There was a time when his music dominated radio nationwide. His album was raking in sales and climbing charts. The young, prodigious boy who, at age 17, released one of the cult classics within the hip life circuits, had matured into a man, studied the game and the market; serving fans what they truly wanted. His level of clout was confirmed when MTV Base funded a full video for his song ‘Kangaroo’, directed by award winning video director, Gil Green.
It was within his golden years that he accused Charter House, organizers of the Ghana Music Awards of bias after the 2003 edition, subsequently ‘threatening’ them to reward his efforts at the 2004 edition. He was voted ‘Best Artiste’ that year. His album, ‘M’asem’, with its Pat Thomas interpolated ‘Menka Biom’ single stayed on the charts for over 22 weeks. In 2006, he organized the biggest album launch in the history of Ghanaian music for his fourth studio album, “Wope”.
Between 2003 and 2006, Tic Tac was at his most buoyant form; chalking success beyond the borders of Ghana. But, that was years ago. Today, the artist named Nana Kwaku Duah is deemed a veteran within the music scene. With a host of chart topping singles and five studio albums under his belt, Tic Tac’s two decade long career has been splendid and rewarding.
There was a period when the ‘Philomena’ hit maker got lost from the scene. His songs which were once heralded radio station playlists got filed under ‘old school’ folder by DJs, who play it to evoke nostalgic sentiments. Despite the hiatus, Tic Tac found a way of releasing singles across the years. Like the devil that the music scene is, you get forgotten or your star power wanes leaving you like a superhero without his cape- Tic Tac’s value declined after 2006.
The attempted comeback for Tic Tac began in 2013 when he released the unimpressive single ‘Pum Pum’- a sexually laden song wrapped in metaphors. In 2017, he got busy, releasing a number of songs that, like his 2013 single, woefully failed to make an impression on radio. Songs like ‘Rashida’, with its very traditional afrobeat sounded more like a beat for Wanlov the Kubolor than Tic Tac. He followed in his quest to cracking the top charts with ”Do All” which featured Pappy Kojo. Despite Pappy’s good efforts, the song failed to chart. (For a minute, I thought the song belonged to Pappy Kojo rather than Tic Tac). ”Carry Go” with Samini was an equally average display as well.
Three months ago, Tic Tac teamed up with afropop sensation, KiDi on ”Pe Ne Ma Me”; a love song with a catchy beat and a hook that sticks in your head after a few plays. Whereas KiDi’s crooning was impeccable, Tic Tac’s signature staccato rap was a face palm GIF moment. The delivery was less spirited and the lyrics were banal. I honestly believe ‘Pe Ne Ma Me’ is getting played on radio largely because of the efforts of KiDi and the catchy beat than Tic Tac’s lyrical prowess.
The unimpressive run of songs in the late years of his career are some of the worst in his five album catalogue. Juxtaposing the works of Tic Tac from the early 2000s through to circa 2006, this observation is apt. This was the rapper who gave us the album ‘M’asem’, featuring songs like the classic ‘Menka Biom'(Shordy) featuring Mensah Pozo, and ‘Wope’ with songs like ‘Fefe Ne Fe’, ‘Kangaroo’, ”Kwane Kwane” along with many features and singles including his best verse ever on ‘Sre Kakra” off VIPs cult classic ”Ahomka Wo Mu’ album.
Last year, I chanced on an interview the rapper cum radio host Trigmatic had on the Mid-morning show on YFM. It was an interview with another veteran rapper Ex- Doe, who was there to promote new music, discuss his long hiatus from music, and proffer his opinion on the current music scene. Don’t ask me what the title of the song was. I can’t remember because it was grievously disappointing.
Just like Tic Tac and Ex-Doe, Qweci, formerly known as Ded Buddy, is also trying to get a foot back into the mainstream music scene like he did some two decades ago. Ded Buddy was a pioneering figure when it came to blending RnB with the new hiplife sound emerging in 1995. In 1997, he released a critically acclaimed single ‘Ye Besa’. He followed this success up with another tune, ‘Akola Wesiwa’. What followed next was a long hiatus, with Ded Buddy emerging under a new moniker and new songs after a decade. Despite his brilliance, Qweci’s music seems not to be making the desired impact that he might have envisaged. His ‘latest’ video, “Se Nu Wa”, released in January (this year) has raked in a mere 1,026 views.
The web that Tic Tac, Ex-Doe, Qweci and others find themselves in is what a lot of veteran artists who are making a comeback after years of being out of sight and mind contend with. What they fail to acknowledge is that, the scene has changed and the mechanics that once accounted for their successes have evolved. Again, the generation that were enchanted with their music has aged and acquired new tastes. The current generation might have heard all about the good old days of some artist but aren’t eager to embrace them, simply because the music they hear is unimpressive. It takes much more than just the music to capture their attention and crack the mainstream code. A solid strategy is needed. A solid promotional drive- both radio and TV interviews aren’t enough. More work is required.
The music scene is fluid and competition is keen. Being sloppy is like sounding your own death knoll. An artist must be visible – in people’s faces and ears- to sustain their power. And more importantly, you need to learn how the new game is played. Take artists like Obrafour and Okyeame Kwame- veterans with two decades of music experience each just like Tic Tac and Ex-Doe- have maintained their level of visibility and presence by penning good songs, collaborating with some of the new artists and tapping into other initiatives that earn them great visibility. They have been consistently present on our radar. They know the consequences of taking a long break from music. Fans would easily forget about you and jump ship. They also know that, every song they release must be of great quality, like what the young ones are doing. That’s one of the troubles Tinny is facing, unfortunately. He was gone for long and came back without the one magic that served him well throughout his career: the legendary producer Hammer (of the Last 2).
The ambience of today’s music space has a place for everyone, be it old or new. And each crop of artists has their lane and what works for them. For these veterans, following the pursuits of these young artists is perhaps their undoing. Fact is, they can’t beat them in their game. Each artist has what works for them. It may not be the most popular or most acceptable, and may not draw spontaneous glory, but, in the end, many would appreciate the fact that you went with your own rules. And made it despite the bumps.
These veterans may still possess their music making skills. What they need to do is to sharpen them and find new ways to stay in our ears. They should tap into their experience bank.