‘‘Alpha’ has its moments of brilliance in terms of production aesthetics and some songs. The 6 track EP is composed of songs that did not make the final cuts during the making of ‘’Mary’’ and ‘’Highest’’. The general output is not a homerun for Sarkodie but one cannot overlook his attempt at satisfying his rap loving fans’’.
Sarkodie does not linger within the shadows of social media. He is ever so present online, either engaging with his fans or sharing missives on current topics and happenings- sometimes sharing views on topics he has little knowledge about. In his quest to express thoughts on some subjects, he leaves behind cringe-worthy notes for which he get educated on by well-informed persons.
Sarkodie has mastered the art of responding to his critics and criticism through songs than ranting online. That way, his responses are not spontaneous. They are well thought out responses that put issues in perspective – at least from his point of view.
When Sarkodie announced the release of “Alpha”, his fans were elated. Others were curious to find out what different the 2019 VGMA “Artiste of the Decade” crownee was going to offer. My expectation was not much about the content of the EP (per themes or subjects). I wanted Sarkodie to just rap and not follow the afropop trajectory. “Alpha” did that to a large extent.
“Greatness” opens “Alpha”. Carrying both apocalyptic and cinematic tone with a touch of operatic elements – violin, cymbals, haunting hums, Sarkodie’s voice appears 40 seconds later, gliding over this Fortune Dane produced song with festered exuberance. Casting an overview of the rap scene, Sark goes on to establish his formidability and his successes with lyrics like: ‘’As far as I’m rapping I promise my team will be cashing out’’ and ‘’I came in the game and hussled my way but some people thought it was devilish’’. “Greatness” feels like one of the songs that didn’t make the “Highest” album. (The song was obviously recorded in 2017 considering the name of ‘new rappers- Ko-Jo Cue, Akan and Cabum- he endorsed).
The fervour of delivery is upped on “Angels & Demons” – Sark’s version of ‘Nickel and Dimes’ by Jay Z. On the ATown TSB produced song, Sark aired out his feelings on a myriad of issues, primarily the concern that his relevance is hinged on coopting ‘new age’ rappers in a non-altruistic manner. “Why do you focus on the wrong issue?”, he queries before turning his guns on “gatekeepers” who “wanna bring a nigga down”.
Critics must resign themselves to the fact that Sark would not blow our minds with any bewildering content. Just like Pusha T rapping about the kilos of dope he sold in Virginia or Future talking about his drug use, Sarkodie will continue to share tales about his struggles
The angst in his voice gives way to a more happy feel on ” Bleeding”, a trappy song with a catchy, sing- along chorus: “Wo bleedy/ 3nna me feeli (I’m chilling/You’re bleeding). Themed on his exhaustive ‘come up’ story, Sarkodie hands props to his inner circle as well as producer Possigee for his overall contribution to his career.
On “Legend” (produced by NOVA), the sound shifts toward the wavy alte- music sound; a space Sark has dabbled a bit, earned criticism but has not exploited very much. It therefore, made sense to feature the de facto face of the alte scene, Joey B whose hook aptly capped Sarkodie’s regurgitated message of being the alpha: “Paid the cost to be the boss”.
“Vintage” (produced by Console Chronikz), the highlife composition with jazz inflections, alluring piano chords, an inviting drum bass line and a well-spaced format affords Sarkodie the right platform to rap in a laid back style.
But the best song on “Alpha” is the contagious “ODO” featuring the late Ebony. Driven by hip hop drums and trap sounding 808s, the Altranova produced song has Sarkodie and Ebony relaying assurances of their love towards each other.
Ebony’s singing is pristine, re-assuring and enthralling, offering an inclining into what direction her music could have taken if she was alive. Sarkodie was conscious not to overshadow her on the song: he gave her enough space to shine. Both “Vintage” and “Odo” transport you to Sark’s “Mary” album. The two are obviously two of the songs left on the cutting floor when songs where being picked.
“Alpha” per its title is Sarkodie emphasizing his position as the alpha of the rap game- a leader who is not ready to give up his position. The EP scores high on the quality of production. The producers who worked on it gave their best shot. Thematically, this is not Sark’s best project. And I think critics must resign themselves to the fact that Sark would not blow our minds with any bewildering content. Just like Pusha T rapping about the kilos of dope he sold in Virginia or Future talking about his drug use, Sarkodie will continue to share tales about his struggles, shoot subliminally at his rivals and boast about his success.
“Alpha” is Sarkodie’s way of reminding people he can still rap; that the afropop lane he took has not eroded his rapping potency. The tape is also a precursor to an album, according to him. “Alpha” is being received well by fans (it hit 10K stream on Boomplay in a day) albeit it’s a tape for the moment.
Whether “Alpha” will cause a shift within the music scene is yet to be seen. I hope it inspires some of his rap colleagues trying to make it in the afropop space to go back to rapping once again.