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Rap: 10 songs and a tour of Africa (2nd quarter 2021)

Rap: 10 songs and a tour of Africa (2nd quarter 2021)

From Ghana, Tunisia and Kenya to Egypt, Togo, Guinea… PAM presents a selection of ten tracks that have been making waves in the world of African rap in the second quarter of 2021.


A selection to find in our Pan African Rap playlist!

Ghana: Jay Bahd (feat. Skyface SDW, Reggie, Kwaku DMC, City Boy, Kawabanga & O’Kenneth)“Y3 Y3 DOM”

June 11, 2021

Ever since Yaw Tog’s international success with his song “Sore”, there is no doubt that the kings of African drill are the Ashanti rappers from Kumasi, Ghana. Their particular style is called Asakaa and they rap using a coded slang (Saka) derived from Twi. Only 21-years-old, Jay Bahd is one of the key figures of this vibrant music scene. His latest single, “Y3 Y3 DOM”, which features most of the artists on Asakaa’s emblematic label Living Life Records, is a true war anthem. The chorus, sung together, which is one of the particularities of the Kumasi style, means “We Are Numerous” in the Akan literary language. Jay Bahd and his fellow rappers make it loud and clear: the drillers from Kumerica (Kumasi’s nickname) are grouped together and here to stay. The idea behind the clip was to explore the historical and cultural roots of the Ashanti kingdom, its warrior past and its resistance towards British colonization in particular. An interesting position to take when considering the importance of England in the evolution and spread of drill. And a way of reclaiming this music. The clip was shot in the village of Kunsu and features a fetish-priest who prepares, physically and spiritually, the rappers armed with swords and spears for the battlefield. The title of Jay Bahd’s album, released June 21st, “Return of Okomfo Anokye”, is in fact a homage to the celebrated fetish-priest famous for his great powers and who was responsible for the expansion of the Ashanti kingdom in the 17th century. In the clip, the artists wear traditional attire sewn with adinkras (Akan symbols) and small sculpted objects symbolizing the history of the Ashanti people, their way of life, their philosophy and their warrior spirit. It is very probably the most ambitious Ghanaian drill clip made so far. 

 Ivory Coast: Black K – “On connait ça”

April 30, 2021

As we have seen, a cutting-edge rapper can still make the choice to be connected to his roots and to his culture. This is the direction also taken by Black K, one of the members of the leading Ivorian rap group Kiff No Beat. His lastest song, “On connaît ça” (“We Know It”), full of humour and punchlines, is a reminder that Black K has been in the game for a long time. The instrumental drill track was composed by Tamsir, the most gifted beatmaker in the country. As Black K puts it: “I was with Tamsir one night in the studio and we decided to create something dirty. I asked for a dark drill sound and that’s what he came up with. With Tamsir, it’s like being in a restaurant, you ask for a dish and he immediately makes it for you and with side dishes too. We recorded my vocals in less than half an hour.” In the first sequence of the video his father Boni Gnahoré, one of the monuments of Ivorian music, is featured in a wheelchair and wearing a straitjacket, playing the role of his son’s evil twin. The second sequence takes place in the popular Marcory district of Abidjan. Black K keeps it in the family and raps surrounded by his team, including his younger brother Lil Black, a future star of Ivorian rap. But it is the final sequence that is the most striking visually: two Zaouli masks dance to the drill rhythm in front of an expensive car. “I always try to bring something new, something African. We’re not going to do it like Europeans and Americans, they’ve already seen everything. This clip is a reminder to young people not to forget where they come from.

Togo: Lauraa – “Egbavado (Freestyle)”

May 14, 2021

In Lomé, the rapper Lauraa, signed to the Kabash label, is fast becoming the queen of Togolese rap. 

The 24-year-old, a native of the Akodessewa district, first became known as the choreographer and dancer of the Toofan duo. Since 2020, she has released a string of successful singles (“Olévon”, “Tha Vicious and Friendz”, “Habamé Nami”). She raps in the Ewe dialect, and her deep voice and aggressive flow evoke Jamaican dancehall queens like Spice, one of her inspirations. Her latest song, “Egbavado” is a drill track produced by the Togolese beatmaker I’Drums. The title repeated in the chorus means “she’s still here” in Ewe. “I was in the studio with my beatmaker. He played a drill beat and it inspired me. Every time I appear on stage, everyone knows I’m going to set the place on fire. People know that I’m still here. I wanted to confirm that I’m still the only one who can make them dream”, she says with a smile. For the clip, Lauraa focused on fashion and choreography. Simple, but terribly effective, as always. 

