GRM Exclusive: 7 Hard Ghanaian Drill Artists You Must Know
In the pandemic-ravaged year 2020, there was undoubtedly nothing more exciting in music than the rise of the late Pop Smoke and his haunting rendition of Chicago-born boring music.
Originally starting as an offshoot of the trap in the early 2010s, boring music underwent a rapid transformation when UK producers such as 808 Melo, AXL Beats and others merged heavy grime undertones with lines. punchy dark bass of the genre. When American rappers such as Pop Smoke, Fivio Foreign, Sheff G and others brought in British producers, it was a perfect match and it led to the globalization of the genre with Pop Smoke, now deceased, at the forefront of new drilling artists.
Meanwhile, in Ghana, rappers from the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti region, Kumasi, offered their own take on the genre’s instrumentals and ominous themes. The collective is known locally as asaaka and features young rappers voicing their survivalist themes and thirst for a better life in English and a mix of local languages, Twi and Saka. “The exercise movement – Asakaa – is the best thing that has happened to Ghanaian music in quite some time. These guys represent the streets. With their blend of Twi and fabricated street language – Saka, they tell authentic stories that paint vivid images of their lifestyle, pain and struggle. These elements allow audiences to connect more with their music, ”says Maxwell, a reporter for popular Ghanaian pop culture platform Imullar.
However, it was not until the viral explosion of September 2020 of “Sore” by Yaw Tog that the collective was widely recognized. With Stormzy & Kwesi Arthur-assisted remix of Yaw Tog’s viral hit, “Sore,” the collective imprints themselves as a staple of Ghanaian pop culture, and are on the verge of a possible crossover after securing co-ops. signs from Virgil Abloh and Headie One.
Meet seven up-and-coming Asakaa artists.
Undoubtedly the poster of the drilling movement in Ghana; Yawtog established himself as an artist to count on at just nineteen, with his gritty flow and melodious rap style. Nicknamed Young Bull, it was Yaw Tog’s viral hit “Sore” that caught the world’s attention on Ghana’s booming scene. The song rose to number one in Apple Music in Ghana, marking the presence of Ghana’s driller community. With the remix of “Sore” assisted by Stormzy & Kwesi Arthur, which recorded a million views on Youtube within twenty-four hours of its release, and Yaw Tog gracing playlist covers on digital streaming platforms, Young Bull’s international breakthrough may just be around the corner.
The O’Kenneth range is almost unmatched in Asakaa. Signed to Life Living Records, the self-proclaimed trapper’s gruff vocals offer a diversity of sound that sets him apart from his peers. His latest effort is a collaboration with Smallgod, titled “Sinner”. The song also calls for help from fellow Asakaa native Kwaku DMC and British rappers Headie One and LP2Loose.
Kofi Jamar’s “Ekorso” is one of the most contagious songs from Ghana’s vibrant driller community. The song, which stars frequent collaborators Yaw Tog and Ypee, sees the Kumasi-born artist unabashedly unveiling his ambitions. The song represents the core of the driller community with lines such as “We just wanna get it, we don’t want no trouble“. Kofi Jamar was also recently nominated in three categories, including EP of the Year at the recently completed Ghanaian 3awards.
Reggie’s rise to stardom was almost unprecedented. Following his stellar performance on Kawabanga’s “Akatafo”, Reggie established himself as a fixture on Ghana’s booming scene. His collaborative EP with O’Kenneth titled Straight out of Kumerica represents a pivotal moment for Reggie and the movement as a whole.
Sean Lifer is the community leader. His original Santasi label, Life Living Records, is home to artists from Asakaa. After starting out as a hip-hop rapper with a few of his friends, Sean Lifer went on to become a drill artist after the viral acclaim of the late Pop Smoke “Dior”. Sean Lifer can be credited for his foresight and the deep sense of community he has instilled among these emerging artists.
Just before “Sore” reached the top of the local Apple music charts in Ghana, Kawabanga’s “Akatafo” which stars O’Kenneth, Reggie and Jay Bahd held the number spot on the charts for weeks. The song, which loosely translates to the Akata people, is a staple of the Ghanaian drilling movement as it paved the way for the unmistakable explosion of Yaw Tog’s “Sore”. Although Kawabanga took a break from music before returning with “Akatafo”, he has established himself as an important figure in Asakaa.
The self-proclaimed prince of Kumasi. Much of City Boy’s music is an ode to Kumasi. After previous experimentation with different forms of rap music during the formative years of his career, City Boy joined Life Living Records in 2018. From this affiliation he gained a reputation. City boy is known for his dreadlocks and aligners.
Collaboration is at the heart of Asakaa, and no artist embodies it more than Jay Bahd. The artist is on almost every song that comes out of the melting pot that is Ghana’s driller community. Although Jay Bahd joined Life Living Records in September 2019, it didn’t take long for him to gain recognition. Virgil Abloh put the spotlight on Jay Bahd’s April 2020 single, “Suzzy,” and it heightened its rise. Since then, Jay Bahd has been on an unstoppable roller coaster.
Be sure to check out our pick of the toughest European drillers here.