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Album Review: AKAN Is Conflicted on ‘Onipa Akoma’ 

On the last track on ‘’Onipa Akoma’’, Akan pleads with all to pray for him. ‘When night falls and you’re about to retire to bed, remember to pray for Kwabena’, he raps on ‘Kae Kwabena’. One would say, praying for him should be a necessary gesture when you are done digesting his album. This incredible individual with this sheer depth of knowledge deserves our lasting prayers.

‘’Onipa Akoma’’ is the major debut album for rapper Akan, whose name began to toll among rap fans in 2015, off his EP ‘’AKAN’’. His incredible lyricism, thoughtful messages and command over the Twi language endeared him to many. His announcement of ‘’Onipa Akoma’’ filled both core and casual fans with a sense of anticipation. The anticipation turned into enthusiasm, and total acceptance of Akan as the final name that complete the list of best rappers in the country.

From the album cover to the contents of the album, the mindset of Akan is brazenly on display. ‘’Onipa Akoma’’ (which translate as Man’s Heart) is inspired by the life and legacy of his grandfather. The body of work found on the album is an exploration of desires of the heart and and soul as illustrated by the album’s cover art-Akan holding both a gown and bible in both hands with a church at the background. Each item symbolizes a facet of human life: the gown represent life, love, marriage; the bible connotes sanctimonious life; and the church represent one’s sub-conscience.

The 15 track album is a sojourn into the heart and mind of Akan. It opens with ‘Odaamanii Abesaadei’, where Akan highlights the various requests or wishes of man, mainly about his desires: of love, riches, lust, spirituality, longevity and legacy. Here, he outlines both the naked excesses riches and success invite into one’s life such as promiscuous beahviours. You can infer from this point that, Akan is displaying a sense of selfishness-it is his money and could spend it how he wants. He also points out the other side of wealth and how he’d use it to impact lives of others positively. By this musings, Akan is aware of his responsibility as a man who’s privileged. The desire for contentment in life is what he seeks, knowing his wealth could bring him that hence the question he possess on the track: “You’re well fed yet your soul is hungry. Have you bothered to think about it?”

The second track expands on the theme of riches spoken about on first track. ‘Me Sika Aduro’ (My Blood Money) sees him detailing how much riches or comfort he desires in this life. Here, Akan details the reasons for his clamour- mpney is power. Interestingly, this thought feeds into the Akan proverb about money being life (Sika Y3 Mogya). In the opening lines of ‘Me Sika Aduro’, he illustrates the power of money in the creation process: ‘God realized man was feeble after creating him. He mixed a bit of money with mud to offer man his strength’. The lust for money has been an attribute of man and is not difficult to notice why. In a society where money is power, Akan is airing out one of the essential life needs of man.

‘I need the kind of money that could change lives/I need that money I could loan out to the government/The kind that can’t be counted’

On both ‘Akoma No Abuagumu’, ‘Metu Meto’ and ‘Aprodoo’, the themes of love or fulfillment; seeking greener pastures and taking risks are addressed respectively. Whereas loneliness and a longing for fulfillment (love) dominates ‘Akoma No Abuagumu’. Akan on ‘Metu Meto’ realizes that, one can’t accomplish his dreams and heart desires by getting stuck at one place. It is always better to go out there and seek other opportunities. ‘Aprodoo’ feeds into the message of Metu Meto. This time, he explains to his mother and other relatives the need to risk it sometimes, if you wish to make it in life.

TwistedWavex produced many of the songs

On ‘Akoma Ne Adwen’, Akan details the conflict existing between the thoughts and the lusting of man. Speaking from the perspective of both the heart and mind, he draws the parallels (influences) on the actions of humans. This particular track sums up the philosophical meaning of the album title. The beat accompanying the song is steeped in Burger highlife.

Akan is a gifted storyteller who eschews braggadocios lyrics and punchlines for thought-provoking couplets that often leaves the listener spellbound.

The Kwaku Ananse produced ‘3huro A Eb3dwo is quintessentially Palmwine highlife music. With its nostalgic instrumentation, Akan sings about the virtue called patience. He beautifully crafts a story about a farmer who sells his farmland during a long season of drought with the intention of travelling to the big city for greener pastures. A night before his trip, it rains. Unknown to him the farm contained gold deposits. His attempt to reclaim his land proved futile thereby losing a very precious asset. This story showcases not only how incredible Akan is as a rapper, but an excellent storyteller (writer).