Kenya: Buruklyn Boyz – “Piga Lean”

June 4, 2021

If there’s a crew capable of confronting the supremacy of the Ghanian rappers from Kumasi over African drill, it’s the Kenyan group Buruklyn Boyz. The four members (Ajay, Mr Right, Mr Brown and Uncle Tom) grew up together in Buruburu-Phase 1, a very well-known housing development from the 1970’s in Nairobi where middle-class families live. The Buruklyn Boyz have become one of the leading groups in the country since September 2020, their popularity even surpassing the gengetone artists (the popular Kenyan urban music of recent years). Expressions taken from their song “Bille Jean”, released in September 2020, have become wildly popular catchwords for young people in Nairobi, who appreciate their way of using Sheng (the cryptic slang derived from Swahili). The group also stands out by rapping over original instrumental tracks, notably with the use of guitars, differentiating themselves from the style of Pop Smoke, the American rapper responsible for the explosion of drill. Any fan of the style will find their singles “Nairobi”, “Wild”, “Woosh Woosh” irresisitible. Moreover, the Buruklyn Boyz have stood out for the pronounced visual style of their clips, clearly influenced by the notorious Los Angeles gang The Crips. The clip “Piga Lean”, the last song on the album Mr Right, is no exception, featuring the infamous blue bandanas of the American gang. The title of the song refers to a way of dancing the drill, and the chorus explains to the dancers how to move. Mr. Right clearly proves the new supremacy of the group on the drill scene. Is a connection between Kumasi and Nairobi coming next? 

Sudan: TooDope – “Lissa”

April 8, 2021

We end our exploration of African drill with an artist from Sudan. The country is teeming with talented rappers like Soulja. The 29-year-old rapper TooDope, based in Khartoum, arrived on the scene in February 2020 thanks to “Asly”, a drill track that has been viewed more than one and a half million times on Youtube. After leaving Sudan for his studies in Saudi Arabia and in Qatar, Tayeb Hajo (his real name), returned home in 2016. He then created the label Young Justus with his compatriot MaMan to promote local rappers and beatmakers. With MaMan, he released a song in 2017, that made him a name internationally and garnered support from sudanese origin artists like the British-based Sinkane and the American rapper Bas from the Dreamville label (distributed by Interscope). With his new drill single “Lissa”, TooDope aims to be a star. His flow, which blends Arabic and English, the two official languages of Sudan, is as acerbic as ever, highlighted by the quality of the production by the beatmaker MoSauce.

Guinea: Straiker – “Poullosophe”

May 23, 2021

One doesn’t necessarily have to do drill to be cutting-edge. As proof, we go to Conakry in Guinea to meet Sraiker, one of the country’s most important rappers. Born in Pita (in the Fouta Djallon region), the 22-year-old artist grew up in the Dabompa neighborhood in the Matoto district of Conakry. He first wanted to be a writer, but turned to rap in order to express his ideas. The title of his new song “Poullosophe” is a concept he created and which means “Peul philosophy”. On this track, rapped in Pulaar, Soussou and French, Straiker evokes his ambitions, his singularity compared to other rappers, hs vision of the Guinean game, but also the wisdom of the Peul community and the importance of culture. The young artist also invited the Senegalese rapper and beatmaker Iso X to rap a chorus in Wolof. The instrumental track, which includes drums and sanzas, is strikingly original and was composed by Azizfizzle, a Senegalese beatmaker. Straiker explains his reasons: “I chose it mainly because it’s African, and because it’s authentic. If Americans hear Guinean rap, I don’t want them to think it’s the same thing as what they already do.” Likewise for the clip, directed by Emilex, where the Guinean rapper promotes Peul culture. Straiker and the extras wear Lepis, the traditional indigo cotton fabric emblematic of the Peuls. The Peul way of life, intimately linked with livestock, is represented in the clip through the presence of a herd of animals. The Soussou culture is also present thanks to extras belonging to this ethnic group and to the loincloths that the elders wear towards the end of the clip.

