‘’You got the money, you got the power’’. This refrain is a favourite of my granny. She says it with all the vigour an octogenarian could muster whenever you joked that she is rich. I couldn’t help laughing out loud the first time I heard her utter those words.
The year was 1997. I was in my first year in high school. The radio business was taking off in Cape Coast following the establishment of Atlantic Radio, which operated from the University of Cape Coast campus. Hiplife was witnessing a gradual traction after the work done by Reggie Rockstone and DJ Rab. The golden fissures from Reggie’s growing success was enough attraction to many young, talented senior secondary school graduates who had honed their rap skills on the entertainment stages of their respective schools.
My passion for music, was honed by radio since it was a major medium to hearing what was new. An living across a major record store in Cape Coast was an added advantage. It was during this period that I became a radio addict. Aside Atlantic Radio, I also chanced upon Takoradi based Skyy Power FM during a radio band scan. The discovery meant placing the radio at a vantage position in the house where the waves were strong. It was on Skyy Power FM that I first heard Lord Kenya’s debut single “Car N’aba’’ on their mid-morning programme.
My immediate reaction was to dub the song onto a cassette despite the many statics that came with the song-due to the weak waves. I quiet recall how I had to blow air over portions of the song where the radio jingles played. Before Akyeame’s ‘M’asan Aba’ came to be described by some as the definition of ‘hiplife’ music, “Car N’aba’’ had defined the sound of to a certain degree. Lord Kenya’s debut incorporated the adowa rhythms of the Asante traditional music and added some strong drum patterns. The hook of the song borrowed from a very popular folk song as well.
Lord Kenya would go on to validate his spot as the best rapper in Ghana following his crowning at the 2002 Ghana Music Award ceremony as ‘’Artiste of the Year’’. He left the National Theatre that night with four awards (I stand to be corrected), becoming the first rap artist to win that number of awards. His win not only confirmed his talent as a rapper, it also affirmed the growing popularity of the genre.
Lord Kenya would go on to release seven albums- Sika, Sika Baa, Yeesom Sika, Sika Mpo Fane Ho, Akasieni, Born Again and God Dey. ‘’Yeesom Sika’’, released in 2001, stayed on Joy FM‘s, Megahits Charts for more than 30 weeks, thanks to its leading single ‘Me Do’ featuring Swanzy B.
The albums put out by Lord Kenya featured songs like ‘’Medo’’, ‘’Sika Baa’’, ‘‘Mbrowa’’, ‘’Akasieni’’, ‘Driver’ among many others. These songs have become cult classics over the years and it continues to conjure excitement whenever it is played. If there was one issue Lord Kenya emphasized across his albums, it was about money and it impact on life.
In this post, we spotlight four songs by Lord Kenya that touched on money and life dynamic
This song was found on the album of the same name released in 2001 under Slip Music. It was also around the time that Social Security Bank (now Societe Generale) introduced Sika Card, an electronic card to enhance business transaction for its customers. It was, therefore, apt for him to have settled on such a title his since the name had been popularized by the bank.
‘Sika Card’ reinforced the need for one to never lose hope in life; the challenges not withstanding. Lord Kenya preached about the power of positive mindset, cautioned against making rush decisions. He disclosed how life is taking its toll on him (and other successful folks) despite owning a sika card- this is to portray the fact that, even the rich are reeling under economic pressure.
‘’Sika Card’, produced by legendary producer Zapp Mallet, sampled Phreak Machine’s 1999 hit ‘’Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’’. What Zapp and Lord Kenya did was to keep the hook of the original song, infused some hip hop rhythms to augment the disco/funk feel of the song. This was done in other to court the attention of the older generation who love their disco/funk and also, satisfy the youthful, hip hop loving fans.
‘’Sika Baa’’ is one of the biggest songs Lord Kenya’s repertoire. Found on his album of the same name, Lord Kenya described the character traits of female gold diggers; and their schemes at conning rich men by exhibiting pretentious affection. Lyrics such as ‘hey bra johnny, it’s been a long time’ was how they begin their ‘schemes’. ‘She want the money, dude don’t act go slow’ he cautioned guys. Such women, as indicated on the song, don’t stay when the money dissipates. They rather move to the next guy with heavy pockets to support their lavish lifestyle. The up-tempo nature of the song accorded ‘’Sika Baa’’ an irresistible feel.
Sika Mpo Nfa Ne Ho:
‘Sika Mpo Nfa Ne Ho (Money Isn’t Everything) was among the big songs off “Yeesom Sika” album- and one of the best from Lord Kenya- thanks to its mid-tempo highlife groove. Lord Kenya drafted the highlife crooner Nana Fynn, who at the time was also a force within the highlife circuits. Together, they delivered a song that has the classic seal embossed on it.
Nana Fynn’s honeyed soulful melodies on the hook and the bridge added a coating of beauty to the overall charm of the song. Lord Kenya was at his preachy best: he spoke on why the rich must not be envied-they are also dealing with their own troubles; riding the pressures of life and keeping faith in God. The theme of the song was aptly captured by Nana Fynn on the hook when he sang: ‘’being broke doesn’t mean you should steal/ not all that glitters is gold’. ‘’Sika Mpo Nfa Ne Ho’’ was also proved that, highlife and hiplife were bed-fellows.
‘’Yeesom Sika’’ was the album that heralded Lord Kenya into the ‘Best Rapper Alive’ class. Released in 2001, ‘’Yeesom Sika’’ wasn’t even the album’s top single. That went to ‘Medo’. The song would later garner heavy traction on radio courtesy its funk/disco vibe and more importantly the message it carried. Lord Kenya spoke on how the quest for materialism has become the order of today’s world. The quest for material wealth has culminated in people adopting whatever means necessary, including hurting and exploiting others in the process. Lord Kenya’s position is simple: don’t sacrifice your soul or life for worthless accessories. (Listen to song)
Okafuo Didi (Wo Di Ka)
One of the most interesting songs in Lord Kenya’s catalogue, Okafuo Didi’s standout quality was largely based on the structure of the beat. It was very unconventional but not for Lord Kenya who found a pocket to ride on. The flow was very raw, energetic and off-beat, fitting into Lord Kenya’s own rap flow. The beat is a flipped versio Missy Elliott’s “She’s A Bitch”.
The phrase from which the song carries its title was made famous by the late General I.K. Acheampong, ex-head of Staff of Ghana, who called the bluff of the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) who questioned Ghana’s bad financial expenses after lending monies to the country for development projects. “Okafuo Didi” translates as “The debtor must also eat”. Lord Kenya, on the song, narrates a story from two perspectives – the debtor and the lender. It also confirms the saying that the mouth with which we borrow money is not the same one which is used to pay.
Years before Lord Kenya the rapper became Lord Kenya the Evangelist, the signs seem to have been present. He had been preaching to the masses in his songs on steering towards a good life; some obviously from personal experiences. (His revealing interview with Delay points to this). Across the songs, he pointed out the negatives of ill acquired wealth, avoiding the traps of fake love, being patient as life isn’t a race.
These are very lucid reminders on the need for people to take life one step at a time. Money is indeed power as my grandma usually says. However, this power could be debilitating on the individual, family and loved once in the long run if it comes from a wrong source. Like he articulated on ‘’Sika Mpo Nfa Ne Ho’’: ‘hwim hwim ade3 3ko sur) sur)’’, which translate as ‘anything acquired with ease usually doesn’t last.