarkodie changed the way Hip Hop was approached in Ghana. It was no longer music for wild youth. It was a relatable artform that spoke about the reality and struggles of people in the country. Going through topics such as love, business and the quest for wealth made Sarkodie more universally appealing.
As the scene grew and blended more with Highlife and Pop, we saw the rise of musicians like Joey B, EL, Pappy Kojo and D Black who jumped in and out of Afropop and hiplife sounds like they were playing double Dutch. This creative freedom and adoption of local influences paved the way for the new guard of rappers like Kwesi Arthur, Quamina MP and Kofi Mole to thrive.
The Drill Movement in Ghana – Asakaa
Most people associate drill with London or the south side of Chicago however some of the hardest Drill artists on the scene have emerged from a small suburb in the city of Kumasi, winning people over with their booming productions and wild lyrics.
Asakaa (a pidgin latin-esque version of the Twi word kasa, meaning ‘talk’), as it is called, is the Ghanaian version of Drill music, it is described by rapper and producer Rabby Jones, one of the front runners of the scene, as “Twi expression on a drill beat”. The production is the same as the music you hear in the suburbs of London, the flow is wildly similar, except for a few English curses littered between Twi and Pidgin English.
In the midst of the pandemic, Asakaa rapper Yaw Tog released ‘SORE’ (meaning Rise) featuring other emerging acts O’Kenneth, City Boy and Jay Bahd racking up several thousand views on YouTube and going viral on Twitter. The song then wiggled its way to the top of Apple Music’s Top 100 chart in Ghana and began the rise of Asakaa globally.
Another collective making waves in the scene are indie label Life Living Records who are working with artists producing Asakaa heavily influenced by the trap sounds of Travis Scott, Young Thug and Pop Smoke.
For the crew, the music is self-expression, a channel for release. They are young African dreamers trying to create something different and that energy is growing like wildfire with a wave of Drill music taking off in Ghana. Popular musicians like Medikal, Sarkodie and Joey B are seeing their drill music added regularly to radio stations’ daily playlists. Asakaa continues to gain momentum and with the world now taking notice, it’s all eyes on Ghana and a scene that knows no limits.
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