Pulse Contributor, Kwame Gyan, presents his top Ghanaian musicians for 2015. Read more below.
2015 was something else, wasn't it? A lot of drama in the music space and plenty entertainment for us too. The industry is so full if talent I bet we may never have a dull music year ever again. There are new acts coming through on the regular including Atom who dropped Ye wo krom (although he sampled a trending song at the time), then there is Wisa who has shown as that he has just a little wisdom, Kofi Kinaata who I think has a very bright future in the game. Other old acts kept their relevance going. Kontihene, Kwaw Kesse, Tinny, Bradez, Samini and so on.
So I am not a music connoisseur or some big producer or anything like that. I just love me some good music and like most of you, I copied some tracks, listened to joints on the radio, and also saw a few shows over the last year. Just as I did last year, below are my top 10 Ghanaian music acts for last year starting from number 10.
To be honest I love the consistency with which Edem has kept since Hammer unleashed him on us years ago. His style of rap has improved and he is not afraid to try new things. He launched Books and Rhymes last year and I must say it was a good album that covered styles that revealed his unique self. I saw Edem perform at Repu last year and it was amazing. I think he is in for the long haul and his career is just taking off.
MzVee's management seemed to have resolved early 2015 to make it the year where her brand steps up, gets a couple of endorsement deals, feature in important shows and then rake in the bucks. She's on with a deal with Accra Brewery for Beta Malt and does some work for the World Bank.
In 2015 as well she was on a few key shows and they have made her a better act. Most of her competition have slacked as she has risen. The success of Mz Vee and the seeming disappearance of the horde of artists that used to be under Richie and his LYNX Squad seems to tell a story, does it not?
Much as Mz Vee is on the rise, I hope her team do not overstretch her level of growth and craft by demanding outrageous performance fees and positioning her above the growth curve. It takes time to grow and when you rush it you often result in stunted growth. Yes I appreciate the value of the artist but if Drake charged me 200K for a show and Craig David came asking for even 50K I shall vex. Just saying.
8. Pappy Kojo
He may not be the dopest West Side rapper (in my books Kofi Kinaata is), but this former Italy-based pizza seller has put in work culminating in a few good releases, a good number of shows where he was pretty entertaining and some eye catching videos to sell the works.
Since bursting onto the scene a couple of years back, Pappy has began a process of building his brand and reputation and to do the kind of stuff that makes you relevant - releasing songs, being visible among others. As I said he may not be lyrically strong, except if we want to rate this in terms of profanity - but the fanti language has a way of sounding musically friendly to the ear. Much like how an English accent sounds great rolling of the tongue of a player even if he's saying the darnest of things.
Pappy a has had a good year and his very cool human relations has also helped his growth.
I have said in a social media post that I like the VVIP with Reggie Rockstone but I love the VIP with Promzy. Promzy added some power and zeal to the group and his rap style was different. Perhaps I was too used to him.
Having said that however, VVIP has kept up with the pace by ensuring that they drop some very creative songs in a timeous fashion that makes it possible to have have a VVIP hit at any point in time. Skolom, OMG, Hustler, and currently, Doggo Yaro, have trended at various times.
The issue with groups like VVIP is that with every song, each member may have to get a verse even though there are times when my ears tell me this song would have been great without this person saying anything in it. Having said that, they still remain a top act despite the seeming lack of coordination that sometimes characterises their performances.
EL keeps maturing each year. I think as his repertoire increases, it boosts his confidence, his stagecraft, his fan base and indeed his talent and importance in the game. He has also made it a point to release intermittently, commercial music on one side, and artistic music on the other. He loves to rap but he knows rap won't fetch him the shows and the commercial success so he ensures that he drops a good sing-along along the way.
EL's consistency has been awesome and he remains one of my favorites. He's one for the now and the future and only he sits on his continuing success.
Telemo clearly was one of 2015's favourite hits. However a number of music lovers are unaware that it was not released in 2015. It was released in the last quarter of 2014 and as per the VGMA nomination criteria as put forth by Charterhouse, it does not qualify for the next awards. Sad.
Gasmilla has however had a fabulous year and he probably has made more money in the year under review than any other since he walked into a music booth. Remember Telemo was re-jigged for the Vodafone ye twee ko promotion. He has also being at virtually every major concert and the crowd has loved him.
