Joey B aka Darryl Paa Kwesi Bannerman-Martin is a thrill to listen. His verses are superbly rendered; his lyrics are dominated by jaw dropping punch lines and beautifully patterned humour. His ability to adapt to any beat and sometimes outshine whoever he is on a track with is simply outstanding.
His skill set nearly got him signed to Hammer’s Last 2 after the Skillions New Generation chapter was nearing closure. I recall an interview where he spoke of how Hammer thought him as the best among his Skillions peers-consisting of Rumour, Lil’ Shaker, BraKevin Beats, Grafik, Killmatic.
Despite flirting with Hammer for a while, Joey B didn’t sign with Last Two. Instead, he settled with D-Black’s Black Avenue Muizik (BAM) label. The reasons for considering BAM might have hinged on the following: D-Black has extensive contacts in the music industry, both within and outside Ghana; Black Avenue Muzik had started out new and were recruiting talents and being the first act to be signed might have sounded good.
In addition was the fact that Joey B and D-Black have been friends for long as they all grew up in the same neighbourhood of North Kaneshie. One could, therefore, conclude thus Joey B felt comfortable and ‘at home’ with D-Black.
For Joey B, his 2014 chart topping single ‘Tonga’ remains his biggest tune till date. Surely, he will be remembered for it. Prior to the explosion of Tonga, Joey B got the music scene in awe with his memorable, excellently delivered verse off D-Black’s hit Vera. It was after that verse- which many would undeniably agree not only handed Vera its shade of brilliance but eclipsed D-Black’s two verses- that he formally got recognized as a serious contender within the hip life scene.
This feat did two things to Joey B’s career. First, it gave him a sense of confidence-one that meant Ghanaians are ready to embrace him and second, that his style of rap-laid back, funny and entertaining was appreciated.
Tonga defined Joey B. It brought him attention, prominence and success. Unfortunately, Joey B’s songs post-Tonga is below expectation. It pales in comparison to his pre-Tonga days. Songs such as Wave and Wow and some of his guest verses has, to say the least, very ordinary.
To put it another way, Joey B of today is not exactly (no scratch that). The Joey B of this moment is sub-par to the Joey B we knew years ago before the fame.
What could have accounted for this ‘dumping down’ of his lyrical proficiency is open for discussion. Perhaps, he has uncovered the truth about today’s music consumer: strong punch lines, metaphors and rhyme schemes don’t matter. We love ‘sense-less’ music with groovy tone to dance to.
The lyricism of Joey B, evident on tracks such as Vera, Edem’s Kate, Strawberry Ginger (not the remix), My Hood, School, I Run This (with his Skillions peers), Bring Your Body showcased a very skilled rapper who has traded off his prowess when fame offered him a handshake.
In current times, Joey B is in a good place, where like EL, knows what his fans and Ghanaians love to hear-catchy hooks, simple lyrics etc. However, unlike EL, who has created another avenue to serve his fans who believe in good lyrics and real rap (BAR Mixtapes), Joey B is yet to create that avenue.
But his admirers, from his days with Skillions New Generation till Tonga, would feel a bit disappointed that their beloved Joey B, who gave everything a rapper must serve his fans or listeners-crazy ass lines, bewildering rhymes, humour- and got rappers thinking twice before featuring him for fear of ‘killing them on their own shit’ is today not inspiring anymore.