The ‘’Kumerican’’ wave or “Asakaa” is gradually sweeping across the hip hop landscape despite its rawness. We should allow it to run its course.
A legacy of Pope Smoke, the American rapper who was murdered on February 19, 2020, during a home invasion was helping bring the drill sound to mainstream hip hop. The 21- year old Brooklyn native broke through the mainstream with his single “Welcome To The Party”, a highly infectious record released in April 2019. Unlike his fellow rappers who continued to tap into the Atlanta inspired trap sound, Pop Smoke found inspiration across the pond- the UK Drill scene – thus becoming the face and voice of that genre in the US.
Drill Music, according to Wikipedia” is a style of trap music that originated in the South Side of Chicago in the early 2010s. It is defined by its dark, violent, nihilistic lyrical content and ominous trap-influenced beats”. The article continues to state that “a regional subgenre, UK drill, emerged in London, particularly in the district of Brixton, beginning in 2012. UK drill rose to prominence by the mid-2010s and has influenced the creation of other regional scenes, such as Australian, Irish and New York drill”.
The second single ‘’Dior’’, off Pop Smoke’s “Meet The Woo” mixtape heralded a new phase in the global growth of drill music. His untimely death and the subsequent release of his posthumous album “Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon” thus cemented his name and the sound for which he had grown his stature.
In Ghana, the hip hop scene is embracing the drill sound, incorporating it in the new wave of hip hop music. The epicenter of this new wave is Kumasi, where some young rappers are owning the sound. Labelling the new wave as “Asaaka” or “Kumerica”- a fusion of the words “Kumasi” and “America”, these rappers, through the use of social media are growing the width of the sound.
Kumasi has always been a hotbed for new trends especially music. Tracing the history of music or entertainment in Ghana, Kumasi has always owned a stake in its propagation, in terms of financiers and talents. As some have observed, the only advantage Accra has over Kumasi in the entertainment sphere are the perks that comes with Accra being the capital of Ghana. That is, almost all the major stakeholders and infrastructure supports are found in Accra, meaning some key players in Kumasi have to either settle in Accra or keep trekking to and fro Accra for business.
In addition to the above, Kumasi has always been ahead of Accra in embracing new cultural waves. In simple terms, Kumasi serves as the trial ground for trends. Accra picks what happens in Kumasi and perfect its raw endings. The emergence of the “Kumerican” wave has thus injected new energy into the Kumasi rap scene. Led by Reggie, Kawabanga, Kwaku DMC, O’Kenneth, Rich Kent, these rappers have adopted the drill sound, adding their own style – fashion, lingua, lifestyle – into the overall emerging music culture.
The mainstreaming of the new wave began with Dead Peepol’s street anthem “Otan Hunu”. Other street anthems have since been released, all geared towards propelling the impressionable hip hop sound. The release of “STRAIGHT OUTTA KUMERICA”, a 6-track EP by O’Kenneth and Reggie encapsulates and validates the new hip hop breeze. Songs like “Ya Parke”, “Ain’t Shid”, “M.O.B” balances braggadocio missives with commentary about living in Kumasi.
The drill wave, like many other trends – notably the crunk wave that awashed the scene a decade ago- has been considered by some as a passing fad; that the world would move on to the latest trend, leaving the propagators who could not roll with the new trend in the ditch. The conversations that has begun in some quarters is underpinned by criticism of the wave. What is of the essence now is the fact that, these “kumericans” (drill rappers in Kumasi) have found something that they can call their own; something that is illuminating their talents without any support from mainstream channels.
They have succeeded at pulling the mainstream towards their orbit. It was thus refreshing to hear ”Kumerica” references being made at the just ended Vodafone Ghana Music Awards, witnessing some mainstream artists riding the wave and radio stations, which traditionally would ignore such music featuring Kumerica tunes in their playlists. (Manny, co- curator of this blog couldn’t hide his surprise when he heard “Otan Hunu” on Joy FM. Yes, Joy FM.) That’s the endorsement or support that the Kumarica movement needs if it is to run its full course.
This country has a notoriety for suffocating unique, emerging genres before it even gets widespread acceptance. So-called hip hop ‘purists’ are often dismissive of trends like “Kumerican drill”, describing it as inferior. It can’t be just a mere coincidence that any wave that is spearheaded by those at the ‘fringes’ (uncool kids) are often shot down by the ‘cool kids’ before it even grows its own legs and walk its own path (Hello Azonto). The “Kumerica” wave is bound to suffer the same fate. Admittedly, this wave is still raw, unpolished and the players need to improve their rap game. That’s the more reason why the genre needs room to grow.
Genres do not just blossom on their own. It takes a collective effort to entrench it. When Outkast’s Andre 3000 proclaimed in 1995 that the “South got something to say”, he was drawing attention and asking hip hop afficionados to be open minded. A decade or so after, we have seen how the “South” is influencing hip hop sound in the 21st Century. Similarly, the “Kumerican” drill like any new wave or genre would succeed if we collectively protect, support, promote and above all, offer it time to pick up. Presently, the drill sound is not even the biggest genre in America. The difference, however, is that it’s not being condemned. It’s being embraced and allowed to blossom. That’s what we have to do down here as well.
And, just as O’Kenneth and Reggie pointed out on “Bust” off “Straight Outta Kumerica”, the “Kumerica niggas can no longer wait/All this hate, all this time, all these years/We probably shake the room with the flex as we say”. Kumerica has brought excitement to hip hop. Let’s not kill their vibe.