Gasmilla is a very friendly and down to earth dude and this tends to draw fans to an artiste. I remember working with him on a project a year before he blew up and I must say he remains the same man I know. I hope though that he makes it a point to release songs after song and should not hang on one hit for too long. The industry is that competitive and it is easy to get lost.
4. Shata Wale
This dude loves controversy. It is as if he simply loves his name being out there. I get the feeling when he sits in the sofa in his living room, he whips his phone out and enjoys all the news and tweets and posts about his latest shenanigans - whatever it may be.
His appetite for controversy seems to be measured by his hunger to produce music. There was a whatsapp message that trended in groups (I strongly suspect it was released from the SM4LYFE fraternity) and it showed that he released not less than 102 songs in 2015. Yup, one hundred and two songs. Some with just him and others he was featured on. Of course most of these songs did not attain commercial success but those that did, did so in a very massive way. Kakai and Holit were the two that crowned the year although Zenabu and a few others were massive too earlier in the year. As a matter of experience, I notice that his fans seem to know virtually every song he's ever done and all it takes is for a DJ to drop it and they sing along as if it were an anthem.
Shata Wale's influence over the dance hall genre and in the industry alone cannot be overlooked especially in the last year and it surely seems will be there for a long time.
If I am not mistaken, no rapper has chalked a continuous success in the history of rap and hip pop in Ghana like Sarkodie has. Not even Reggie Rockstone, Obrafour, Lord Kenya have come close. VIP may have, but not quite, plus, they are a group.
Sarkodie's influence in the game has seen him colloboration with lesser known acts just to push them up. He took his influence to the national level by playing a very leading role in the #dumsormuststop protests. He released a song about it as well as a few other songs that touched on the socio-economic situation in the country. He was bold and remained so. He also filled the Apollo Theatre in New York with his friends at what was said to be a historic concert. Same year he recorded with American hip-hop star, Acehood.
Musically he has reached the point where he decides to make commercial music when he wants, and what some have called the artistic music when he feels like. His fans love him either way and that was obvious when the conference centre got filled for another Rapperholic although barely 2 weeks was available for preparation and promotion.
For a rapper, Sarkodie showed how unique he was by performing live on his latest album, Mary. The easy way he mixed highlife with hip pop and yet maintained his lyrically heavy-laden rap was stupendous.
2. Bisa Kdei
From jumping on to the mainstream scene through the music score for Azonto Ghost, Bisa has had the best year of his career and he rightly feels he deserves the Artiste of the Year accolade come the 2016 Vodafone Ghana Music Awards. What excites me about him is that he seems to have single handedly kept alive the highlife genre over the course of the year. Mansa, Brother Brother, Pimpinaa (with Obrafour), Wani (with Manifest) have been the toast of DJs and event organisers throughout the year. In the course of the year as well he worked with Sarkodie and Becca.
Yes Bisa's stagecraft still needs some work and we hope to see some versatility in his work but he has been awesome in 2015. Does he deserve Artist of the Year? I think having one awesome year should not necessarily merit that honour. It should be earned over time. Let's give him a few awards to spur him on and let's see if he keeps up with the pacesetters in 2016, then he would have arrived.
I won't shy away from the fact that I have a soft spot for the leader of thr BHIM Nation. He remains for me, the truest definition of a performer and the fact that he has decided and consistently performed his music live makes him a unique breed. I was telling some friends during the Decemba 2 Rememba concert that I feel Stonebwoy's career has not even taken off yet.
He put out some exciting, thought provoking songs that became anthems to both his fans and lovers of music. He took each concert as though he had a point to prove and again as if each member of the crowd was seeing him for the first time so they had to be impressed. Coupled with this is the fact that he loves what he does and he lives to share joy and his talent.
I am not sure who else won as many local and continental/international awards like Stonebwoy did in 2015. He has become a legend of sorts even before he taxies to take off. Mightilily, Baafira, Higher and lots of others were sing-alongs throughout the year from his latest album.
There you have it folks. You may agree or disagree. That's the beauty of opinion pieces. As always drop me an email email@example.com or follow me on social media and let's keep the conversation going.