Thursday , May 19 2022
Ghanaian star, Black Sherif slams Wizkid stan for posting a fake screenshot of his Instagram story

Black Sherif’s Nigerian success teaches lessons in history, crossover and African interrelation [Pulse Editor’s Opinion]

Like Trap, Drill is a Hip-Hop subgenre. And it was popularized in high-crime hubs like New York, London, Dublin, Melbourne and Chicago. Like Hip-Hop and subgenres like Grime itself, it is deeply rooted in the struggle, spoken through the reaction that is gang culture, violence and inner-city strife.

In the early days of Drill music, Chicago took an early lead and so did the UK. The music was so laced with violent lyrics that the UK parliament. Across the Atlantic, Drill became a movement amongst Gen Z Africans in Abuja, Nigeria; South-South, Nigeria, parts of South Africa and particularly, Kumasi, Ghana.

Stylized as ‘Kumerica,’ which is a portmanteau of Kumasi and America, young rappers like O’Kenneth, Yaw Tog, Jay Bahd, Kawabanga, Cedi City Boy, Reggie, Kwaku DMC, Sean Lifer, Rabby Jones, and Braa Benk headlined the Asakaa movement, and it became a celebrated movement across the world.

In particular, rappers like Yaw Tog and Jay Bahd got plaudits and acclaim. But there was another name brewing.

Born in Konongo, just 53 kilometers from Kumasi, Black Sherif is a graduate of Kumasi Academy. In April 2022, his song ‘Kwaku, The Traveler’ became the first Ghanaian song to top the Apple Music Top 100.

Its timing was also perfect: barely three months after celebrated Ghanaian singers, Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy, took different approaches to wrongly blame Nigerians for the limited success of Ghanaian records in Nigeria. That was also his third buzzing single in Nigeria.

In 2021 and earlier in 2022, his singles, ‘First Sermon’ and ‘Second Sermon’ respectively created significant buzz. The latter was particularly pungent, following a Burna Boy remix, made possible by Poco Lee.

Why is Black Sherif buzzing?

Until the late 90’s, Hip-Hop/R&B dominated Nigerian airwaves and significantly impacted African young minds with cultural movements in fashion, behavioral patterns, language and music – especially in Nigeria. A lot of young Africans wanted to be like their favorite rapper.

That’s why the earliest versions of Pop music in West Africa post-1999, were heavily influenced by Hip-Hop. In Nigeria, rappers like Eedris Abdulkareem, Trybesmen, Ruggedman and more created what most will now term as ‘pop records’ off records with strong percussive Hip-Hop influences. So did pop hits by singers, Tony Tetuila and 2Face.

In Ghana, the Hip-Life movement created a raft of what many will now deem to be ‘pop hits.’ Whereas, at the root of the movement were Hip-Hop percussions and Highlife sonics, lingo and themes.

These days, a lot of Africans still argue that Hip-Hop/Rap can’t succeed in Africa. Some of them now cite how the impact of Amapiano has heavily impacted the Trap movement in South Africa. But it’s all lies or at best, a misconception.

Over the past 23 years in African music, Rap/Hip-Hop and other foreign genres have thrived across Africa. Most of them have just had to adapt their creativity. They deliver their records, themes and topics in idiosyncratic native language, pidgin and slangs, that’s peculiar to their country/area of origin. And those records have been some of the biggest records in different African countries.

Enter Black Sherif, who has only continued on that path. He’s yet another proof that Western/European concepts can succeed in Africa, if it is interpreted in the African way. Black Sherif is very similar to Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Gunna or T-Shyne. Stylistically, he delivers with the panache, vision and technique of a Rapper.

The only difference: he employs a sung-rap style like Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Gunna or T-Shyne. In addition, like those guys, his topics are relatable, heavy and laced with realistic situations. The bars and stories in records like ‘First Sermon,’ ‘Second Sermon’ and particularly, ‘Kwaku The Traveler’ have had an impact on people.

Either he’s delivering on Trap, Afrobeats or Drill, that remains a core feature of his artistry.

Then there comes the place of language.

Black Sherif delivers in a mix of Pidgin and Twi. Pidgin is spoken in Ghana and Nigeria. While records with strange languages have a history of growing on people with no understanding of it, the influence of Black Sherif’s language of choice, as a factor in his crossover success, must not be downplayed.

Like Legendary Styles’ Igbo delivery just a year ago, Black Sherif is yet another proof that foreign phenomena of Hip-Hop origins can thrive in Africa, if it’s given African interpretation. Some people will argue that Kayode’s ‘Live Forever’ has also gathered buzz, and they will be right.

However, ‘Live Forever’ is not remotely as popular as ‘Second Sermon,’ ‘Kwaku The Traveler’ and ‘Loose Guard.’ But even ‘Live Forever’ has the Lagos phenomenon of ‘Island and mainland’ as a major driving force. Hence, it ticks the box of interpretation.

Earlier in the year, Shatta Wale repeatedly ranted about the lack of support for Nigerian artists for Ghanaian music. While the bulk of that has been addressed in this article, and in the episode above, the success of Black Sherif has only further reinforced the point in both pieces of content.

Do Ghanaian artists need Nigeria to truly succeed?

Absolutely. As this writer has noted, Nigeria is like the creative nucleus of Africa, where endorsement of something can lead to pan-African success. We’re currently seeing it in the case of Amapiano, we saw it with Azonto, we saw it with Gqom, we saw it with Makossa and more. Nigeria is quite simply the America of Africa.

Since artists still generate the bulk of their money from brand deals and live shows, that popularity is important for any African artist. However, from a streaming point of view, it’s a little more dicey.

Yes, Nigeria has around five times the population of Ghana, but according to the World Bank in 2019, internet penetration is much farther along in Ghana (53%) than it is in Nigeria (33.6%). Statistica reports that in January 2021, 17 million Ghanaians had internet access.

According to several reports, Ghana’s e-consumer behavior and purchasing power also have better prospects and a higher percentage than Nigeria’s.

However, while 33% (66 million) of Nigeria is over 3.8 times higher than 53% (17 million) of Ghana, Ghana and Nigeria have similar stats in terms of total premium music subscribers – both are in and around 500,000 premium DSP subscribers. In that case, you can’t literally say that Nigeria has better prospects.

However, having a number single on a streaming platform within Nigeria is still of a higher prospect than doing the same in Ghana. Success in Nigeria can trigger success across Africa and aid popularity.

*Pulse Editor’s Opinion is the viewpoint of an Editor at Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the Organisation Pulse.

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