Tricks, when done well could propel one from the bottom to the top and keep those at the top floating.
There is a pack of ‘tricks’ in every industry that the players within it know how to optimize to their advantage. A lot of the time, experience opens your eyes to them, either acquired through personal episodes or from observations. Once you figure it out, the sky, like the now banal proverb goes, is your limit. It is like the air in your parachute.
For better context and clarity concerning this piece, let me define what ‘tricks’ mean. Tricks here refers to lyrical antics artists use in their songs and may range from lyrics, punchlines, humour or a switch in beat – a beat break. These tricks are often used to catch the listeners attention, get them to scream their lungs out to them or keep them repeating them unconsciously.
In Ghana, especially on the music scene, a couple of artists are employing these ‘tricks” to their advantage. Whether deliberate or not, their songs are often replete with quotable lines that often attracts the attention of the listener. Some of them seem to have mastered the art and most often listeners anticipate these lyrics in their songs.
Notable artists like Sarkodie have ploughed this field across the length of his career. Starting with his fast rap, funny Twi accent and humour-laced lyrics helped in catapulting him to the front burner of rap. As the years rolled on, he switched his style and introduced a signature intro “Huh!”. Even at the nascent years of his career, he had grown synonymous with signature lines like ‘to my niggas on the block”.
On a record like “Original”, Sarkodie chose a staccato style to open the record; a deliberate style meant to get his fans or music lovers to sing along. You should be at his concert to witness how people belt out the first opening bars with relish. Another trick Sark has mastered is the use of humorous lines in some of his songs. A quick scan across some of his tracks, especially the “street” bangers bear this truth out. On ‘’RNS’’, ‘’Azonto Fiesta’’, ‘’Me Gye Wo Girl’’ and ‘’Gboza’’, Ghana’s most decorated rapper manages to drop a phrase or line that becomes tweet captions or get quoted by people.
Another Tema based artist with a mastery over the use of ‘tricks’ in his songs is Ground Up Chale’s, Kwesi Arthur. Kwesi Arthur’s most prized ‘trick’ is his ability to lace his lyrics with profound, clever quotable lines. Since his entry in the game a couple of years ago, his endearment to many goes beyond going shirtless on stage or representing the ‘ghetto youth’.
From ‘’Live From Nkrumah Krom 1&2’’, the many singles and features to his name, Kwesi never fails to offer “food for thought” phrases that resonate with the listener. A line on “Live From 233″ like “they watched me go hungry when they had food, yo” and “tell my girl if she passes my back make she stay there..”, would get you singing along without you realising.
On the street anthem “Grind Day”, Kwesi Arthur’s decision to place “yeah, yeah” at the end of each line of the hook” not only made it catchy but got people who can’t rhyme a line from the song to sing along to it. These and more are dotted across his music. Whether you are a ghetto youth, chasing success or successful, Kwesi’s memorable, melodic hooks and quotable lyrics about life, dreams and struggles would resonate with you before you know it.
“Stop Itttt!”, “B) Medin M’ame” and its variant expressions or “Swag King Kong” have found it’s way among the music lexicon of Medikal. The rapper who started obsessed with punchlines and wordplay has in the last two years found a way to eschew these elements which generate into debates, depending on which side of the stage you stand. While some found his punchlines corny and comical, others appreciated his skills. Medikal, however, realized the need to damp it down like the cliche goes; opting to be less rapity rap for a more humour-laden, catchy phrase, and easy to understand lyrics not only by rap fans but the average listener.
It is therefore not surprising that phrases like “wo boy no, )twe car ben?”, “your chairman get dog?” and his verse on Quamina MP’s “Amanfuo Girl” or his track “Omo Ada” have found their way into everyday conversation with people quoting some of his lines on social media as responses to people’s queries. For the past two years, not only has he built a following, a Medikal feature is one many look forward to. Not because of the music in some instances but to find out what amusing rap line he would drop on his verse.
Whereas Sarkodie, Kwesi Arthur, Medikal have cultivated humor and amusing quotable lines as one of the compelling “tricks” in the musical arsenal, the two Lynx Entertainment artists, Kuame Eugene and KiDi have mastered the trick of interpolating other songs into their own compositions.
The use of interpolations and sampling old records in contemporary afropop songs is almost a given. Everyone pursuing that genre is guilty of that. It’s almost like the norm. And, artists like Kuami Eugene and KiDi continue to earn some stripes from saucing their songs with cheesy lyrics and great interpolations. Take for instance, KiDi’s “Say Cheese”. The allure of this pop record lies in its hypnotic, simple hook that kids could sing. Again, his biggest song “Odo” is a colourful record built with shards of very popular records that ended up becoming a winning formula.
Take a listen to any Kuami Eugene album, single or feature and you would hear an interpolation or melodic sample of an old song. This technique is not by accident. The artists and their team have seen its effectiveness and are maximizing it. How surprised would you be to hear a song by Kuami Eugene without any of his ‘tricks?’.
The success of the “Kuami Eugene” blueprint has inspired fellow artists to lean in that direction. From Kelvyn Boy, Mr. Drew, Camidoh and some emerging afropop acts, the fusion of old songs has become part of their selling points. It now seems awkward to hear an afropop record not built around an interpolated verse or sample.
Lyrics, melodies, flows, cadences, stagecraft are all important skills that an artist needs to ensure success and, sometimes longevity. However, having the awareness that include a pack of ‘tricks’ to charm fans and listeners is equally important. These tricks distinguish an artist who could get the crowd going crazy when performing a one who doesn’t get any real reaction while on stage. Like the saying goes, there is method to the madness.