Recent events in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have brought the debate about the merits or demerits of dance-hall music back into the public space. A situation surrounding the performance of a top female artist of Trinidadian heritage created a public furor between the country’s government and opposition in the Trinidad parliament (Lord 2010). The brouhaha developed over the appropriateness of a song she sang in which it was alleged that she used expletives to an audience that included minors (Douglas 20 I 0). The Parliamentary opposition also charged the government minister concerned with a ‘misuse of public funds ‘in sponsoring the event because the values communicated in the songs were not healthy in the that they promoted alcohol abuse and sexual laxity (Alexander 20 J 0).
At the end of the heated debate, the Opposition charged that the government minister responsible for the show had misled parliament concerning the use of obscene language and called for the minister concerned to be brought before the Privilege’s committee of Parliament for the offense. The Speaker of the House of Parliament upheld the charge and the minister was sent before the said committee to defend himself (Douglas 2010). This event serve to demonstrate the far-reaching impact of dance-hall music in Trinidad. Additionally, there has been a significant and worrisome increase in the murder rate in Trinidad in the last decade. The large majority of victims are those identified as Afro-Trinidadian youth from ghetto areas who subscribe to the gangland culture and lifestyle promoted by hip-hop and more recently some Dance-hall music. This has also gotten the attention of the authorities and numerous attempts have been made to lure these youth away from this culture of illicit drugs, modified cars, multiple sex partners, bling, violence and guns (Newsday, December 2, 2010; Taylor & Taylor 2007). However, the efforts of the State have had minimal effect in assuaging the assaults on young Afro-Trinidadian youth.
In exasperation and anxiety, the government of Trinidad and Tobago has recently tabled a
Bill in parliament to make gangs and gang membership illegal (Newsday, December 2, 2010). There are also attempts afoot to set up courts to deal exclusively with arms and arms-related offenses that have become so regular and commonplace that they threaten to overwhelm an already pressurized judicial system.
This genre of music has manifested even greater import since most of their creators come from the very socio-economic bracket and subcultures of their most loyal fans. As a result, these fans identify with their songs as reflecting who they are, where they live, and the oppression and disenfranchise-ment they feel (Nuttal2009). Relatedly, Peterson et aJ. (2007, 1158) argue that the “prevalent social themes in rap music videos include economic deprivation, racial injustice, social isolation, dysfunctional families, violence, hopelessness, pain and struggle for survival.” In addition, they also see this music as a kind of empowerment or re-enfranchisement via complex relations with drugs, sex, money and guns (Iwamoto, Creswell & Caldwell 2007; Orlando 2002).
In Jamaica, songs by the two famed Dancehall artistes (Vybz Kartel and Movado) have triggered turf wars and borderlines between members of one community identified as Gaza and the other as Gully (Boyne 2009). This was not confined to Jamaica as Trinidadian youth who followed these artistes and identified with one or the other entered into violent confrontations among themselves. The situation between two neighboring schools became so bad that the Ministry of Education in Trinidad had to intervene and provide police escorts and special buses to get students to and from school safely. Previously these two secondary schools had coexisted side by side for years without violent confrontations. But since some students of one school identified themselves as Gaza and the other school as Gully- any student from the neighboring school was identified as an enemy and vice versa.
Many youth identify with the artistes, many of whom rose from the ranks of poverty and ghetto lifestyles or those of the underprivileged to virtual stardom (wamoto, Creswell & Caldwell 2007). In essence, they view these artistes as role models or prophets who license and liberate them and their behaviours via their music (Baker & Bor 2008,285). In that context, the attitudes, values and behaviours of these artistes are closely watched and imitated. These include sexual behaviours or messages about sexuality, dress, lifestyles and fashion as well as attitudes toward alcohol and illegal drug use and turf or status related violence (Primack et al. 2007). These issues bring into the discourse the underlying principles of the psychology of adolescence such as identity development, media influences, values idealization, modeling and risk-taking behaviours. The extent to which deviant behaviours are facilitated, reinforced or inspired by Dancehall and Hip-hop music is worthy of investigation and deliberation (wamoto, Creswell & Caldwell 2007). Such queries are not farfetched given the importance of music in the life of developing adolescent and the role it plays in shaping their values and perceptions of life and living (Baker and Bor 2008).
