Around the 1999, a four man rap group emerged on the music scene from the Sekondi- Takoradi area of the Western Region. The rap group, SASS Squad, however, disbanded after releasing their debut album under 4Ks record imprint.
Whereas Shortman and Sane Dogg stuck with the original group name, releasing another album which flew under the radar, Scooby Selah (now Fiifi Selah), Atsu Koliko, Olasty Bingo (RIP) and Papa Flavour, saw the breakup as another chapter in their quest for musical success.
Following the breakup of SASS Squad, Scooby, Atsu Koliko and Olasty Bingo went on to form a new group called TH4Kwagees around 2002/03.
TH4Kwagees released their only album, ‘Taxi Driver’, to critical acclaim. The album boasted tracks like the lovers rock toned ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Wongye’, ‘Sika, Kwahemu’, ‘I’m Aware’, ‘Me Nu Meho’. One song that earned the group widespread notice was ‘Nana Esi’. The album was named after Scooby Selah’s radio show on Skyy Power.
In a 2016 interview on Hitz FM’s Daybreak Hitz, Scooby (now Fiifi) Selah revealed how they had decided to name their group TH4Kwagees instead of SASS Squad. (The acronym SASS was taken from the first letters of their names). According to him, they referred to themselves as Takoradi’s Highest Four (4) even before the name SASS Squad. They added ‘Kwages’ because the person who wanted to produce them had a record label called ‘4 Ks’.
It was, therefore, befitting for Scooby and Atsu to go back to the name, changing the meaning behind the name to ‘The Highest For Lyrics’. They however replaced ‘’lyrics’’ with “Kwages”, a Sekondi-Takoradi term which means killer vibes and sick moves.
‘Nana Esi’ carried a reggae/dancehall feel; with the three detailing how their love relationships went burst due to a change in behaviour of their lovers. As Olasty Bingo’s intro remarks revealed, Nana Esi was a constant trouble in their lives, resulting in them taking flight. “Nana Esi” had a gripping, mellow feel with its sing-along lyrics endearing to many. Scooby Selah’s display of vulnerability, tenderness and utter disappointment in his lover added to its glamour. He’s heard begging Nana Esi to confirm she doesn’t love him anymore, and that, he wants her to disclose this lack of interest before the crack of dawn (first cock crow).
This effect was scored largely to the fact that, Scooby Selah and Atsu Koliko chose to sing, leaving Olasty to do a bit of raga across the song. The whole reggae/dancehall vibe of “Nana Esi” isn’t surprising since Scooby is a known reggae head, from his days at Adisadel College (Adisco) through his career as a radio person, first on Skyy Power Radio and now, on Pluzz FM where he works as the Events and Promotions Manager.
The success of the album was both a validation to their talents and vindication of their decision to part ways with the original group. There were concerns after the breakup if any group that would emerge from its ashes could replicate the astounding success story of SASS Squad. The pressure on them to either confirm the doubts of critics or shut them up. TH4Kwagees came up tops in the end.
TH4Kwagees, and SASS Squad helped ‘popularize’ the Fante language. They emerged at a time when hiplife was at its nascent stage, with the main actors being Twi speaking rappers. They coming into the scene added balance. The beauty of the Fante language was felt across the country.
They also made strong case for western/central region rappers, adding meaning to the popular mantra that ‘the best comes from the West’. It can be argued that, they indeed were one of the best groups to have emerged on the scene during that era. The building blocks they laid at the early stages of rap is what some of these current rappers from the region are standing on.
It has been decades since the release of Nana Esi, yet anythime the song is played or the title tweeted, it still elicit great reactions from people like they heard it for the very first time. That’s what good music does. Not only does it provoke nostalgic sentiments, it feels alive years after it is made.