ALBUM REVIEW: Is ‘Highest’ Sarkodie’s highest album so far?
Author: Kwame Dadzie
Producers: Jay So, Possy Gee, Masterkraft
Preamble: At the listening session of Sarkodie’s latest ‘Highest’ album, one thing struck me after listening to the songs: maturity. The Sarkodie we knew in 2009 with the ‘Maakye’ album, isn’t crawling any longer.
My observation got affirmation when I took time to critically listen to the entire album after it was officially released on September 8, 2017.
Entry: I have unbridled bias for spoken word and anything that’s got to do with poetry. Perhaps that got me ensconced in my seat to stay glued to listen to the songs, from top to drop.
The opening song ‘Silence’ which features Spoken Word Artiste Suli Breaks does the magic for me. Born Darryll Suliaman Amoako, Suli Breaks is an English spoke word poet who has amazing works on Youtube.
Suli Breaks eulogises Sarkodie, highlighting his attributes as an astute rapper, comparing him to Shakespeare, Usain Bolt, Mayweather, the Biblical David and Kwame Nkrumah. Sarkodie recaps the successes he’s chalked, the people that helped him and this sets the tone for the real ‘ish’ on the album.
Overdose: This is another self-politics song on the album. Sarkodie takes hip hop to the highest level and he features Nigerian act Jesse Jagz laced on super duper instrumentation. He blows his horn here and he talks about how better he is than his contenders. For those who have followed Sarkodie for a long time, he has a penchant for talking about himself and being a hip hop artiste, there is nothing wrong with that; that is the basic tenet of rap music.
He throws a shade at Bisa K Dei’s brother by making an analogy between those comparing his rap to the neophytes and Daddy Lumba’s Aben Waha to Bisa K Dei’s ‘Brother Brother.’
Come to Me: He sings about Love on ‘Come to Me’ with British artiste Bobii Lewis. This is a classic love song. Sarkodie doesn’t really say anything different about love but he beseeches his woman to draw nigh to him. One thing is promised on this song; punchy rap delivery and soothing vocal dexterity as exhibited through Lewis’ singing. Even though the beat and instrumentation plus the hooks sound catchy, his content sounds ordinary.
Interlude: Suli Breaks comes again with his spoken word. He continues to fete the rapper on the interlude. He again describes Sarkodie as King whose verses becomes the daily bread of the people.
We No Dey Fear ft Jayso: Jayso is one of the real rappers in Ghana. Having followed him from the Skillions, he is one of the multi-talented creative artistes in Ghana. Aside having produced most of the songs on the album, he also adds his voice and he does that immaculately well. Dude spits wicked bars on the song. I like the sync between Jay and Sarkodie on this one. Again they sing about competition; the fact that people set out to hound the rap king and the fact that they don’t fear opposition. Precedence may give us an interpretation of the subject matter of this song. It appears this is a clear jab to Sark’s arch-rival M.anifest.
But Sarkodie contradicts himself on the song. At a point he says someone drops weak bars on a funny song – the next moment he says “you really think I give a f*ck about bars, I really wanna make money.” Why don’t you care about bars yet talk about somebody’s weak bars on a funny song?
Certified ft Jayso and Worlasi: A blend of Afro-induced melodies, twined with rap – that is how I define ‘Certified.’ Worlasi has an eclectic style that places the song on a unique footing. He mixes few Ewe expressions and modernizes the typical pentatonic Ewe melodies. His catchy hooks light up the song.
Love Yourself ft Moelogo: Damn! I love this song. Sarkodie moves away from his usual love and ‘braggart-induced’ themes to something inspirational. This song can be used to campaign suicide. It tells people to believe in themselves and not wait for endorsement from people before they appreciate their self-worth. Most people have ‘died alive’ because they have lost self-worth and think the world is against them. It feels great to hear Nigerian artiste Moelogo sing in Twi.
Interlude: Suli Breaks returns with another short interlude of spoken word. “There will be some that will try to deny him; my savior. Sell him out for thirty pieces of silver. These false prophets with no profit; Still too broke to even pay homage…” he likens Sarkodie to Jesus Christ – how he was betrayed but later had the world defer to his ideologies and doctrines.
Highest: This is the song that bears the title of the album. One of Sarkodie’s strongest attributes is his flow. When he started music, he was noted for hardcore rap. Yes, dude can rap but he later drifted a bit to relax the flow for commercialization purposes. However on ‘Highest,’ one can feel the Sarkodie of yesteryear. He dwells on the theme of why he is the highest among his peers and flows smoothly.
Light it Up ft Big Narstie and Jay So: Another hip hop tune that features Jay So and Big Narstie, is a British grime MC who started music in 2002 as a member of grime crew N-Double.
Far Away ft Koredo Bello: Even though Sarkodie did not do a lot of karaoke songs on ‘Highest,’ there are few to pomp some blood into wobbly feet. ‘Far Away’ is an Afrobeat song that also talks about love. The song features Nigeria’s ‘God Win’ singer Korede Bello, who comes on board to help Sarkodie’ to tell his lover to get closer to him. Possy Gee worked on this one as producer.
