I stole the hearts of many you can accuse me of thievery/ But where dem dey dem days I was paid so measly
How can they compete with me they ain’t half what I used be /Work thrice as hard as they would ever do usually
They tweet and try to bait us, pick fights and debate us/ But no free publicity doing nobody favors’’
M.anifest, Never Feel
When ‘Charcoal’ by Strongman surfaced online in January, it took fans very little time to describe the song as a direct attack on fellow rapper, TeePhlow. As expected, there were calls for the latter to respond. Some of these calls were borne out of genuine interest, others wanted a headlock because its hip hop; a competitive sport and also, the lyrical fight would garner attend attention for the artists and Ghana music depending on how it is played.
That response never materialized. Teephlow chose rather to promote his debut album/EP, ‘Phlowducation” which he released in September, 2017. Four months into the year, Teephlow has released ‘Preach’, which many suspect is a response to ‘Charcoal’.
My immediate reaction upon listening to “Preach” was: something might have hit him. He sounded very much introspective, forthright and confident in himself and of course, threw in punches to nameless artist(s) he considers ‘enemies’. His demeanour was one of a man whose nest had been rattled, but instead of coming out screaming and cussing, he looked at the extent of the damage, sent out a caution and went back indoors shaking his head.
Rather than going ballistic as many would have expected, Teephlow chose maturity and introspection over vengeance. He took an overview of the state of music- the pitfalls, how to navigate through the maze, the gimmickry, and hypocrisy- whiles humblebragging about his skills set and selling his album in the process.
In short, Teephlow played the wise older brother who leaves his competitor in the cold, shut his front door and chose to watch him through his window instead.
On ‘Preach’, the Spyder Lee Entertainment signee sounds very reflective. The HBOO produced piano stubs and soulful beat set the mood for him to speak his truth, by first pointing out how eagle eyed he is when it came to studying the rap scene.
‘Mehn, I’ve been in the industry for a while so I know what’s happening/People claiming good face, what they preach be opposite what they practice’ he rapped on the opening of the song; setting records straight as to why the bait set for him is nothing but industry gimmick.
This apparent beef between these two have been discussed within the rap hallways since the two protagonists began releasing music as indie acts. Strongman has seen his profile and presence rise since joining Sarkodie’s Sarkcess Music label. Teephlow had a bit of clout among rap fans before he got officially signed to his current label. With them coming up at the same time, belonging to the same generation, this seeming friction was to be expected.
‘’It’s amazing, how in a quest to find some small cheese, we end up in a rat race’’, he noted how rappers should rather strive for success and not fight one another for the short term gains. Indeed, the music market in Ghana is small and earning a formidable spot is truly hard. However, trying to ruin another for personal gain, in his view, is unnecessary and waste of time.
The Ghana music industry is bedevilled by myriad of ills that stampede the growth of artists rather than propel them to higher heights. From lack of investors, poor or lack of royalty collection systems and overall failures in the music space, many aspiring rappers abandon their dreams with the few brave ones having to endure many years of losses before finally cracking the treasure box.
Padding all traits of subliminals in ‘Charcoal’ with the back of his hand, Teephlow uses ‘Preach’ to boost his image by alluding to his complex wordplay and punchlines, which his managers confirm as ‘too deep, sometimes you for dumb it down’.
The advice for rappers with complex rhyme schemes to ‘dumb it down’ is a pervasive one. The reason, despite being a flawed argument, is because many Ghanaians aren’t knowledgeable enough to dissect these lyrics; makes their music unattractive to many.
In hip hop, beefs are mostly a sport for high ranking rappers who want to cement their status as the ‘bosses’ in the game through explosive lyrical exchanges. The person who suffers the most loses everything he has worked for over the years, like respect and in some cases, fame.
It’s similar to how a mafia don would steal a territory from a rival family. In Teephlow’s estimation, being a sick lyricist and being unseemly underground at the same time is senseless. That any rapper armed with a skill of lyricism should earn mainstream recognition.
Lemme ask one question: You be sicker? No… But you sure say u dey feel well? You dey flow but you’re still underground. Does it feel well? The industry is damaged yet if you speak they make u feel bad.
After broaching the various themes of hatred, the phantom music industry, chasing success and humblebrags, Teephlow ended on this bold note, calling ‘beefeers’ out to a full blown battle: If you are down, send a beat, come let’s kill, that be what go fit bring proof /Until then, me am trynna phlowducate your fans, I no get time to diss you.
Teephlow didn’t bite the bait that was sent his way. He knows spending time on a response would derail from what lies before him- promoting his album, ‘Phlowducation’. (‘State of the Art’ off the album, won the Record of the Year award at the VGMAs). He also understands how such friction might benefit his competitor since the visibility would be shared, a point that reflect the M.anifest quote above: ‘They tweet and try to bait us, pick fights and debate us/ But no free publicity doing nobody favors’
And instead of hitting back hard, he responded with a thought-provoking song that addresses a much bigger issue than make this a personal tiff. Like the 50 Cent GIF riding in an Impala, Phlow just let out a smirk and sped off.