Thus, main purpose of this paper is to attempt to assess the impact of dancehall music on the behaviour and perceptions of adolescent and youth. More specifically, the paper will seek to determine the extent to which Trinidadian adolescents endorse dancehall and hip-hop music as favorites and the consequences of such endorsements- in particular sexuality and
violent perceptions and behaviours.
Portrayals of Violence in Dance-hall and Hip-hop Music Genres
Interestingly, researchers Primack et al. (2008) found that songs with degrading sexual references tended to have more references to weapon carrying and violence. For example, Jamaican Dancehall artiste Movado sings in the chorus of a song entitled- Squeeze Breast, “She say she wan me squeeze her breast dem like the trigger of my gwl.” Relatedly, some of the violence projected in this genre included misogynistic themes. On the latter point, researchers found that university students who viewed or listened to music with such themes were more likely to choose an assaultive story to show to a female peer (Baker & Bor 2008).
This revealed that the participants who were exposed to sexually explicit content with violent under or overtones were primed to behave in a certain way. The study did not reveal the extent to which participants felt that their choices were conscious or unconscious ones. In this vein, Fuller & Damico (2008) fowled that although youth would readily admit that the songs were violent in tone and content they were quite naive to the potential harm on their individual psyche and behaviour. Generally, they succumbed to the third person effect -the idea the music would impact others negatively and not them.
Developing adolescents also see themselves as ‘invincible’ and ‘ immune’ to physical harm and danger- psychological positions which make them more vulnerable to the said dangers (Cobb 2007). In the song, Badda Dan Dem, another Jamaican Dancehall artist, Vybz Kartel writes: “GWl shot mek yuh fall like the bridge ova London, when it kick yuh like Vandam.” Baker and Bor(2008) argue that rap music is associated with antisocial behaviour, anger and violence. However, given their stage of cognitive development, adolescents listening to such lyrics would more likely believe that others would die at their hands and not the other way around (Steinberg 2008).
Due to this way of thinking , they succumb to what developmental psychologists call the personal fable where they feel that nothing bad or fatal could befall them (Cobb 2007). Such lyrics and violent demonstrations only serve to reinforce the view that they are invincible and especially so when in possession of a gwl (Taylor & Taylor 2007).
Impact of Violence in Dance-hall Music on Youth
Fifty Cent also has pictures of two large guns on his twitter page: one with a silencer and the other without. This famed rapper has 3.8 million followers on twitter (Whitehouse 20 11). In effect he links his image and fame with guns – it is therefore not too difficult to perceive that he is trying to represent guns as cool, effective and essential. By the same token, he makes no bones about the fact that he is an ex-drug pusher who has swiveled multiple gunshot wounds. The latter claim makes him an instant hero among minority groups and youth from depressed areas who identify such experiences as heroic in nature. Fifty Cent, became famed for what is termed gangsta rap- a strain of rap music that dealt with violence, thuggery, gang life and the uncut day to day experiences of the dispossessed (Taylor & Taylor 2007). Similarly, the kings of Dance-hall music might also be perceived as instigators of violence through their music lyrics and unagery.
In Trinidad, there have been large numbers of murders that are gang-related. Most gangs fashioned their lives by the lyrics of some Dancehall or Gangstar rap artistes who glorifies illegal gun use and possession. Some artistes even chronicle murders in their songs and promote violence as the path to power and the cure for disaffection in any form (Southe 2008). One gang even went by the name G-Unit (short for Gorrilla Unit) after the clothing brand of megastar Gangsta rapper Fifty-Cent. Writing in the Newsday, December 22, 2008, Indarjit Seuraj reports that the year 2008 was one of the bloodiest years in the Trinidad’s history with over 500 murders 70% of which were identified as gang related. Seuraj noted that gang rivalry had reached fever pitch after the killing of notorious “G-Unit” leader Kerwin “Fresh” Phillip over a year prior to publication of the article (Newsday, December 22,2008).
Others gangs in Trinidad portrayed themselves as either Gaza or Gully (rival territories in Jamaica) with mottos such as, “Gangsta for life.” Identification with either Gaza or Gully means that anyone belonging to the other gang is your mortal enemy to be annihilated at any given opportunity. This mentality has led to inter and intra-community borderlines in both Trinidad and Tobago. Borderlines have even been drawn within and between schools along the Gaza and Gully distinctions as explained earlier. Wittingly or unwittingly crossing over into ‘enemy territory ‘ can lead to beatings and in many cases have led to fatalities (Seuraj 2008). Boyne (2009) captures the sanle issues in telling detail showing that when it comes to violence and murders among lower SES groups Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago mirror each other.
