Punch Up Your Summer Playlist: Afropolitan Pop & Hip Hop

This dude from Guru's Akayida is my new hero.

This dude from Guru’s Akayida video is my new hero.

You can browse all these tunes at once HERE.

Looking for some fresh beats to punch up your summer playlist? Look no farther than Ghana. Well, okay. Maybe western Africa is a long way for some of us to look for fresh beats, but the journey will be worth it. Besides, the internet is your passport, so the trip will be cheap. Most of the tunes here are from artists in Ghana, and are a blend of Hip Hop, Highlife, and “world” music, which a lot of western music journalists have tried to pigeonhole as “Afrobeats”, not to be confused with Afrobeat, the style credited to Fela Kuti, whose innovation in the 1970’s influenced an entire generation of artists. As this HitVibes piece points out though, this is a misnomer. The music is in fact quite diverse, and might as well just be called African pop. One common element of the tunes we’ve selected here is a straightforward kick beat (with no snare) which is easily counted as 4/4, which allows for a lot of polyrhythmic meandering in the instruments and vocals. Overall, the music tends to have a summery “island” vibe, with hints of Arabic hip hop. As someone who often likes a rap or hip hop act but finds them unlistenable due either to feeble or pointlessly hostile lyrics, one thing that makes this great summer party music (in my book) is that I have no idea what the singers are talking about most of the time. The vocals often aren’t in English, and Ghana itself has about 80 distinct languages. Interesting twist: the plaintive stylings of a lot of the singers actually sound GOOD with the autotune cranked. It’s like it’s what it was made for.

But “Writing about music”, as Martin Mull said, “is like dancing about architecture”. So let’s let the music speak for itself.

KOFI KINAATA

Kofi Kinaata’s relatively new on the scene, so it’s harder to find his tunes on YouTube, but do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Sweetie Pie  . It’s the key to eternal summer happiness.

FUSE ODG

If you somehow made it to 2016 without hearing some Fuse ODG, your time is here. He’s huge internationally, with several platinum releases under his belt. His stuff sounds a little like if Akon didn’t try to act so bad.

GURU

Guru is another huge star. The song Akayida actually popularized the dance move of the same name. The video for the song – like many Ghana pop videos – has a humorous non-musical intro. The guy who takes over the video at 3:40  is my new hero.

SARKODIE

Another huge act, he may have a broader reach simply because much of his material stays closer to western hip hip conventions.

CASTRO

Castro had a big impact on the Ghana scene, but appears to have drowned in a jet ski accident with his girlfriend in the Volta 2014.* You can check out most of his catalog HERE.

E.L.

Ghana music almost lost one of its best artists to the fields of economics and political science, but fortunately for us, he dropped out of college and sunk all of his money into his music 😉

*His body was never recovered, so it is often said he “disappeared”.

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