Sarkodie's "Highest" -- a mix of love and affection, complicated art, and fight for superiority and dominance.
Every bar that he spits reveals his blithe style, which is endearing as it makes his a complicated art very enjoyable.
The new Michael Owusu Addo has come far – breaking barriers, resisting oppressors, daring negativity, and on top of all, maintaining his spot as Ghana’s leading Hip-hop/Hiplife export.
There’s a theory that most rappers decline or fall off after 5 years in the business, but Sarkodie has managed to break this perceived jinx.
Since he released his breakout singles “Push” and “Baby” in 2009, he has hardly missed major charts in Ghana. The famously goatee'd musician has also consistently made inroads on the international market.
His ambitious yet breezy music style, as well as affinity for unrefined lyricism, has led to him being likened to US rap giants Kanye West and Jay-Z. He churns out raw, legitimate feelings, braving the risk of critique with his tough skin and impeccable focus.
Plucky Sarkodie keeps his composure on his latest project titled “Highest” – his 5th studio album.
Sark opens the 19-track album with a trumpet-blowing track titled “Silence”, featuring an unsurprisingly braggadocios hook from highly rated spoken word artist Suli Breaks. 'Unsurprising', as Sarkodie is well-known for his love for brag-rap - something he does better than any other artist within his competitive span.
Aptly, he proceeds with unrestrained shots at every competitor on track 2 (“Overdose” featuring Jesse Jagz). Don’t dare Sark, he will diss you – and make you fall in love with the process. "80% of rappers copy me style…Sɛ me tu kwan kɔyɔ me tour no ba a, Asante Hene na ɔbɛhyia me wɔ airport,” he raps, amid claims of being the "highest".
Tracks 5 (“We No Dey Fear” featuring Jayso), 6 (“Certified” featuring Jayso & Worlasi), 9 (“Highest”), 10 (“Light It Up” featuring Big Narstie & Jayso), and 18 (“Glory” featuring Yung L), sum up Sarkodie’s propensity for aggressive yet entertaining rap, a distinctive weapon in his armoury. Even amid his usual bragging on heavy-bass Hip-hop instruments, he escapes sounding stale by evincing a refreshing and irresistible vibe. He wins over listeners by incorporating an 'us against the world' sense of motivation, using his experiences as a hustler to preach hard work and persistence. Track 7 (“Love Yourself” featuring Moelogo), for instance, is a soothing motivational track. The Afrobeats laced Hip-hop jam charges listeners to believe in themselves – not others – no matter the difference or circumstance. I add my own quote: “If you don’t believe in yourself, who do you expect to believe in you?”
READ MORE: Rapper Sarkodie releases "Highest" album
Despite his predominantly beastly demeanor during delivery, Sarkodie has always been a love enthusiast, if you ask me, and the themes of romantic glorification and even vulnerability is felt in tracks such as 11 (“Far Away” featuring Korede Bello), 12 (“Your Waist” featuring Flavour), 15 (“All I Want Is You” featuring Praiz), 16 (“All Night” featuring Victoria Kimani) and 17 (“See Only You” featuring Jayso).
That brings me to the most important track on this project, for me; which is track 14 (“Baby Mama” featuring Joey B). The track sees Sarkodie elucidate an area of his life that he rarely features in his music; his relationship with long-time partner and mother of his daughter, Tracy Ewuraama Addo. He even goes deep and dirty, as far as creating a cinematic feel to his sex life for his fans, talking about the tricks Tracy employs to lure him into the bedroom as well as his stamina whiles there. It is controversial but daring and shows how fearless he is when it comes to composing his art. But, most importantly, Sark shows at the end of it all that he appreciates Tracy. He loves every bit of her and vows to maintain her.
This album sees Sarkodie setting out to prove not only why he operates at the highest echelon of creative artistry, but also why he is 'The Highest' itself. The content is grandiose and diverse, the production and collaborations representing an ambition as lofty as the album name suggest. The interludes are well done and well-timed, and the bonus track (“Pain Killer” featuring Runtown) proves to be what it's meant to be; a bonus on top of satisfying substance.
The “Highest” album indeed emphasizes Sarkodie’s virtuosity, fashioned over years of tireless hard work to give value to a talent that few have denied, as well as his natural knack for nonpareil lustre in the mainstream business.
4 Stars (out of 5)