Sarkodie’s “CEO Flow” Is An Eye Poking Response To Critics

“Chale the fans still dey fuck with the nigga/ Over 17 years , lifetime hypnosis/ What else?”

The enthralling scene in a movie for me is when the protagonist stands over the antagonist, spite in his gaze, handing the last strike to end it all. The sense of victory validates the determination and valour of the protagonist. The prize of victory, in the end, numbs all the cruelty that his body has endured.

No picture comes to mind in such instance than that of Mohammed Ali standing over the fallen frame of Sonny Liston in their fight for the coveted world heavyweight belt in 1965. Ali, according to accounts was screaming “What is my name?” to Liston, the titleholder, who had refused to call the young pugilist by his adopted name of Mohammed Ali.

Timing is everything in life. It can make or unmake you. It can propel you to new heights or leave you crestfallen. In life, you need a bit of luck as well. Perfect timing and a dose of luck brings forth success. The latter appears to be a part of Sarkodie’s make. No matter the time of day or the circumstance, Sarkodie seems to prevail. Even in his misses lies a modicum of win.

Ali Vs Liston (1965)

If there is one thing Sarkodie has mastered aside rapping, it is the skill to speak his ‘truth’ on songs rather that lash out on social media, as many of his compatriots do lately. He presents his views on issues on wax knowing how powerful that medium is. Any reaction(s) afterwards is ignored. Through this, he has found a way of controlling the narrative. And, considering his reticence at granting interviews, this approach guards him against any drama, criticism or scrutiny from the public which could dent his well-cultivated image.

A couple of days ago, Sarkodie and M.anifest released “Brown Paper Bag“, a hip hop song with black excellence as its theme. It’s the first time in many years that the two have collaborated on a record. “Brown Paper Bag” ended discussions on any existing rivalry between the two, a move I consider injurious to the culture of hip hop and Ghana music. The excitement that comes with interpreting lyrics or sneak disses that the two rappers are often deemed to trade won’t happen anymore, likewise the banter that fans of Sarkodie and M.anifest indulge in when any of them releases a song.

In his review for Enewsgh, music writer/critic Gabriel Hanson Myers (Enewsgh) indicated how the two artists failed us (fans) with the song. Despite its valuable message, the song came and went with little to no significant impact. Days after arriving in the country from the US- following the opening of the Ghana border- Sarkodie has released ‘CEO Flow”, a new hip hop record featuring American veteran rapper and Bay Area legend E-40.

As the song title suggests, Sarkodie wore his bragging suit on the record, outlining his achievements, keeping a close eye on the scene and taking shots at his competitors (artists who have long-standing issues with Sarkodie). The couplets shared on “CEO Flow” are nothing new. After almost 17 years in the game, what more is there for Sarkodie to say that has not been said already? However, his flow, cadences, confidence and ear for moving productions makes it hard for you to ignore the song.

Despite conversations about the state of Ghana music especially the need for new hip hop leaders, Sarkodie continues to rule the scene, a situation some critics attribute to our ‘stagnant’ industry. There appears to be no one in sight to take over the mantle. Sarkodie is aware of these backroom chatters and on ‘CEO Flow”, he put a pin on the subject rapping: “Still waiting on the nigga who make I panic/It still feels like a vacation” and how he’s ‘teaching’ others ‘how your delivery go fall proper”.

Recorded during his stay in the US due to the COVID-19 lockdown, “CEO Flow” embodies the hip hop aesthetics that Sarkodie loves. The production is excellently formed- the kicks and snares are not only inviting but provocative in tone. From the opening bars of the no hook song, it was clear Sarkodie had a lot to say, and a lot of people to address.

If his April release, Sub-Zero was a response to those who took shots at him, “CEO Flow” is the right hook meant to knock them out. This intention dots across the song. Lyrics such as: “At this level I’m only rapping to keep you on your toe/ You only got a crib cos your ass got signed/I be self-made, everything is mine”, and “Wo bars, water pistol, wob3ti pew pew” are directed at Shatta Wale and ASEM respectively. Sarkodie would pop his collar once more on the song, making allusions to his growing girth while his competitors are starving; questioning how many rappers spend 100K on their videos and how he won’t beef online.

The latter is what Sarkodie is mastering. Hardly would you find him responding to attacks from people on social media. No matter the concerns, Sarkodie would never respond to controversies or rumours directly except on a song. For instance, “Sub-Zero” was released after claims by some artists that he reneged on his promise to send them verses. Again, allegations of Sarkodie not paying producers also assumed prominence prior to the release.

Tactfully, “Sub-Zero” became the song he used to address some of the allegations raised. Considering how pointed and widespread the allegations were, many would have hurriedly addressed it on social media, opening themselves up to more probing. Addressing concerns on songs allows Sarkodie to control the narrative the way he wants. He also has the fans to carry the message across. And, he is aware that any actions by him would be amplified by the media thus drowning out the noise by others.

Bay Area rap legend E-40 drops a few bars on what it means to be called “self-made” in his signature talk-rap style. Sarkodie’s decision to feature E-40 on this record might not come as a surprise considering the Ghanaian rapper had covered E-40’s song “Choices” in 2016. Unless there is an underlying motive for this feature, E-40’s did not add much to this record. Sarkodie did not need him and honesty, I wonder how many people would remember his verse.

The subject matter of “CEO Flow” is nothing new. Sarkodie has been rapping about these subjects forever. And, like most of his songs, “CEO Flow” falls under the category of records you have heard many times yet can’t seem to have enough of it.

Written by: Swaye Kidd

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