If you thought the art of making music, as it is today was easy and cheap a decade ago, Eno has something to tell you.
When it comes to conversations about music in Ghana, the paucity of female rappers/singers is a prominent feature. The number of female artists seriously pale in comparison to their male counterparts. This situation is more prominent on the hip life/hip hop scene than on the ‘singing’ scene. Unlike, their singing counterparts, who are able to break through quicker, the female rappers, despite possessing incredible talent, find themselves struggling to keep their heads above water. The reasons for this development are numerous to enumerate.
Despite this obvious challenge, one female rapper who is gradually breaking through this male dominated artform is ENO. Over the years, Eno has positioned herself, thanks to her astounding talent, as arguably, the biggest female rapper in Ghana. She has style, bars (lyrics), punchlines that will leave some of these ‘big’ name rappers spellbound. (Un) fortunately, the depth of her talent has not matched up her fame yet. In short, Eno is still an ‘underground’ rapper. Why she has not blown up is still a question I’m trying to unravel.
From featuring on DJ Black’s Cypher, a couple of radio freestyle sessions, doing cover songs to dropping her own singles featuring some big name artists, Eno has impressed a lot of people who may have chanced on her songs. Her energy and her ability to be witty, serious and fearless, in same measure or flow, is endearing. Another quality in her talent trove is her ability to switch her flow on any beat thrown at her during freestyle sessions on radio.
A few days ago, as I was flipping through radio bands to ward off boredom in the constantly heavy Achimota-Dome traffic, I chanced on a new song by Eno. Featuring Arab Money Group’s (AMG) fast rising rapper, Medikal, the song King of Queens, is a self-exulting exercise by Eno. She outlined her talents; sent warning to her competitors-including some ‘established’ rappers; and why she is the Queen of Kings on this Cabum produced trap beats.
It was some bars that she shared on the second verse which struck me. A lot has changed in over a decade in terms of making music. Now, the art is less stressful. Artists can put out work in the shortest possible time to a larger community of audience. If you thought the art of making music, as it is today –where due to technology artists/producers can make records in their bedrooms with ease- then you got misinformed.
Eno in just 32 seconds, described the hassle an aspiring rapper had to endure to record, get the music mixed and even get a shot on radio. Before describing the grueling journey, she intoned that, the best rapper accolade has become so common a claim due to the ‘abundance of microphones’ (she compared mics to cups which every rapper today ‘can drink’ from).
Eno touched on how aspiring artists visit studios to read the pasted ‘Rules and Regulations’ on studio doors was common back then. I recall an interview where Hammer (Last 2) described his studio as a boot camp with its own set of rules and regulations for artists. Ones entry into the studio required you removing your footwear (the studio was a sacred ground) and you have to beg for a beat to rap on.
Unlike today, artists are not only spoilt with choice-producer wise (producers and artists can work without being in the studio together), they can record from their rooms. A decade or so ago, an artist had to go chasing the producer. And landing a beat from top producers such as Hammer (Last 2), Appietus, Morris Babyface, Kaywa, Jay Q and Quick Action was both a validation of one’s talent and pressure to vindicate that trust.
To find out whether the producer was done working on your track or visit the studio, you place a Space-To-Space call (mobile phones were only reserved for the cream of society). And when you are fortunate to get your final work, you have to trek to Tema Community 2 and meet Dr. Duncan, a presenter on Adom FM, whose programme Kasahari (rap) served as a platform for some of today’s big name rappers to exhibit their talents through rap battles. (Dr. Duncan deserves more praise than he does receive for this singular act of generosity). Meeting with Dr. Duncan didn’t even guarantee one an early feature on Kasahari. One had to join the long queue of rappers and bid their time.
Eno, casting a look back at the hassle young artists had to endure before getting the opportunity to live their dream brings out two things. First, the hunger and determination made them prepare adequately-both lyrically and mentally- to seize the opportunity once it lands. The likes of Obrafour, Okyeame Kwame, Obour, Kwadei, Buk Bak, VIP among others are proof of this. Secondly, the artist(s) get to learn the essentials of music –production, songwriting, concepts- from producers whose inputs are of profound essence.
Eno has lived long enough to see the old ways and the new ways of making music. And can dissect and analyse the changes that have occurred over the years. With today’s process being easy and relatively cheap, we are inclined to forget how hard it was for some of today’s big names to get here- opportunities were slim and artists had to go through hills and valleys to record a single or feature. I wonder if the next generation would be awed by our process as some young ones would hearing Eno enumerate the struggles on ‘King of Queens’