Boyne (2009) argues that while middle and upper class Jamaican youth enjoy the music of both artistes, youth in the depressed areas fight, maim and murder each other-fuelled by the Gaza and Gully distinctions. Although Boyne (2009) labelled such dancehall music as ‘negative dancehall music,” he further argues that the artistes Vybz Kartel (Gaza) and Movado (Gully) promote and legitimize a subculture so violence and aggression through their music. Boyne (2009) also views Kartel and Mavado as the “reigning kings of badmanism and gangsterism.” These kings have very loyal subjects who not only view the world through their lyrics but also strive to live by them.
According to Bakagiannis and Tarrant (2006, 139), several studies have established that musical preferences are an important part of social identity and the “basis for social comparison and self-evaluation.” Pete Nuttall (2009) further argues that the consumption of music can lead not only to identification but also empowerment or social inclusion within the adolescent peer group. Thus, the manner in which these genres of music canvass the masses of the underprivileged and others is indicative of peer group identity formation and bonding (Bakagiannis & Tarrant 2006; Nurta1l2009) and song that best characterized their personality. A trained research assistant administered the questionnaire.
Since this study was largely exploratory in nature, analyses of frequency distributions were chiefly used. These analyses included overall gender and ethnicity differences in frequency of engagement with the genres of music in the study; preference for one music type or both; each music genre’s influence on perception of sexual behaviour; each music genre’s influence on actual sexual behaviour; participants involvement in violent behaviour (fighting) and the frequency of this behaviour as well as the use of obscene language.
MEET FRANKY 5: The Tale Of A Banker Turned Journalist
He started off as an astute Banking Executive, after he had the opportunity to undertake his National Service assignment with Akuapem Rural Bank at Mamfe, Akuapem in 2005. Following this feat achieved, he worked professionally at the same bank for 24 months as an Assistant Accountant. Later in 2008, he joined United Bank for Africa (UBA) as a Retail Banking Officer. Due to his dedication to work, he won the Most Outstanding Staff award and later was poached by Access Bank, where he worked as Head of Asian Corporates desk.
In less than 3 months at Access Bank, Frank Kwabena Owusu liabilities portfolio had risen to $25million, unprecedented in the history of the bank, as he got recognized by the Board of the bank. Then he moved to Unibank as Head of Commodities Banking, later to Fidelity Bank as Head of Exports desk then finally left to First Atlantic Bank as Branch Manager at North Industrial Area, where he reigned to follow his passion in music and media.
Prior to the banking experience, he had his basic school education at the Alajo Basic School and had his secondary school education at Koforidua Secondary Technical School in Koforidua. He had his first degree at Valley View University where he studies Business Administration (Accounting option) and graduated with 2nd class upper division.
Franky5 has become a household name and one of the most talked about radio personalities in recent times. He is the host of “This is Gospel” radio show on Hitz 103.9 fm, a Multimedia Group. During this period he has conducted big interviews with top showbiz names such as Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, CK Akonnor, Prince David Osei, Obrafour, Yaw Sarpong, Joe Mettle, Diana Hamilton, Nacee, etc, and also securing two nominations, one each at the Ghana DJs Awards – 2019 and
RTP Awards – 2018.
Franky5’s entry into radio space started when he was into Artist Business Management where he managed Gospel music stalwarts such as Nacee and No Tribe music group, Ceccy Twum, One Voice Choir and OJ. There, he developed great love for radio as he encountered and studied top radio hosts such as Kuami Sefa Kayi, Akwasi Aboagye, Andy Dosty, Abeiku Santana, etc.
Later in 2016, he decided to divert to radio and television. His first application was to host the TIG Show on Pluzz fm which fell off along the way, until Mark Okraku-Mantey (Programs Director at Hitz fm) decided to give him a chance to develop his passion at Hitz fm in the same year.
Absolute belief and faith has been his guiding principle in the processes that has led him throughout his career. “If you don’t believe you can absolutely transform your life and get what you want, then you might as well forget about goal setting and do something else”. If you are in doubt, look around you. Everything you can see began as a thought. Make your thoughts turn into reality. The ultimate is to be able put a smile on someone’s face by virtue of my service to God and humanity.