Tunisia: Dvrkboy – “Revolution in my mind”

April 9, 2021

As in Guinea, rap is very popular in Tunisia, with major artists like A.L.A and Balti. Dvrkboy is a rising 19-year-old talent with his first trap hit, “Revolution in my mind”. A native of Mornaguia, a city east of Tunis, in the governorate of Manouba, home to the biggest prison in the country, which has had a negative effect on the reputation of the people from the region. The young artist launched his music career a year and a half ago: “I grew up in my city between the bad and the good, like everyone else. I wasn’t very gifted for studying. I quit school early and went in a different direction. I ran into a lot of difficulties but ended up discovering that I was capable of writing and of expressing myself well, so I decided to enter the world of rap.” A choice validated by his relatives and his mother, and above all by the general public, who massively discovered him cutting up a drill beat in the cypher “Tunisian Rap Street Episode 1” organized by the Tunisian youtuber MC Ch3ar. For the clip “Revolution on my mind”, Dvrkboy collaborated with his friend the director Ajejhoussem and chose to shoot the clip in the beautiful coastal city Kelibia. Made on a tiny budget, the two artists succeeded in producing a magnificent clip. Dvrkboy is definitely one the most interesting new young Tunisian rappers to watch.

Democratic Republic of Congo: MPR – “ECM”

May 15, 2021

Another spacy track, but with words heavy with meaning, thanks to the song “ECM” by the Kinshasa duo MPR. We have already written about them on PAM, the two members Yuma Dash and Zozo Machine, natives of the popular district Matete, proudly wear the colors of Congolese rap today. The name of the group, MPR, stands for “musique populaire pour la révolution”, the two artists advocating the cultural heritage of Mobutu’s Zaire. MPR’s lyrics alternate between criticism of Congolese society (“Dollars”, “Lobela Ye Français”) and narratives about life on the streets (“Tika Biso Tovanda”). As they explain, “ECM is a song representative of our reality and the way we see life. ECM means Éducation Civique et Morale. It’s a way of saying that there is also a moral we’re coming from. We advocate the acceptance of self and the fact of living according to our own reality, instead of just playing a role in one’s life and wanting to live the lives of others. ” The duo also takes special care with the visual style of their clips. “Dollars” was inspired by Brazilian telenovelas and the RDC’s televised dramas, while “Semeki” was a homage to the popular programs of Télé Zaire. For their latest clip “ECM”, they have chosen a more understated atmosphere. It was shot in the ABC building, a very famous site in the popular Matate district. The music influenced by cloud rap and the shots filmed with a drone evoke the world of French rappers PNL, yet with a feeling that is 100% Kinshasa. “The idea was to show people the beauty of the ghetto, the beauty of so-called remote districts. We wanted to show that poverty is a state of mind and that the beauty of something depends on which angle you look at it from.

Egypt: Afroto – “Msh Bel 7ozoz”

May 18, 2021

In Egypt, Mahraganat and trap are the two most popular trends with young people, and fusions of the two styles are frequent. This is the case with “Msh Bel 7ozoz”, the new single by the rapper Afroto. The 24-year-old musician from Alexandria made a name for himself in 2020 thanks to strong banger tracks like “Bekar” and “Mussolini”. But it’s the song “Segara” that made him a star. The very dark instrumental track, composed by the rapper Marwan Moussa, mixes the dreamy sounds of cloud rap with Shaabi popular music. The clip of “Segara” has been viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube. For “Msh Bel 7ozoz”, Afroto has used the same ingredients that made “Bekar” a hit to make an even more energetic song, with auto-tune vocals, omnipresent Mahraganat percussion and disquieting keyboard sounds. For the clip, Afroto has focused on the flashy imagery of motorcycles.

South Africa: K.O – “K:Hova”

May 7, 2021

We end our tour of the Continent in Soweto for the latest clip by K.O. The veteran rapper from Soweto made his mark on the history of South African rap in 2014 with the release of his first album, Skhanda Republic, an instant classic that was voted best album of the year at the 2015 South African Music awards. He is one of the leading representatives of Skhanda rap, a musical trend that emerged in the 1990’s and was associated with a dance of the same name. Skhanda was a fusion of the Pantsula dance that was created in the townships during Apartheid and American breakdance. This dance was linked to a lifestyle that K.O. paid tribute to in Skhanda Republic. In May, the 41-year-old Zulu rapper’s new song “K:Hova” was one of the biggest hits of the month in South Africa, a collaboration with the beatmaker Lunatik, the sound architect behind his masterpiece, and who he hadn’t worked with since his first album. The title is a reference to J-Hova, the American rapper Jay-Z’s nickname, clearly a statement by K.O. as one of the godfathers of South African rap. Musically, Lunatik has created a sophisticated blend of Kwaïto, Amapiano and California-style rap in the vein of Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock. The superb clip depicts the atmosphere in the townships at night, as K.O. raps in the middle of a bungled hold-up and with people fighting in the streets.

Still thirsty for rap music? Make sure you subscribe to our Pan African Rap playlist on Spotify and Deezer.