Ghana: Black Sherif – “Second Sermon”
July 16, 2021
We’ll kick off with Black Sherif, the new Ghanaian sensation. At just 19 he has the distinction of being Ghana’s most streamed artist in August, beating national stars like Sarkodie and Shatta Wale by a country mile. The young rapper – who hails from Konongo, east of Kumasi in the Ashanti region of the country – began his career two years ago but broke through last May with his track “First Sermon” on which he confidently announced his arrival (‘Coming like raging storm, fasten up your belt!’). But it was the follow-up, “Second Sermon”, released in July, that put the name Black Sherif on everyone’s lips.
In this song, the young rapper describes his life in a detailed and authentic way. It’s street life, bad living, the life of gangsters and drug dealing. The young Kwaku Frimpong didn’t grow up on the streets; rather, he chose that life and to tell his stories gonzo journalist style, immersing himself in his subject. What has delighted his Ghanaian audience is his original way of rap-singing over drill-inspired production, integrating the heritage of highlife and dancehall into this new style.
The video for “Second Sermon” alternates between footage shot in a working class area of Konongo and footage shot in the posh East Legon area of Accra, representing Black Sherif’s desire for social advancement. It also deftly contains many hidden cultural references. The durag-wearing rapper is accompanied by twelve companions, echoing the number of Jesus’ disciples. In another example, one of them crosses two swords over his head using an adinkra (an Akan symbol) which signifies courage and heroism. Finally, it is worth noting the appearance of the rappers Yaw Tog – a leading light in the asaaka (Kumasi drill) scene – and Kweku Flick – another bright hope for Ashanti rap – in the final scene of the video.
Mali: Yacou B-OG – “Ciwara”
August 15, 2021
We’re going to talk about drill again, but Africanised drill with a particular Malian twist, thanks to rapper Yacou B-OG. The 21 year old rapper from the Magnambougou district of Bamako has been making a name for himself in Mali for the past year, partly thanks to a collaboration with Sidiki Diabaté (“On est comme ça nous”). Among his tracks, “Ciwara”, released in August, is without doubt the most striking and effective. This is largely due to some innovative production by Buba Cash, a beatmaker from the Attbougou district of Bamako.
Cash had the brilliant idea of collaborating with some instrumentalist friends who play a rhythmic base on sabar drums – a type of standing drum found in Senegal, Mali and Gambia – and then composing and structuring the song entirely on top of this base. He then added a voice sample from a recording of a Zulu party, whose musical culture Buba Cash particularly appreciates.
Yacou B-OG is a real credit to this sophisticated production. His Bambara flow is really impressive and his placement on the production is reminiscent of that of Frenchman Freeze Corleone. The word ciwara, which gives the track its title, refers to a ritual antelope-horse mask specific to Bambara culture. The ciwara is a reward for hard work, and the general idea of the song is that whatever you do in life, you have to work hard and give it your all to achieve your dreams.
Senegal: Samba Peuzzi – “Lou Yakou Yawa”
September 3rd, 2021
Here is another song that particularly impressed us because of its very original production and the use of traditional percussions: “Lou Yakou Yawa” by Samba Peuzzi. In 2019, he became one of the leading rap figures in the country of Senghor, thanks to his track “Marie & Cheikh” which now has almost 8 million views on YouTube. His first album, Senegal Boy (2020), included contributions from big names such as rappers Nix and Dip Doundou Guiss, as well as singer Souleymane Faye (from the group Xalam).
“Lou Yakou Yawa”, on which he once again develops a very personal style, is the first single from the deluxe version of his album. After programming the rhythmic base on his computer, the beatmaker Karabalik invited someone in to play the tama (a Senegalese drum played under the arm in order to adjust tension) as well as a guitarist. He recorded them live and the meeting of these acoustic instruments with the bass of the Roland TR-808 drum machine ahs created a striking mix on which Samba Peuzzi could lay his chilled out flow. In the video, the young rapper from Dakar makes a mess of a classroom and a playground. The video will really grab the viewer, thanks to the artist’s charisma and the bright colours of the outfits and setting.
Ivory Coast: Tripa Gninnin – “Decapo”
August 20, 2021
Drill is doing well in Ivory Coast, thanks to Himra and the fact that he recently featured with France’s king of the genre Gazo on “Grrr Pa”. But as well as drill there’s trap, and Tripa Gninnin is one of its proudest representatives in Abidjan. We discovered him two years ago thanks to the track “Ce n’’est pas bien” on the compilation Comme des Nouchis Vol.1 which brought together the cream of young Ivorian rap. Since then, the artist from the Yopougon district has developed his art in a Nouchi style (the local slang) as well as his image, thanks to a series of videos with a really neat aesthetic (we’re thinking particularly of “Poto Y’A R” and “Secteur”).
The 22 year old artist is pushes the envelope with his dazzling flow on “Decapo”, his latest single released in August. For the occasion he gathered the dream team. The surprising and original instrumental was created by beatmaker Jeune Bendjoul, who’s based in Grand Bassam and regularly collaboratorates with Widgunz, and the video was directed by Zokalanga and Young Nouchi, two of the country’s most talented directors.
It follows the codes of American west-coast rap videos from the 90s. The red bodywork of the old Cadillac and the baseball and basketball gear worn by Tripa and his cohort dominate the footage, and echo the aesthetics of the Los Angeles Bloods gang. But while the G-Funk videos of the time favoured slow motion, here the editing is sharp and the images filmed with a 360° camera make the viewer dizzy.
