Drizilik “Don pata back, you heard the news?”
I am certainly not alone when I say “I have been waiting for this”.
One of Sierra Leone’s A-list artists, Drizilik is about to release another album and his fans can’t wait to hear it.
As a curtain-raiser to his second album release, the African hip-hop star gathered top fans and special guests at an exclusive listening party last weekend. Although an unexpected storm ruined plans for an outdoor event, it mattered little to the fanatically devoted where they were listening to their favourite artist, so long as they were.
From the title of the album Ashobi, one could easily conclude Drizilik chose to stick with representing Sierra Leone through his art. Well that is partially correct, because the rapper says he wanted this album to capture and represent not just Sierra Leone, but the West African sub-region. And certainly so, the more I think about it the more I see what he means by this.
First, the name “Ashobi” resonates in most West African countries though pronounced differently in some (Aso Ebi/Ashoebi in Nigeria and Ghana). The word is said to have origins in Nigeria’s Yoruba language – aso meaning cloth and ebi denoting family.
So basically, Ashobi describes an outfit, usually of the same fabric and/or style, worn by family members during grand occasions – weddings, funerals, birthdays or anniversary celebrations etc. However, in contemporary West Africa the Ashobi is not just for family members. Friends and acquaintances of a celebrant can choose to buy and put on the Ashobi.
What better way is there to merge unique cultures if not by capitalising on similar ones? That’s exactly what Drizilik has done and not just through the album title.
With strategic collaborations and features, the Sierra Leonean star has comfortably captured representation of three other West African countries – Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. The song Said & Done for example, features Nigerian guitarist Fiokee and is produced by Altra Nova a Ghanaian who has produced for Sarkodie and Joey B to name a few. The song even has a high life feel to it and is actually the only song in the album which talks about a romantic involvement, similar to Just in case in Drizilik’s previous album Shukubly.
Drizilik also features Cameroonian star Mic Monsta in a new version of Tell, a song previously released as a single in April last year. In the pre-chorus he spits “Kongosa na osusu”, comparing gossip (also called kongosa in Cameroon, konkonsa in Ghana) to a form of microfinance capital accumulation found in parts of Africa in which everyone contributes an equal amount.
Although many of the tracks on this album are produced by Nigerian and Ghanaians, Drizilik did not stray too far from his longtime ally DJ Rampage who not only co-produced some tracks, but also himself produced the title track and a few others. In fact, DJ Rampage produced what is in my opinion one of the potential hits in this album, Fana Makit; which talks about today’s youth living beyond their means, wanting the lavish life but not willing to make the sacrifice or be patient.
“ Broke girls stay broke cuz they wanna act rich to impress broke boysLines from Fana Makit
Same way so
Broke boys stay broke cuz they wanna act rich to impress broke girls
…Do the math wit you 5 make e multiply
Do am 7, 7, tem make e turn 35
Before you quit give another try
Memba say na patience de make caterpillar turn to butterfly “
“Fana makit” translates to petty trading, a common form of small business enterprise in Sierra Leone. The song has a catchy refrain – “Fana makit, fana makit, nor look am bad yai wae na een fit you pokit”, meaning don’t spend more than you can afford or live a pretentious lifestyle. This song, carrying a similar theme to Dig Hole on the album, addresses the perceived eagerness of young people to own the latest of everything – smartphones, cars, fashion; when in reality they simply cannot afford it.
One could easily describe Drizilik as an afropop artist but in Big Artist he truly defines himself as a rapper and shows he has undoubtedly come into his own. The self praising tune flows in that real hip-hop style matched by a laid-back yet cocky delivery of the most ingenious expressions of who he is and his status in the entertainment industry. If you are a lover of the classic rap/hip-hop style, straight-up rhymes and beats, then this is the track you’ll have on repeat.
It’s not hard to figure that Drizilik is channelling real life experiences with people he knew, the life he had before becoming a star and the difference between then and now. Behind the catchy melodies and choruses are depictions of today’s Sierra Leone camouflaged in witty utterances and punchlines. Tracks like Bad Padi, Empty Bag (featuring MIC) and Opin Yu Yai (featuring Mimi Wood), deal with the struggles of ordinary people, some hard-working youths and the bitterness and anger they feel when life doesn’t go their way.
This album will leave you in no doubt of Drizlik’s unique and extraordinary talent and that he remains at the top of his game, constantly in competition with himself. He has maintained his formulaic style of speaking in Krio parables and idioms, telling fundamental stories about not just himself but us as a people and the society we find ourselves in.
A critique Drizilik may never get is “lacking variation”. There’s enough diversity and creativity within his writing and choice of beats/instrumentals to make the same subjects remain entertaining. This time he’s introduced to his fans a somewhat obvious but unexpected side – faith.
In songs like Exodus and Decide Drizilik alludes to his faith as a Christian and how much of a role that has played in his life journey. Exodus, produced by Nigerian legend Masterkraft has the first video from the album and already has over 50,000 views.
“ To December thirty, from the first of the firstLines from Exodus
Getting money is the cause of the cause
Ah tell dem my God is the source of the sauce
So r nor go stress, because…
Dem go only love you wae you high at the peak
Dem nor know say you build from the ground up
If you know you worked too hard to be treated like shit
Act like you’ve got som’n to be proud of ”
The two faith inspired songs and two others on the album; Popular featuring Ramoni and Hype which was produced by Sierra Leonean Bonx, have a subtle grimy feel, very “modern hip-hop” sounding tunes. You may know Bonx from his previous work with one time music star Rhage on Undecided and Closing the Distance, and Shadow Boxxer, D’banj and Idris Elba on the song Confidential. He describes Hype as carrying afro hip-hop drums laced with Sierra Leonean samples.
Ashobi is bookended by two strong tracks: Ashobi the title track featuring the multi-talented Idris Elba and Awujor featuring Blessing, an up and coming artist signed to Eminence Africa and the legendary Emmerson Bockarie who Drizilik confesses has served as an inspiration for his art. The two are all-round “enjoyment” tunes apt for any awujo; a feast or social gathering, and are seemingly influenced by Sierra Leone music pioneers Dr Oloh and Ebenezer Calendar, carrying a fusion of the Gumbe, Maringa and Palm Wine music – all authentic Sierra Leonean genres.
I think of the album as a full circle, because one place you may definitely see the Ashobi (title track) is at an Awujo (the closing track). Suffice it to say from Shukubly to Ashobi, Drizilik is nothing short of greatness and he has proven that time and time again.