Having worked in the corporate world, creative arts and the media space, his dedication to work and excellence has positioned him to serve on the Board of the 2nd biggest music awards scheme in Ghana, ‘3 Music Awards’ as the only Gospel representative. He also serves as an Academy member the biggest music awards scheme in Ghana, VGMAs. He is also a consultant to Africa Gospel Awards Festival and the Ghana National Gospel Music Awards. He also served on the Board of Zylofon Arts Fund, Ghana Tourism Authority Film Support Fund and currently a member of the “Beyond the Return” planning committee.
The 7 Record Producers Making Afrobeats Music A Globally Accepted Genre
When Drake hopped on Wizkid’s “Ojuelegba Remix” back in 2015, his co-sign helped elevate the blossoming Afrobeats scene to global heights. With the impending Afrobeats bonanza in his sights, a year later Drake, the globe’s biggest (and most opportunistic) artist, again sought Wizkid’s helping hand for his own Afro-inspired single “One Dance,”
This foray into the unknown paid off for him as “One Dance” exploded into one of the most successful singles of the streaming era. Just like that, almost in the blink of an eye, Afrobeats became a global commodity.
The emergence of artists like Burna Boy, Rema, Mr. Eazi, and the continued success of the likes of Wizkid and Davido, have propelled the genre globally. The recent release of Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift, which featured the who’s who of the Afrobeats scene—Mr Eazi, Wizkid, Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, Maleek Berry, Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale—is further evidence of the world’s growing interest in Afrobeats.
Throughout the years, there have been several producers who have consistently been behind many of our favourite hits. We take a closer look at the cream of the crop.
It took almost two years for Davido’s “Fall” to make its mark across the world, but when it did, it quickly became a torchbearer for the expansion of Afrobeats. The Kiddominant-produced record broke ground in the US and became the longest charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history, peaking at number 13 on the US R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. It also notably rose to one of the top 100 most Shazamed singles in America in early 2019 and was enlisted among Pitchfork’s 200 best songs of the 2010s. Other notable production credits by Kiddominant include AKA’s “Fela In Versace”, DJ Neptune’s “Marry” (feat. Mr Eazi) and Orezi’s “Rihanna”.
African Giant, Burna Boy’s magnus opus, would not have been possible without Kel P. A producer and co-writer on 10 of the album’s 19 songs, including the standout singles “Pull Up”, “Killin Dem”, “Dangote”, “On The Low” and “Gbona”, his production on African Giant provided a smooth canvas on which Burna Boy could showcase his immense talents. With multiple gold and platinum certifications all over the world, African Giant has arguably been the most important project in Afrobeats’ ongoing global expansion. Aside from his work with Burna Boy, Kel P has produced for an array of gifted African acts such as Niniola, Phyno, Wizkid, Solidstar, Ceeza Milli, Diamond Platnumz and Davido.
London-based producer P2J is perhaps the continent’s most visible Afrobeats production export. The versatile Nigerian has worked with the likes of Doja Cat, Chris Brown, Stormzy, Mario, H.E.R and Tiwa Savage. On Beyoncé’s album, Lion King: The Gift, he produced arguably the two most memorable songs, “Brown Skin Girl” and “Ja Ara E”. Other notable records produced by P2J include Amine’s “Easy” featuring Summer Walker, DJ Tunez’s “Cool Me Down” featuring WizKid, and Wizkid’s “Smile” featuring H.E.R.. Last year he had the impressive distinction of having two of his songs featured on President Obama’s list of his favourite songs of 2019: Gold Link’s “Joke Ting” and Burna Boy’s “Anybody”.
When E-Kelly and Mr Eazi came across each other in Lagos in 2016, Mr. Eazi was fresh off the success of his breakout singles “Skin Tight” and “Bankulize”, while E-Kelly had recently left his role as an A&R for Patoranking. Both were in search of a new challenge. The two connected instantly, and it wasn’t long before they had their first record together—the easy, infectious and sultry “Leg Over”. As the song enjoyed global success, they soon collaborated on yet another chart-topping single, “Pour Me Water”, which helped propel the Nigerian star into the continent’s highest streaming artist in 2018. Aside from his work with Mr Eazi, E-Kelly has produced songs for other stars such as Major Lazer, Patoranking, Vanessa Mdee, Tekno, Ycee and Waje.