South Africa: Dee Koala – “Spazz” feat. K.Keed & Blxckie
August 7th, 2021
For this next pick we’re sticking with young talent and videos that showcase impeccable styling, this time in South Africa. Dee Koala is a 23 year old rapper who lives in the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town. Since 2018, she’s been churning out hit after hit (“Whuzet”, “Friday Freestyle”, “4 The Khaltsha”), as well as collaborating with big names like singer Moonchild Sanelly and the rapper Costa Titch.
For the track “Spazz”, she invited K.Keed, another young female rapper from Cape Town, to join her. The latter steals the show a bit as she raps the first verse and the chorus with almost disconcerting ease and insolence. Until now, K.Keed has been pretty quiet. The excellent E.P. Religion, released in 2020, only reached a small community on Soundcloud. Let’s bet that with her featuring on this track we can consider her career definitely launched. Her talent does nothing to detract from that of Dee Koala, whose verse in isiXhosa is incredible. The track ends with a verse from Blxckie, the new gem from Durban we told you about in March. Every scene of the video, released in August and shot in vegetation and around the pool of a villa, is even more beautiful than the last.
Egypt: Mousv – “Zaghaba”
September 7th, 2021
With certain very prolific and talented artists, the hardest part is knowing which particular video to highlight. With this Egyptian rapper it was a particularly difficult task, given that in the space of a month and a half he released three videos that are well worth watching: “Ghouyoum”, “Safina” and “Zaghaba”. The first two are for songs from his album El Sahabaî, released earlier this year.
The 22 year old rapper based in the northeastern Egyptian city of Ismailia, has a penchant for slow, dark and airy trap music. His new song “Zaghaba”, released at the beginning of September, is a bit more edgy. The name refers to a place in Ismailia that used to be green and full of birds, but has become dry and deserted. Mousv used to come to this area to relax and smoke.
The video uses the way the place has changed to convey a subtle message. In an initial sequence shot near Cairo, Mousv is seen in the desert digging in the sand. The second half was shot in a palm grove near Alexandria and its green atmosphere stands in sharp contrast with the beginning of the video. With these two halves, Mousv wants to illustrate the concepts of heaven and hell on earth. The shot that separates the two sequences means that in order to live a new life and reach paradise, one must symbolically kill what came before.
Kenya: Scar Mkadinali – “BLACK” feat. Lord G
August 12, 2021
We continue with strong messages by going to Kenya to meet Scar Mkadinali. This rapper is a member of the Wakadinali trio (with Domani and SewerSydaa), one of the leading trap crews in Nairobi. The group has been successful for two years now with excellent tracks such as “Morio Anzenza” (2019) and “NyaraNyara” (2020). Their latest feat was bringing together elite Kenyan trappers (like Boutross and Breeder LW) on “Avoid Those People”, a 9-minute drill track, in April. For the past few months, Scar Mkadinali has been making solo work. In August, he released “BLACK”, a song decrying racism. Its English lyrics celebrate the beauty of Black skin and Black cultures. On the chorus Mkadinali repeats: “Black is black, and black is beautiful”. The song features a contribution from the little-known rapper Lord G. The video, overlaid with black and white tones and where Black skin is beautifully enhanced by the lighting, perfectly illustrates the song’s message.
Rwanda: Ish Kevin – “Babahungu T.M.A”
September 16, 2021
Like with Mousv, it wasn’t easy to choose just one of the three videos that Rwandan rapper Ish Kevin released this summer. Having only appeared on our radars a year ago and still relatively unknown outside of Rwanda, Ish Kevin came to prominence last spring by importing drill music to Kigali with the excellent “Amakosi”. In June, the collaborative drill track “Brocode” (on which he appears) was an opportunity to discover other very good Rwandan rappers (Og2Tone, Ririmba and Kenny K Shot). The video for “Babahungu T.M.A”, released in September, is probably the most accomplished. It shows the rapper riding through different parts of Kigali and the images are very beautiful. The style of the track is trap, and Ish Kevin’s flow in Kinyarwanda is really impressive. He is definitely a new artist to follow closely.
Tunisia: KTYB – “Bayan” feat. Emp1re
September 23, 2021
Tunisian rapper KTYB isn’t exactly a newcomer. He has been active for a decade and became well known by the name Katybon after the 2011 revolution. In the mid-2010s with Vipa – another pioneer of Tunisian rap – he recorded the classic “Tamtati”. Then the roguish rapper disappeared for a few years. He came back in 2017, under the new avatar KTYB, and had another success with “About”, a track rapped in English in the style of American rapper J. Cole. KTYB’s experiments and his almost comedic style actually bring him closer to French rappers Grems and Disiz. Since then, KTYB has never left, and has been very prolific in recent months. In August, he recorded one of Tunisia’s summer hits with “Fool” featuring 4LFA and Mahdi Machfar. And a few days before the end of September he dropped “Bayan” featuring a very angry Emp1re. Once again, KTYB’s trademark is his flow, which oscillates between sharp rap and groovy vocals. The video is seductive with pastel shades of blue and orange and shots taken on a roof at sunset.
Angola: Mobbers – “Tumulto”
July 23, 2021
We end our tour of Africa with one of the best rap groups in Angola: Mobbers. The collective, founded in 2014 and based between Luanda and London, is made up of eight guys. In 2018, the group achieved success with “Tá Quase”, which mixed trap with kuduro sounds, and “Palpitar”, which introduced baile funk rhythms to the genre. In 2020, the collective passed another milestone in terms of recognition thanks to the excellent “L.O.M.” and with “Nuvens” featuring T-Rex, which for some is the best drill track produced in Angola to date. With “Tumulto”, Mobbers further assert their supremacy. Altifridi opens with a very solid flow, then LipeSky sets things on fire before Xuxu Bower powers in to finish the production with a really beefy verse. The black and white video is really effective, and with its constantly shifting angles and quick cuts it gives a great impression of the power that emanates from this Angolan crew.