When legendary Ghanaian rapper, Obrafour is going to war, he prepares very extensively. He goes into battles to mutilate his rivals. As a reputed rapper whose eloquence and mastery of the Twi language is as impeccable as a seasoned linguist, he chooses his words with care; each lyric carved to pierce the heart and body of his enemy, one line at a time. Obrafour does not attack you with aggression. He strikes with a calm disposition, like a kunfu master fighting his best student. This demeanor feeds into the popular trope that, reserved individuals could be mean when pushed to the wall.
Since emerging on the music scene some two decades ago with his monumental album, ‘’Pae Mu Ka’’, the rapper is considered by many as the legitimate G.O.A.T of Ghanaian rap music. His influence is beyond imagination. His debut album influenced the direction of hiplife and the generation of rappers who came after him. Everyone, from Sarkodie to Pappy Kojo to Akan identify him as a major influence on their craft.
Just like any field where the crown is for the taken, being on top comes with its own pressures. You have to fight to keep the crown or get dethroned. The surest way to staying consistent, and in the process ward off potential rivals is to continue putting out relevant content.
During the mid- 2000s, the hiplife or rap scene boasted two kings – Obrafour and Lord Kenya. Hints of their subtle rivalry came by way of subliminal disses towards one another on wax. Critics of Obrafour have argued that, he often played the role of an agent provocateur. That is, he would take aim at rappers who are having a good run and enjoying their time. Case in point: Lord Kenya, Okyeame Kwame, Reggie Rockstone, all at one point were the best rappers alive and Obrafour went after them.
In 2000, Obrafour released his album ‘’Asem Sebe’’, an eleven track album produced by Hammer (Last 2). The album boasted a lot of hit songs like ‘’Who Born You By Mistake’, ‘’Maame’, ‘Okukuseku’, ‘Akwantuni’, ‘Enye Nyame A’, ‘Bra Be Hw3’. This was released at a period when the rivalry between Obrafour and Lord Kenya was intensifying. Whereas a song like ‘Who Born You By Mistake’’ was aimed at Lord Kenya, the sublime shots were general in scope. That is, the shots were not linear or directed towards one person. It was presented as a hydra- headed shots at everyone.
However, that was not the case with ‘’Asem Sebe’’ which was a direct attack at Lord Kenya. The lyrics of the song were fiery, very pointed and of course, solid. Going to war, sometimes requires the help of an ally. Obrafour found that in Scooby Selah (of the TH4 Kwagees). Obrafour’s decision to feature Scooby on ‘’Asem Sebe’’ validated Scooby’s own talent as a rapper. Scooby Selah, along with his TH4 Kwagees crew had put out their deubt album, “Taxi Driver”, with the lead single ” Nana Esi” eliciting great reviews. It was, therefore unsurprising to have Scooby run shotgun with Obrafour.
The beats served by Hammer for the song was quintessentially hip hop: it was hard hitting and sounded aggressive. Scooby Selah opened the song with a verse that was unapologetically warlike. The concept of the song took the form of a court trial where a culprit is having his ‘crimes’ read to him at a public court. Scooby’s opening lines: “Abusua enfr3 yie” (to wit, all those who have gathered here) is a common refrain used when people assemble to discuss an issue.
The ‘crimes’ of the accused included illegally occupying his throne even though the rightful occupant is around; parading himself as a ‘champion atta’ (the untouchable), announcing himself as the greatest rapper around.
Rapping in Fante (spoken Takoradi Fante), Scooby Selah played the role of a linguist who prepared the way for Obrafour to hand down his verdict. It’s rare to find a guest outshines Obrafour on a record – let alone his own songs. It has happened twice in his career. The first was on ‘’Asem Sebe’’, and on ‘Oye Ohene’, where a young Tinny took the spotlight. Scooby on ‘’Asem Sebe’’ came very well prepared to make his 1 minute, 18 seconds appearance a memorable one. Not only did he succeed in that respect, he also out-rapped Obrafour, making him one of the few rappers to do so.
The aggressive tone of Scooby was replaced with Obrafour’s calm delivery on the second verse. For Obrafour, ‘’Asem Sebe’’ was his chance to reiterate his credentials as the best rapper: one who has seen enough bullshit that nothing scares him. He tackled those who questioned his ‘inadequacy’ in English; reminding them of the richness of the Twi language. After a series of proverb filled renditions, Obrafour closed up his verse with the words: ‘’I no want talk chaw’ (I’ve said enough). A very majestic ending.
‘Asem Sebe’ was one of the standouts of an album that celebrated mothers (Maame), praised God (Eny3 Nyame A), outlined the trails of the sojourner (Akwantuni), Friendship (Okukuseku and Twe Ho Wo).
20 years since he emerged on the music scene, Obrafour continues to be an active participant within the space. Unlike most of his compatriots, his star power and relevance has not diminished. He’s a sought after rapper. The veteran has dropped a few singles and blessed other peoples’ records with timeless hooks. If one is to make a call based on the activities of Obrafour from last year, we might be fortunate to have an album from him this year – something many are looking forward to hearing. Playing his role as the conscience of society, Obrafour knows when to be a pacifist and when to pull the sword off its sheath and head to the battlefield.