Digesting 20 punchlines in Okyeame Kwame's “Tension”

Okyeame Kwame's hip hop song, ‘Tension’ is cooked with some of the most expansive wordplay and banter so well that we can't ignore.


Okyeame Kwame's hip hop song, ‘Tension’ is cooked with some of the most expansive wordplay and banter so well that we can't ignore. On his verse alone, I have extracted 20 of the most titillating statements and broken them down for your understanding. Enjoy!

Unity Hall is the biggest university hall in the West African region. As an old 'continental' Okyeame chants to call out its affiliates. The chant also is a recognition of his alma mater. The 'Conti' cry apparently exudes a sense of excitement, energy and valor, as is existent in the 'Tension' song.

(I have sold my Range to run promos)

Promo in the business sense is to create an incentive to accelerate buying. Music promo basically is to make your music sell and to activate it. To spend the sale proceeds of a Range Rover on advertisement typifies expensiveness. Very few musicians can hoist billboards across the country among a host of exorbitant marketing strategies.

(I have invited Bola Ray to flaunt wealth)

CEO of EIB Network, Bola Ray is a successful entrepreneur who, in his late thirties fits as a mentor for the youth. For Okyeame to have invited him to flaunt wealth is a way of showcasing his class or league.

(I have dyed my grey lyrics)

Grey in the Akan parlance is translated as 'adwene' which means wisdom. The word also denotes growth and experience. Application of a dye to grey hair signifies a complement of the old tactics to garnish it for the needs of the new generation. Okyeame is wise, old and experienced but he produces music that absolutely down well with the moment.

The Talibans are a group of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan tagged with war-waging. Suicide bombing is their commonest means of terrorism. They 'blow up'. By this statement, Okyeame metaphorises their fate with his music career. With the words 'emcee' or 'MC' and 'blow' he also puns artistically here.

Here, the rapper hints the listener of the commercial viability of his songs and his target audience. As a family man and an entrepreneur, it is expected of him to put food on the table. He mentions how much efforts is channeled to sustain himself and others.

There is a pun on the word ‘bar’ in this line. A bar in one context means ‘drinking spot’. In another context (music) a bar is the distance between four counts of a metronome.

The sentence can be translated as ‘I have killed you, I have sponsored your funeral and given you a pass to hell’.  Okyeame employs an anticlimax to send quite a scary warning to his competitors.

In literature, an anticlimax is a disappointing end to an exciting series of events.

Kwame truly is a product of University of Ghana and KNUST as well. There's a homophobic pun in this line. As a university graduate he's done with 'class' (a group of students). And as a person with two academic degrees he can boast of a reputable 'class' (high social status).

Rap Dacter symbolizes his rap as corn grains and his mouth as a mill. The product of running the rap (corn) through the mill (mouth) is dough.

Dough also puns as 'doe' another word literally used for money; to say he makes a good living from music.

There's a syncopation with the word 'maasa' (a locally-made pastry usually eaten with porridge) to distort the meaning pattern of the rap. Haven't made that distraction, he lands with the statement 'ɛyɛ koko' to imply that it is all done effortlessly.

He takes a quick swipe at rappers who make music under the influence of illicit drugs. For him, he says he's addicted to music and doesn't need to smoke (‘popo’) to stay high.

Okyeame mentions that all his interest in his family and fans (also 'fan', the electrical wind blowing device) Another pun, probably intended.

To claim his only source of inspiration is his fans (not money) is an irony too, as he had earlier mentioned he makes a living from music.

DJ ABK known in real life as Ernest Appau is said to be buying a car from the little gains in his role as the rapper's road manager. This is both comic and exaggerative. It is Okyeame's way of employing a hyperbole to the verse.

He declares that he barely glorifies material things and the frivolous stuff. His focus is on dreams that impact society.

With the use of an onomatopoeia, he associates his lyricism to the rhythm of a guitar sound.

“My music is like an articulator brake. If I don't play (or apply) I cause deaths”. The comparison between his music and the function of brakes of a vehicle’s brakes makes for a profound, impressive artistry.  It solidifies his relevance and indispensability. We will die without his songs, literally!

This is translated as “I bake my cake with metaphors”.

As is characteristic of him, his lyrics are full of metaphors, which appears to be his dominant figure of speech. The consumers of this cake is a Dadaba (child of a wealthy man). The imagery created at this juncture is that his songs can be best appreciated by people of high mileage.

(You asked me to quit learning and focus on music. I did so, and now you are palpitating.)

This may be a remark at comments that his pursuit of higher education had a toll on his music career.

He anticlimaxes the tension in the song by requesting his detractors to go get a life, illegal mining herein suggested. For emphasis he compares this competitor’s punch lines to the quantity of food served to prisoners. In Ghana, the prisons service spends 1.20 cedis on three square meal for each convict daily. That certainly makes a perfect imagery.

In the outro Okyeame plays on Yaw Sarpong-Kumankuma, a name he finds interesting supposedly. In the pronunciation of the name, a change in the tone changes the meaning to sound like the Akan translation of 'young in-laws'

Either Okyeame finds it an opportunity to bring home the concept of drum language or merely hailing him. Either ways still keep the tension alive in the song.

Author: Patrick Fynn


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