Since bursting onto the scene in the early 2010s, Nigerian producer Sarz’s production style has evolved year on year. A pioneer of the growing Afro-house scene, his extensive work with Nigerian singer Niniola continues to break boundaries. The award-winning producer’s work stands out for its smooth, bouncy African rhythm and minimalist production. He counts among his collection of hits songs such as Wizkid’s “Closer” featuring Drake, Niniola’s “Maradona” and Skepta and Wizkid’s “Energy (Stay Far Away)”.
Award-winning Ghanaian DJ and record producer, GuiltyBeatz has been on a tear since he released his breakthrough single, “Akwaaba” featuring Mr Eazi, Patapaa and Pappy Kojo in 2018. After collecting several awards, including most notably Best African Collaboration and Song of the Year at the 2018 All Africa Music Awards, he went on to co-produce three songs off The Lion King: The Gift: “Already”, “Keys to The Kingdom” and “Find Your Way Back”. On his recently released debut EP, Different, GuiltyBeatz presents a more uptempo rhythm than the mellow, sexy vibes that have become his signature sound. It’ll be interesting to see if the sparse, clubby Afro-house world he imagines on “Different” will be a staple in his production work going forward.
Few songs have been as important in elevating the Afrobeats genre than Wizkid’s “Ojuelegba”. The soulful melody on this gold-standard production paved the way for Wizkid to provide a spiritual and joyous classic about harsh life in the streets of Lagos. With Skepta and Drake’s contribution on the remix, the song received critical acclaim in the UK, North America and beyond. Aside from producing several hit songs for Wizkid, the multi award-winning production duo, which comprises siblings Uzezi Oniko and Okiemute Oniko, have also produced for the likes of Mr Eazi, Seyi Shay, Ice Prince, L.A.X and Skales.
– Shingai Darangwa/okayafrica
Shatta Wale Curates A 10 Track Playlist For Essence [LISTEN]
I wanted to personally thank you all for making the Mariah The Scientist edition pop in a major way! That piece did so well that we’re evolving the format of ESSENCE’s The Playlist to feature more song selections by your favorite rising and established artists, such as this week’s co-curator, Shatta Wale.
The Ghanaian reggae-dancehall talent from Nima, burst onto the American scene thanks to his show-stealing appearance alongside Beyoncé in Disney’s Black Is King. And although here in the U.S., people are warming up to the sounds of Afrobeat, Afrovibes, and more—Shatta Wale has always professed himself to be a worldly talent and his latest single, “Winning Formula,” proves why the crown is secured firmly on his head.
“In life, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” Shatta tells me. “You need to have a plan, a strategy, and stand for something. ‘Winning Formula’ will be your key to always being triumphant.
It also doesn’t hurt to shine brightly alongside Queen Bey in “Already,” a standout moment from Black Is King. I asked Shatta what was like when he first arrived on set and what lessons he learned after the experience, to which he said, “It was a superb feeling because I wasn’t just representing Shatta Wale, I was representing Ghana and the entire continent of Africa. I had to bring my A-game alongside the Queen Beyoncé. To be a part of such a masterpiece is an honor and to showcase our Black heritage and the beauty of Africa was a moment never to be forgotten and a lot of fun! The experience reinforced my belief that when it’s your time, no one can take that away from you, and the journey of Shatta Wale is a winning formula within itself.”
Ranked as one of the most influential artists in Africa, Shatta Wale has the unique ability to connect his story to the listener and infuse his charisma with relative ease. “I have been on the top, went down, and now I am back and making all these great moves. [“Winning Formula”] represents all the phases of my hustle [and] I think listeners can learn from these relatable stories to cook up their own recipe,” Shatta says. Whether encouraging the youth through charitable actions (Shatta Foundation) or through his evocative use of song, this Akata has mad respect for the leader of the Shatta Movement and I say “nhyira” to him and all his future wins.
To all my chalés, I say, “Medaase paa,” for enjoying this week’s version of The Playlist, served fresh with a side of Red Red and Waatse!
Shatta Wale & Gold Up — “Winning Formula”
The artist formerly known as Bandana from Ghana kicks off The Playlist with his latest single, “Winning Formula,” via Gold Up. The Black Is King co-star offers up motivating lines about what it takes to bring home championship gold. “Tell yourself that you are more than enough, keep God in your life, and go after what you want,” he shares as advice with yours truly. Wise words indeed, especially when you’re bigging up those who went from nothing to something, and makes me recall a line from Wale’s “God Is Alive”.
