ArchiveBlogBlog 16

A Rivalry of Rhymers

Accra, Ghana – The tension is as thick as shea butter in the muggy monsoon season air of this West African metropolis. Insults and accusations are flying back and forth over the airwaves like tro-tros speeding down Liberation Road.

No, it’s not anxiety about the upcoming presidential election bubbling to the surface like a piping hot pot of yams. And it’s not the escalating anger over the Montie Three, radio jockeys who were recently sentenced to prison for making on-air death threats against Supreme Court justices.

I’m talking about the ruthless rap beef raging between two of Ghana’s biggest hip hop stars, M.anifest and Sarkodie. It’s a little difficult to track all the ins and outs of this feud, especially because Ghanaian hip life music, as local hip hop is sometimes known, is frequently rapped partly in English and partly in Twi (or some other local language). Nonetheless, I think I’ve parsed out the basics.

In June, Sarkodie released the track Bossy, in which he laments that his name is never mentioned in discussions of the best rappers of all time. He declares himself a rapper worthy of a throne when he rhymes:

I’m a king but I don’t feel I gotta wear a crown.
That was a clear sound.
Mr DJ make you drop this fire on the air now.

Sarkodie finishes the track with a jab at the unorthodox spelling of his rival’s name.

M.anifest, me srɛ wo [pardon me], lemme just
Use your dot dot dot to dot to end this verse(.)

(Side note: check out the fascinating plot of this music video which seems to pit the the Ghanaian mafia against the Chinese mafia.)

M.anifest wasted no time retaliating on Sarkodie with the track God MC which dropped in July. He one-ups Sarkodie’s claim to royalty by declaring himself a deity of the rap world.

Some of my peers spineless they are muppets
Always nodding like a lizard, damn it, agama…
What’s a king to a god mc?
Numero uno, that be me

The line “What’s a king to a God MC?” is also a lyrical sample of Kanye West’s song No Church in the Wild, which is interesting.

And the battle rages on, though it’s mostly being fought on the dance floors of Accra’s hottest nightclubs, from Jerry’s to Bond’s Square to Firefly.