Akan at his album listening/signing event. Below, Akan speaking with producer Jayso

‘Awufo Som’ (Requiem Mass) further accentuates the songwriting prowess of Akan, who, assuming the role of a linguist (a narrator) describes in vivid terms the funeral ceremony of the Akan people. Choosing the medium of speech rather than rap, he offers the listener the opportunity to follow and understand the subject he’s addressing. This approach is reminiscent of some performances by highlife legends of old like Nana Ampadu, Obuoba J.A. Adofo and Akwasi Ampofo Adjei.Positives:

Listening to the album, one comes to the realization that the story being told reflects the haunting thoughts of a man who aspires for success (riches) and longevity (legacy). This he notes on ‘Mi Sika Mogya’: ‘It would be sad to miss out on the little fun of life due to poverty and have regrets after death’.

The album also points out the conflicting duality of Akan – his heart desires (vanity) and his spiritual/moral contemplation. Similar to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ where Kendrick battles the temptations of Lucy (Lucifer represented by US) and his own efforts at staying sane and responsible, Akan tries to navigate these two worlds without falling victim to any. The first half of the album is a reflection on the many vanities he daydreams about. The second part of the album is more introspective and questions what is important in life.

The sequencing of the album (both story and sound) captures the stories shared and the many musical waves that Ghana has experimented with. One hear modern day trap sound, Burger highlife, early 2000s hiplife sound and Palmwine highlife influences. The influences of his idols-Obrafour, Kwadei and Lord Kenya- are present on some of the songs. The production works of Twisted Waves (he produced majority of the songs), Jayso, Yung Fly, Mike Millz’OnEm, Flavamatik really did a good job.

Negatives:

There’s no radio formatted song on the album although ‘Helebaba’ and ‘Me Sika Aduro’ and ‘Daben’ have the potential of becoming cross-over songs. This reflect the left-field personality of Akan- someone who doesn’t pander to mainstream pressures and create works that appeal to him rather than satisfy the mainstream market.

The dense nature of the album coupled with the language used-the impeccable Asante Twi means many may not grasp what he is talking about on the album. It may take many listens to really unravel the contents on the album. But, that’s been the trademark of Akan. On his 2015 EP ‘AKAN’, it was his ability to speak impeccably Twi that got people to gravitate towards his music.

For any artist seeking to release an album, they need to ask themselves if it measures up to “Onipa Akoma”. Just like “Pae Mu Ka” did in the early 2000s, Akan has mapped out a template for others to follow. That is, inspire a new wave of artists to believe in themselves and create a body of work that they want. Akan is a gifted storyteller who eschews braggadocios lyrics and punchlines for thought-provoking couplets that often leaves the listener spellbound.

Akan on ‘Onipa Akoma’ has intelligently given us a project so dense and layered that it’d take weeks, months or years to unravel its essence. I won’t be mad if he never releases an album again. What he needs to do now is to let the corners of the country-and those outside- hear this beautiful piece of art.

‘Onipa Akoma’ is the best album by a Ghanaian raper in the last decade.

If we all believe Akan as the realest rapper out there, then it’s on us to support him-pray for him.

Purchase/Stream Onipa Akoma on aftown.com Photos used courtesy Akan’s IG

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5 Responses to “Album Review: AKAN Is Conflicted on ‘Onipa Akoma’ ”

  1. Sarkodie and Akan Share Travel Tales on “All Die Be Die” | CulArtBlog

    […] Akan’s verse did not deviate from the theme at hand. He adds his perspective, couching a tale that captures his circumstances as dictated by the hardship confronting him. ”Somebody tell my mum bad eating habits is killing me”, Akan raps, pointing to the difference between the ‘easy’ rural life he traded for a better life in the city. His torrid circumstances not withstanding, Akan is still hopeful of succeeding so he could take care of his family back in the village, even if it would cost him his life. Like Sarkodie, Akan has also touched on the subject of seeking greener pastures elsewhere on ”Matu Meto&#8221… […]

    Reply

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