Talking Verses: Obrafour ‘s “Pae Mu Ka” [Song]

“With the lyrics “Headline News N’aso Meny3 Fred Chidi”, Obrafour exhibited cleverness and a keen ear for the little details

First off, to have your name dropped on a song is a big deal. This act validates your credibility. It points to the fact that you are doing something noteworthy. Name drops are mostly reserved for people of certain clout who are known for their deeds – good or infamous. But, to hear the name of a newscaster, who was not even the face of the radio station he was working at, on a record by one of the precocious rappers that Ghana music has ever witnessed, was a moment.

Name-drops are conventional in music. Artists have either immortalized people in songs- praised them for their services, acts of valour or their opulent lifestyles or brands (businesses). Highlife music from the 60s to the 90s was replete with such nods. Politicians, athletes, kings, entrepreneurs, friends, lovers, the rich and powerful in society have had their names mentioned on songs by Nana Ampadu, Daddy Lumba, Nana Acheampong, Amakye Dede, Nana Tuffour and more.

In 1999, a young diminutive rapper with short dreadlocks emerged on the scene. His debut album was soon heralded as a classic. In the opinion of many, the album helped shape the direction of hiplife. Obrafour, then a 20-year-old man sounded more matured than his age. He exhibited mastery over the Twi language – a skill he credited his mother for helping him nurture as a kid by reading the Twi bible. His music was filled with excellent proverbs; a depth not often associated with artists of his age. In simple terms, the 10-track album, ”Pae Mu Ka”, released under the Abraham Ohene-Djan owned Noize Management – and was home to another budding rapper, Tic Tac (now TiC) was filled with scholarly epistles that continues to resonate today.

The Hammer and Yaw Anoff (together as Da Last 2) produced album was a sonic pleasing experience. The beats were minimal in tone, mid-tempo in BPM count and different from what was in vogue at that time. Despite sounding lean and simple, the sonic enclave contained synthesizers that contributed to the alluring sound of the album. The featured artists on the album- Cy Lover, Funky Funture, Dr. Poh, Alhaji Flesh- were fresh, talented voices seeking to be heard.

“Pa Mu Ka”, the second track on the album contained the lyric quoted at the beginning of this article. The song was a collage of bombast and social anecdote. Featured on the song was Cy Lover, a rapper who had earlier been introduced to the Ghanaian scene on Reggie Rockstone’s his song “Night Life in Accra (1996)”. Cy Lover would have spots on three records off “Paa Mu Ka”. It was on this song that Obrafour name-dropped Fred Chidi, then a newscaster with Accra based Joy FM.

Joy FM had been in operation for about 5 years when “Pae Mu Ka” came out. It was one among the first wave of private stations established following the liberalization of the media space in 1995, after a decade of Ghana being under what was regarded as a “culture of silence”. Private radio and the new genre of music known as hiplife were both at their nascent stages. An air of ambivalence surrounded hiplife at that time as music critics considered it as a western import with the potential of destroying highlife music. An argument could be made that the rise and acceptance of hiplife were largely down to the new radio stations supporting the nouveau rap culture. The brilliance and success of ” Pae Mu Ka” helped in hastening the acceptability.

Whereas songs like Kwame Nkrumah, KonkonsaAden which explored the themes of patriotism, the consequences of being a gossip and socio-economic issues appealed to an older stratum of society, the younger population found fervor in songs like Yaanom, Pae Mu Ka, Agro N’aso.

Back to Obrafour’s Fred Chidi reference: Fred was part of the Joy FM presenters who were still figuring it out on air. Being a radio station serving the upper and middle classes, news bulletins was one of the important segments on Joy FM. Fred Chidi was responsible for presenting the hourly headline news. So good was he that Fred Chidi’s name became associated with headline news on Joy FM. The former news editor at Joy FM would go on to work with Citi FM, TV Africa before joining Ayalolo BRT Company as a Communication Director

On the second verse of Agoro N’aso, Obrafour would challenge fellow rappers to step up to him, mocked rappers for being poor at the art (“s3 wo rap no 3nny3 d3 a/ Yenfa VAT no 3ntax wo) and why you should listen to him like people do Fred Chidi since he was the “headline news” in rap. The reference was significant considering the fact that Joy FM was a market leader whose programming style was being replicated by other stations. Thus one could infer from the line: “headline news n’aso meny3 Fred Chidi” that Obrafour was telling everyone that, though he is not Fred Chidi whose programme was becoming a national toast, his music carried the same value, expectations, respect as the hourly ‘headline news” bulletins.

“Pae Mu Ka” being a classic album is not an issue to debate. The classic tag encompasses everything- rapping, song writing production, social topics addressed on the records. Twenty years down the line, what enchanted us about “Pae Mu Ka” is still present when you play the album. And, Obrafour continues to prove why he is still one of the best to ever do it with his features and singles. For Obrafour to name- drop Fred Chidi in the manner was an indication of his cleverness and a keen ear for the little details. I wonder how Fred Chidi felt hearing that line for the first time.

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