Your Waist ft Flavour: This is another Afrobeat song about love that features Flavour from Nigeria, produced by Masterkraft, also a Nigerian. The idea of making few productions from other producers aside Jay So is a good one. At least it prevents any situation of possible monotony in craft. This song basically admires the waist of the woman.
Interlude: “…great men have always encountered opposition from the mediocre minds, so forgive them, forgive them ‘cos they don’t know what they do.” Suli Breaks ends his narrative of spoken word interludes, as he admonishes Sarkodie to forgive his detractors.
Baby Mama ft. Joey B: I love stories; I love to tell stories – and I love to listen to stories. Sarkodie tells it well on this song, giving graphic account of what his baby mama does to get him in the mood. The song mentions the ‘Baby Mama’ as the mother of his daughter Titi, Tracy. So it is clearly not a fictional piece. He features Joey B on this one. Joey is gradually carving a certain niche for himself as a singer within his own territory.
However, I find the song incomplete. I think there could have been more things to say about Sarkodie’s ‘Baby Mama.’ Just as one is waiting patiently to hear more about the rapper’s baby mama, the song sadly goes to bed.
All I Want is You: This is the song Gaffaci claims he did the original production for and wasn’t given credit for. Sarkodie again sings about love; the same wonted ‘I love you’ narrative. He features Praiz, one of Nigeria’s great singers.
All Night ft Victoria Kimani: This is the only Sarkodie song on the Highest album that has a female artiste on – he features Victoria Kimani, an American-born Kenyan singer, songwriter, actress and entertainer, signed to Chocolate City record label. It has danceable beat has subtle sensual connotations. It is a song for lovers and love-making.
See Only You ft Jayso: Sarkodie preaches love on this song too. The singer promises hs lover that she is only one he sees and yearns to love. He describes how committed the woman has been to him and to reciprocate the love to her. The song is laid on beautifully programmed instrumentation that will get toes tap.
Glory ft Young L: Young L joins Sarkodie to sing praises to God letting his glory shine on him and protect him against his enemies.
The Bonus: ‘Painkiller’ is one of Sarkodie’s hit songs which had been released earlier. He did it with another Nigerian artiste called Runtown. The song he calls ‘bonus,’ closes the ‘Highest’ album.
Sarkodie’s Lyrical Astuteness: I think Sarkodie has the flow. He is very good at that but as one grows in music, their content becomes a challenge. I think he needs listen to other rappers he thinks are very good more…and pick inspiration so he doesn’t sound repetitive and prosaic with some of the expressions in different song.
The Features: Featuring people from across the world tells how Sarkodie is prepared to go international. Suli Breaks, Victoria Kimani, Joey B, JaySo, Korede Bello, Jesse Jagz, Flavour, Praiz and Runtown – that is big league of quality acts. I don’t know his reason for choosing many Nigerian acts but one doesn’t need a prophet to know that it was possibly done with commercial motives. The Nigerian music market is growing rapidly and any smart musician in the world wouldn’t slack with associating themselves with a buoyant industry like Nigeria’s.
The pedigree of artistes that were featured on the song tell clearly Sarkodie’s quest to leave his comfort zone. The features have the tendency to put Sarkodie out there on the international market.
Obviously, Sarkodie is playing his cards right in this game called MUSIC. His activation of the business side of the show has really influenced what went into the ‘Highest’ album.
Target: This album may not appeal to the masses quickly. It is the toast of hip hop and Afrobeat lovers and that means people who are more inclined towards hip hop music will cherish this album, than those who want something to make them sweat.
General Assessment: I believe there are more varied themes to touch on than self-politics and love. Singing about the same themes over and over again makes one sound jaded and repetitive sometimes.
I liked the ‘Love Yourself’ song. Moving forward, Sarkodie should tackle different societal themes. I know he does that sparingly but as he matures, he should grow with content too. It is about time he also starts a social responsibility project. I think ‘Love Yourself’ can be a big project to campaign against suicide.
I’d also like that he makes use of the many poets and spoken word artistes in Ghana too. It was good having Suli Breaks on the album but there are others like Chieff Moomen, Nana Asaase, Mutombo who are so deep in tongue and high in thoughts. I would like to see him do projects with these poets subsequently.
His previous ‘Mary’ album was the relish of most Ghanaians because it was predominantly a highlife-induced album; and judging from how etched highlife is in the DNA of Ghanaians, they couldn’t have loved it more.
I want to challenge Sarkodie to try other traditional Ghanaian rhythms too. There are a lot of them in Ghana. He should tap into them and sell to the world. I’d love to see Sarkodie make use of Koo Nimo, seprewa artiste Osei Korankye, King Ayisoba, and those who do indeginously Ghanaian music types.
Finally, I advise that DJs listen carefully to the songs and clean off the expletives. There are a lot of swear words in the songs and that would require some treatment by radio DJs before they air them.
Conclusion: That notwithstanding, ‘Highest’ is technically an awesome anthology of rhythms, melodies and lyrics. I rate it 83%.
By: Kwame Dadzie/citifmonline.com/Ghana