Asem, the Accra-based rapper has the kind of talent that creeps up on listeners on little cat feet. “I’d rather be late than never,” apparently expecting Ghanaians to accept hard-core rap or nothing.
But Asem’s music has a fiery core, and he has won listeners over without having to resort to posing. Beginning with a skit about the rise of Hip-hop music in Ghana, ‘Better Late than Never’ euphoniously flows between a light soprano and a throatier rapping style.
Opening with “Pigaro,” a loving critique on the fervent materialism of urban cash driven vixens and the constant hustle for a piece of their action, the song is laced with instructions about how “the system” can be pimped by those who care to know. His radicalism was a welcome contrast to mainstream Hiplife’s more confused political attitude.
If Hip-hop fans were expecting Asem to welcome them into the genre’s safe embrace, they are immediately thrown a curveball with the album’s title, which inducts them not into a world of old school bravado but a straight gutter anthem in Twi over a synthesized, hissing fuzz and a zigzagging guitar pattern that recalls a theme for some unnamed Sci-fi flick, creating an eerie, paranoid backdrop for the 10 track album.
On Lickel Girl, Okyeame Kwame has a well thought out banter with Asem; each lyrically pounds his own chest while wrestling with their erotic impulses. Their concept of love isn’t confined to particular emotions or stereotyping, but dominates its inhabitants’ minds. On the rave charge of “Agye Ke,” Asem commands the verbal imagery of a skilled story teller to get even deeper into his hustle into the big time while simultaneously displaying his gymnastic mic skills.
“Better Late than Never” sounds creatively adrift as producer Richie attempts to buckle down on his rapper’s song craft – refining his lyrically darkest tracks yet – but yielded his sense of experimentation.
Overall, isolated cuts escaped the assembly-line feel, but these were too few to rescue some of the songs or to keep the curious engaged in giving Ghanaian hip-hop a chance.
Like many underground rappers, he aims for maximum density, spitting out huge clumps of syllables over simple beats. But he has a gentle, precise voice that helps balance the wordiness, and his lyrics are often memorable, almost always catchy.
Will Asem ever achieve this newfound hip-hop stardom? That question is on the lips of many of his fans, and he answered it with the witty mix of resignation and resentment. Every time she seemed ready to forsake fame and fortune, she reversed herself at the last minute, as when she rhymed: “Mi ye manager.”
Even when he was bragging, he takes an unusual approach. Describing rapping as a painful compulsion, not unlike the Character-mutilation he had portrayed at the outset of “Obra.”
As hip-hop music continues to transcend, DJ’s are still struggling to keep up with the foundation the genre was built on. The capital is yet to see one become a strong force on the Accra club scene and radio, that will bring back the sophistication and eccentricity that made Ghanaian hip-hop music exceed all barriers.
The album is packed with tracks that are guaranteed to get you moving in or out the club. The infectious and exotic beats blend well from beginning to end and are certain to send pulsating vibes through your bones.
Tracks like “Give me Blow” and the posse cut remix have a lot of layers with innovative and fresh sounds over sensational production.
Some of the tracks have a complexity that is very sophisticated with a simulating edge that makes you want to hit repeat. At times, the album can seem to get a bit repetitive with some songs having strong similarities but other tracks will break up the monotony like “Obaa Yaa.”
What is so interesting about this track is that if most people were to describe what they think an actual strobe light sounds like, it would sound a lot like this track. Richie is a genius at taking unusual sounds and making them tell stories without saying a word.
The album has given rise to a new influx of Hip-Hop artists who are forcing the mainstream monotony to upgrade or be consumed by this hostile takeover of cross pollinated rhythms and rhymes alike. In the given circumstances, Jama will take a seat back to the booty shaking mixes that hover over the club scenes and leave real DJ’s at bay.
But rest assured, if you are looking for smooth sequences and Hip hop music that will get you to the dance floor in a flash, this CD is a must have.
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