“Mɛda w’ase oo yehowa,” which breaks down to “I thank you Jehovah,” a belief that anyone can identify with deeply, and should apply to their own lives to experiment with their own winning formula.
Darey — “Jah Guide Me”
Nigerian’s Darey Art Alade (mononymously known as Darey) released his first single in five years titled “Jah Guide Me”. The Pheelz-produced single is blessed by the Creator and feels (pun intended) like an instant hit. Imbued with hope and positivity—two things we need an abundance in these difficult times—”Jah Guide Me” is an aural experience which anyone from any walk of life can participate in. In short, this song serves a higher purpose, and you cannot lose when following the word of the Almighty.
Kelvin Boj — “Whip It Up” (ft. Gucci Mane)
Shatta Wale’s second pick for The Playlist introduces Kelvin Boj and his Afrobeats and hip-hop blended song called “Whip It Up.” The man formerly known as LayLow connects with Atlanta rap icon Gucci Mane for a carefully crafted blend meant to get you hype and excited for something new from an artist with some substance. “The energy this song gives off is a superb feeling,” Shatta shares. A compliment from the King of Dancehall and Afrobeats is a win that is strong enough to ensure ears will be enticed for this diasporadical ditty.
Cuppy — “Jollof On The Jet” (ft. Rema & Rayvanny)
Cuppy is a supremely talented force on the scene and I really hope that you all add her to your rotation ASAP! The brilliantly titled “Jollof On The Jet” is a smooth slice of Afro-pop from the talented Naija DJ, producer, and all-around star, and features contributors Rema and Rayvanny. Over producer Killertunes‘ celebratory beat, Cuppy and her two cohorts craft a lavish and lush song that, with an extra dash of bongo spice, makes “Jollof On The Jet” a very catchy and irresistible track to play wherever you’re at in the world.
Iwan — Gye Nyame
Iwan, a reggae and Dancehall artist also from Ghana, is known as “Lyrical Gunshot,” and has a reputation in the Gold Coast for being ahead of the curve. As Shatta Wale’s third pick for The Playlist, “Gye Nyame”—which means “there is nothing but creation or God”—is a song that resonates because “in life you only have yourself and God to be a motivator.” With a name that is an acronym for “I Win Always Naturally,” this song should align one’s faith with the energy to make one’s dreams a reality.
Ecool — “Knock“
Ecool and Oshow Beatz as a tandem have put numbers on the boards for a minute. But now, with “Knock,” they add a huge win for pollinating Afrovibes around the world. As DMW Records‘ in-house DJ, Ecool floats over this mid-tempo cut—with its soft major chords, brass melodies, and trademarked Afrobeat drum sequence—and proves that vocal artistry can add a huge W when you’re using love for that special somebody as motivation.
Jada Kingdom — “WiN”
Ghana and Jamaica are connected not just through the love of Dancehall, but through shared familial bonds that date back to the forced Ashanti/Akan emigration to the Caribbean. For Shatta Wale’s next selection, Jada Kingdom‘s “WiN” is a bouncy track that articulates the struggle, what goes on around us, and inspires us all to go for the gold. “This song is uplifting, inspirational, and relatable,” Shatta says. “No matter how many times you fall along the way, put God first and keep going!” If you’re looking for melodic, yet motivational song, then this is it!
DJ Tunez — “Cool Me Down” (ft. WizKid)
DJ Tunez and WizKid are two world-renowned Afrobeats stars and their collaborations are must-see events. Their new offering, “Cool Me Down,” is right for those who enjoy a mellow, yet dance-worthy song after working up a sweat. With WizKid dropping some cheeky lyrics over DJ Tunez solid production, these two make a winning combination that would make Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet envious.
Vybz Kartel — “Big Bizniz” (ft. TeeJay)
By now the entire world should know “A Gaza Mi Sey,” which is a fantastic bop if you haven’t heard it yet. According to Shatta Wale, the street certified Dancehall King, “This song is encouraging to the youths in the ghetto, giving them hope that they can achieve anything if they work hard for it.” Vybz Kartel and featured artist TeeJay pack this song full of wisdom and financial advice for the listeners that want the size of their bankroll to be on championship levels.
