“There’s always going to be space for battle in hip hop. For competition. It’s just an inseparable part of the game.”
The complexity of music as we know is the fact that it can compel us to act, react and reassure ourselves that we are not alone in anything. It has the power to convince us to dream, reach and perfect ourselves and more than anything give us the confidence to step up and challenge. For the over 14,000 people who tuned in for the competition between Killbeatz and Richie, one thing clear was: it was the fact that the old guards were changing hands.
Richie Mensah can be aptly described as the architect of the new school sound. His catalogue ranges from ‘Give Me Blow’ – which gave a generation a new sound, to reintroducing Okyeame Kwame after his break-up from Akyeame with ‘Woso’; to building a solid record label, the first of its kind in the system, to giving VIP, a welcome with ‘I Think I Like Am’. One clear thing was the fact that times had changed and new rhythms have become more prominent than what pertained in the early 2010s.
Not that his catalogue that defined the better part of the early 2000s wasn’t solid enough or had lost its charm but that people had grown numb to its potency. For one, Killbeatz for more than one reason helped define the current afrobeat rhythm that is hailed as a global tune. As a tour de force for the dynamic R2Bees, he couched a sound that has for the last 7 to 8 years infectiously defined how music is made, how we react to beats and what a banger means (what we call a hit).
At this same time, maturity and growth had turned Richie into an entrepreneur running one of the most impotant record labels in Ghana with a hit list that includes a third of all Ghanaian hits on-air today.
Listening in and jamming along to the pound for pound hits, the energy and vibe of Killbeatz could be sensed miles away and offered more answers as to why his sounds are admired by the best and great from near and far. As the next powerhouse record label executive in Ghana, he also boasts some of the recent border crossings hits Ghana has seen with Fuse ODG and King Promise. The brilliance of such an exhibition was to the benefit of the young artistes and producers who tuned in.
The next generation of producers who will be following the giant steps of these greats will have an archive, a reference point and a place to point to for the culture. If we know one thing, it is that “the very people who blazed our path to self-expression and pioneered a resolutely distinct and individual voice have too often succumbed to mind-numbing sameness; and have been seduced by simply repeating what we hear, what somebody else said or thought and not digging deep to learn what we think or what we feel, or what we believe.
Now it is true that the genius of African culture is surely its repetition, but the key to such repetition was that new elements were added each round. Every round goes higher and higher. Something fresh popped off the page or jumped from a rhythm that had been recycled through the imagination of a writer or a musician. Each new installation bore the imprint of our unquenchable thirst to say something of our own, in our own way, in our own voice as best as we could. The trends of the times be damned.
Thank God we’ve still got musicians and thinkers whose obsession with excellence and whose hunger for greatness reminds us that we should all be unsatisfied with mimicking the popular, rather than mining the fertile veins of creativity that God placed deep inside each of us.” So go forth and take charge!