After Asem’s public outburst against journalists who were on his nerve last year, at the 2011 4Syte Music Video Awards (VMAs), I had a conversation with a colleague journalist. He thought Asem’s career was over.
His reason was the 2009 GMA Discovery of the Year has not only having rough times but always he was not doing music that is not commercially viable. He thought Asem was joking with his career.
After Asem’s exit from Lynx Entertainment, everything he touched, unlike before, turned to rug. He released 'Check Your Weight' at the time Azonto was in vogue but failed to impress many with it. 'Monday', the follow-up call was a bigger flop. 'The Last Song', which was a creative play on the titles of hit songs released in 2011, was another song that couldn’t do the magic '2010 Fylla' did for him.
From first week of February, 2012, Asem got back to his chart-topping form. His rap/sung duo with Kwabena Kwabena, 'Bye-Bye', has been enjoying some massive airplay. The single is also the first song on his sophomore album, Solid Grounds. The song “blends music with dance” beautifully in a way that non-hip hop and specifically non-Asem fans can enjoy. Picking Kwabena for that comeback single is one of wisest decisions of Asem’s career. 'Bye-Bye' together with 1000 fights and make-ups and Show Something are the highest points of the twice GMA Songwriter of the Year nominee’s album.
'Woso (Shake It)' and 'Me Do Mmaa (I Love Girls)', the two biggest hits from Okyeame Kwame’s 2008 album, "M’anwensem (My Poetry)", reminds me of Jay Z’s 'Dust Off My Shoulders' and 'Girls Girls Girls' respectively. And the rap doctor went ahead to christen himself “Ghana’s Jay Z” in an Old Soldier song, 'Akonoba' he featured the following year. That is the title I thought Asem was claiming when he called himself, African Very Own Hova, on his 2010 single, No more Kpayor.
As I listened to Asem’s Solid Grounds album, it sounded more like Asem wanted to do an album that sounds more like hip hop rude boy, Kanye West rather than his “Big Brother”, Jay Z. Sampling Kontihene’s voice on Track 1, bye-bye, made it sounded like something Mr. West is known for in American hip hop circles. Sampling is like Kanye West’s trademark. The French line in Track 3, 1000 fights and make-ups, reminds one of how much Kanye loves to occasionally drop a Spanish or Italian phrase or sentence in his raps here and there. Another familiar feature of Kanye’s flow is his play on the titles of songs and names of other artists. Asem played on the title of one of South African J.R’s biggest hits in his first verse on Track 5, Show Something which featured the South African and Ghana’s DJ Black. Track 7 (or 8 depending on what format your bought the song), Music reminds me of Kanye’s Homecoming and Common’s I used to love H.E.R (which Kanye’s mentor No I.D produced). Music critics in the US acknowledge Kanye West as the biggest influence in hip hop music at the moment. The album features radio presenter/DJ, Mr. Black, and Kanye West is known for featuring actors and comedians like Chris Rock in his songs. Rappers like Drake, Kid Cudi, B.O.B, Wiz Khalifa and J. Cole are the rappers who have emerged as a result of Kanye change to “the game”. Even older rappers Lloyd Banks, Timberland and T.I have to “adjust” their music to match Yeezy’s dominance so that puts Asem in a big company.
The slight Kanye West flow-alike aside, Solid Grounds is one of the best albums to be released in recent times. Asem’s absent from public eyes has given the rapper/songwriter ample time to put together a record worth owning. The wittily-weaved wordplay, meticulous-molded metaphors and the hard-hitting punch lines gives the album the hip hop feel that can make any classic hip hop album from anywhere (even New York, the rap capital). If this was a Source review, I could score the album 4 out of 5 mics.
For typical hip hop fans (like myself), 'Edey Go On', Music and 'No More Kpayor' are songs you can’t tune off. They are the kind of songs a rapper does when he wants to prove he still has “got flow”. Aside the laid-back Music, which tells a story one would want to listen to know how it ends (though you have a feeling you do), the other two which are full of brags, employ the use of what we hip hop fans call wordplay and metaphors to communicate the message Mr. Scandalous wants to send to who it may concern.
Club banger, Show Something, which features South African rapper, J.R, and Joy FM’s DJ Black, is another must-listen on the album. Unlike 'Check Your Weight' (which I don’t see why is on the album), this song had Asem paying attention to his rap and flowing like people who would be dancing to the song would stop at a point listen to his lyrics and that is what a true rap soldier does. (I guess he took that lesson from Kanye West’s All the Lights and Gold Digger).
The addition of VIP-featured 'Ebi Ur Own' and Sway-featured 'Suuliya' goes down to cement the fact that there can’t an Asem party without a Richie beat. Richie’s productions were production-wise, high points on the album.
Though Monday is the most creative song on the album, Bye-bye, 1000 fights and make-ups and Devotion make me take off my hat and give Asem a standing ovation. Refreshing song concepts, excellent writing and on-point production, the three songs are in a class of their own. Love is every writer’s favorites subject because everyone needs it. Writing about it from a perspective that is ignored or oblivious to many puts a writer in the class of his own. 1000 fights coulod have been a better if a younger producer, like say Magnom, had handled production. Kaywa is a very experienced producer but rock music or sampling rock beats is just not his style. Kaywa’s experience wasn’t feel enough on this number.
In a nutshell, "Solid Grounds" is a beautiful hip hop album I would spend money on, on any day. If he had added at least one fully twi rap songs for his fans who like 'Agyei', 'Obra' and 'Obaa Yaa' from his debut, "Better Late Than Never", the album would have been flawless. Concentrating too much on going international is why Ghana music is getting weaker and weaker lyrically.
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