Yemi Alade — “True Love”
Award-winning artist (and friend in my mind) Yemi Alade arrives just in time with this record, “True Love.” Fresh from her appearance in Beyoncé’s Black Is King, this song is a refreshing number for those who have had bad luck in romance or are just feeling a bit lost during this COVID-19 crisis. Poised to breakout across the globe, Yemi’s exciting, youthful, and exuberant vibe will not only brings a smile to one’s face, but also prove that the Yoruba and Igbo talent has one of the most beautiful voices inside and outside of the Afrobeat genre.
Burna Boy Has the Whole World Listening
Burna Boy — the Nigerian songwriter, singer and rapper who was born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu — once thought he’d be content writing the sleek, self-assured party tunes that first drew fans to his mixtapes in the early 2010s. But as his popularity spread worldwide, the spirits who guide his songwriting had other plans for him. Soon, he was taking up broader, more consequential ideas.
“Music is a spiritual thing,” he said in an interview via video call from his studio in Lagos. Wearing a white Uber jersey and puffing a hand-rolled smoke, with jeweled rings glittering on his fingers, Burna Boy spoke about his fifth album, “Twice as Tall,” which was still getting some finishing touches ahead of its Aug. 13 release date.
“I’ve never picked up a pen and paper and written down a song in my life,” he said. “It all just comes, like someone is standing there and telling me what to say. It’s all according to the spirits. Some of us are put on this earth to do what we do.”
Success has brought him “a very huge responsibility that I didn’t think I would have,” he added. For his new album, he said, he’s “basically continuing the mission I started, which is building a bridge that leads every Black person in the world to come together, and to make you understand that without you having a home base, you can’t be as strong as you are.”
Burna Boy, 29, has assembled an international following since he released his 2013 debut album, “L.I.F.E.: Leaving an Impact for Eternity.” He sold out Wembley SSE Arena in London last year, and songs from his 2019 album, “African Giant,” have drawn tens of millions of streams and views.
His fans include Beyoncé, who featured a solo Burna Boy song, the irresistibly insinuating “Ja Ara E,” on her album full of collaborations, “The Lion King: The Gift,” which became the visual album “Black Is King” last month. Sam Smith shares their new single, “My Oasis,” with Burna Boy as singer and co-writer. And when the 2020 Grammy Award for world music went to Angelique Kidjo, a three-time previous winner, over Burna Boy and “African Giant,” she held up the trophy and dedicated it to Burna Boy, praising him as a young African artist who is “changing the way our continent is perceived.”
Burna Boy is a leader amid a bounty of new African pop that has been increasingly welcomed in the West: a confluence of widespread availability via streaming, discovery via word-of-internet rather than former gatekeepers, and the sheer inventiveness taking place outside established music-business strongholds.
But Burna Boy also sees newfound interest in African music as a turn toward refuge. “From what I’ve read and from what I’ve studied and from what I researched, the world started from Africa,” Burna Boy said. “So music must have started from Africa. And I feel like when everything starts kind of going left, like what is going on right now, everybody runs home.”
He calls his music Afro-fusion rather than the catchall label, Afrobeats, that has been attached to recent, electronics-driven Nigerian music from performers like Wizkid, Davido and Mr Eazi, and even more vaguely to other current African pop as international listeners discover it. (The term Afrobeats also invites confusion with Afrobeat, the complex, steadfast, handmade protest funk that Fela Kuti, also from Nigeria, forged in the late 1960s and 1970s.)
Burna Boy’s Afro-fusion is omnivorous and supremely catchy. Its beats are often programmed, but their stops and starts evade expectations. Instruments, sampled or hand-played, bounce against the rhythms or deftly dodge them, while his voice — which can be as staccato as a rapper or as cottony as a crooner — glides easily across and atop everything else.
For “Twice as Tall,” Burna Boy enlisted an American executive producer: Sean Combs, a.k.a. Diddy, who has long guided rappers and singers (most famously the Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige) toward wider audiences. “I’m on record that I like hit records. If they’re not hit records, I don’t like them,” Combs said via FaceTime from Los Angeles.
“A lot of times when an artist wants to be coached or pushed to maybe a greater level, that’s where I’ve come in,” he said. “He, as every artist, he wants his music to be heard by the world. He doesn’t care about crossing over. You know, he’s not trying to get hot. He’s not, like, ‘I want to be a big pop star’ — he’s already a star. He wants his music to be heard, his message, his people.”
Most of the album was recorded during the pandemic, and Burna Boy and Combs collaborated across an eight-hour time difference via frequent Zoom calls and file transfers. Combs brought in musical contributions including drums from Anderson .Paak on the foreboding “Alarm Clock” and additional production from Timbaland on “Wetin Dey Sup,” a song punctuated by gunshots and sirens that warns, “They only respect the money and the violence.”
Combs also makes his presence audible with voice-over intros on some songs, briefly upstaging Burna Boy. But he said that the music was about 80 percent complete, including all of the songwriting, before he was brought in to provide “fresh ears” and his sense of detail. The album he added, is “a modern but pure, unapologetic African body of work.”
For the most part, Burna Boy hasn’t diluted his African heritage to reach his global audience. Instead, he has placed an unmistakably African stamp on music drawn from all around Africa and from across the African diaspora. He has a calm, husky, resolute voice that exemplifies the West African cultural virtue of coolness: poise and control transcending any commotion. His melodic sense is rooted in pentatonic African modes but unconstrained by them, and he has a stable of producers who deliver some of the most innovative rhythm tracks in 21st-century pop — usually working alongside Burna Boy in his studio, he said. He sings, most often, in a pidgin of English and Yoruba, confident that his meaning will get through even if listeners don’t recognize all the words.
“The thing that I learned about him is the importance of what he’s doing for his nation and representing the people that aren’t really heard globally,” Combs said. “Through this album, I think it’s important for Africa to be heard. And so it’s bigger than just an album. He’s not just on a musical artist trip. He’s a revolutionary. His conviction is serious.”
Hip-hop, reggae, R&B and rock were all part of the mix of music Burna Boy grew up on in Port Harcourt, the southern Nigerian city where he was born, and then in London, where he spent some teenage years in Brixton before returning to Nigeria. His lyrics have often mentioned that he kept some rough company. In “Level Up,” the brooding-to-triumphant song that opens “Twice as Tall,” he celebrates his own achievements, but also notes, “Some of my guys might never see the sun/Some of them still peddle drugs.”
On “African Giant,” Burna Boy pointedly addressed Nigeria’s colonial history and lingering corruption alongside more hedonistic songs. And with “Twice as Tall” he sought to make music as, he said, “a citizen of the world.”
In the 15 songs on “Twice as Tall,” Burna Boy takes stock of his accomplishments and his vulnerabilities, and he encourages ambition and perseverance against long odds; he also parties. And he lashes out at racism, exploitation and widespread misconceptions about Africa.
“We’re not what they teach in schools out here,” he said. “They don’t teach the right history, the history of strength and power that we originally had and that they should be teaching now. They don’t really teach the truth about how we ended up in the situation we’re in. They don’t teach the truth about what’s going on now and how to overcome it. And I believe that knowledge is power.”
He wants all the countries and cultures of Africa to unite as one continent. “I want my children to have an African passport, not a Nigerian passport,” he said. “I do not identify with any tribe. I do not identify with any country. I do not identify with anything, really. I identify with the world in the universe — I believe I am a citizen of the world, and I have a responsibility to the world. But at the same time in the world, it’s my people who are really getting the short end of the stick. It’s just doing what I have to do when I have to do it.”
The songs on “Twice as Tall” hold echoes of Nigeria, South Africa, Jamaica and the United States, and there are guest appearances from Naughty by Nature, the Kenyan band Sauti Sol and Senegal’s musical titan, Youssou N’Dour. The momentum is crisp and nonstop as the songs draw on — among many other things — Zulu choir singing, electronic dance music, alt-R&B and the patterns of West African marimbas and Zimbabwean thumb pianos.
On the album’s most vehement song, Burna Boy, with Chris Martin of Coldplay arriving on choruses, turns to stark, echoey roots reggae in “The Monsters You Made,” an indictment of miseducation, historical injustice and systemic racism, delivered in clear English with mounting fury. “When they’ve been working like slaves/To get some minimum wage,” he sings, “You turn around and you blame/Them for their anger and rage.”
It’s the rare Burna Boy song where he lets coolness fall away. “That song comes from a lot of anger and pain, and me having to witness firsthand what my people go through and how my people see themselves,” he said. “I see how many people are deceived and confused. I just try to blend all of that in and make it understood that we’re all going through the same problems. We just speak different languages.”
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