Few rappers on the continent have been as prolific as Sarkodie this year. The Ghanaian emcee has released a steady stream of songs and videos, all in the lead-up to his album which will be titled Sarkology. So we found it necessary to touch base with him during a video shoot in Johannesburg for “Pon Da Thing”, his collaborative song with Nigeria’s Banky W. This is how the chop-up went.
I sort of feel that your last album didn’t get the type of push it deserved, despite the GOOD Music link-up. Why do you think that was?
Sarkodie: I think rap is a bit hard to break to international markets. Rap is a subset of music; it’s more of an option. But music is more of singing, no matter what the genre is, the moment the vocal comes in you need to sing. Rap is the only different thing in music; it’s a bit more of what people like. If someone doesn’t like hip-hop, they don’t want to listen to you. It’s a bit hard for every African rapper, not just me. We’re all trying our best to take it out there. But I’m not that content of a human being, I don’t go with ‘I’ve done the best already!’ That album was dope, but I think there are doper things about to happen, I believe in that. There’s nothing going to waste, it’s more of a preparation towards bigger things. Rapperholic was my previous album. To me it was really dope, and it made some waves across Africa. We have a new structure for the new album. I’m still looking at my fifth or sixth album to do the magic that I want to do. I normally don’t release my album without expectations that ‘oh, this year I want to be the best artist in the whole world!’ But I think it takes time. You don’t wanna miss that journey of going from nothing to something; you don’t wanna cut it short. You’re gonna be nervous, you’re gonna be disappointed…you don’t wanna miss that. I think that was a start from Sarkodie.
Is there a circuit which enables you to tour as a musician in Ghana?
That’s what we do after every release, or even before a release. Big ups to D-Black, he was the first person to do that. I was on board with him. We were brainwashed into believing that you’re supposed to have a big company doing a show before you can fill up a stadium anywhere. But one thing we forget is that the fans like you even more than the companies do. So why don’t you do it yourself? So for now, I’ve been doing tours back in Ghana. I’m still on the Rapperholic tour. When I go back I still have some shows to do. It’s pretty cool doing tours back in Ghana, and I do it.
The Ghanaian rap scene seems to be in a good state at the moment. Where do you see it headed?
I have a plan. I don’t know about others, but for me, it’s about staying original and trying to be yourself and trying to make people accept you for who you are. I started rapping in English, and I can really rap in English. But I feel like when you rap with these Americans, that’s where you can see the gap, and I don’t want that. I want to be a king in my own zone. When I meet you, we’re doing a king-king thing, we’re not doing like ‘I’m helping Sarkodie.’ No, it’s not gonna be that way. The hip-hop scene back in Ghana has a future, there are a couple of guys coming up. I was scared because I was not hearing people rapping again. I didn’t have time to really sit down and think about it, but when I had a moment, I tried to point out rappers back in Ghana, and there were none! Everybody was shifting to singing because that was what was making it across borders. As I told you, rap is really hard to cut across. So everybody stopped rapping, and it was just me and I think Adam, he’s really dope! But now we have some people coming in, people like Kofi Kinaata, you need to check him out, and he’s dope! And we have T-Flow…
What about a crew like Bradez?
They’re like my old school mates, we started together. They’ve been there since I started, so Bradez is old school. I’m talking about the new cats who are taking the Ghanaian hip-hop to the next level.
What was the thinking behind starting your own clothing label?
There was a point in time where I felt like fans were really appreciating my music, not just my music but me as a person. People were just making clothes without informing me, and just wearing them — just to have my face on the clothes, which was touching. So it was good timing: at least move away from the music and do something a bit personal. They wanna live Sarkodie; they wanna wear something like what Sarkodie’s wearing; they want good business partners to come in, so that’s what we started doing.
Why should I buy your new album when it comes out?
I can see you’re a hip-hop fan, you’re gonna love this album! I forgot to mention Joey B; he’s a dope rapper from Ghana and he’s on the album as well. (Listen to ‘Tonga’ here.) The album is called Sarkology. Trust me, a lot went into the album. It’s thirty tracks, you can’t go wrong! Of course I needed dance music, like the one you’ve just heard with me and Banky, that’s more for the ladies. But you know me, I like to go hard, so I have dope songs! “Illuminati” (video above) is on the album as well. It’s crazy, I don’t even have a word for it. It’s dope!
Lastly, how do you write your raps? Do you come up with the melody/flow first, or do the words take precedence?
First I was more focused on what I was saying. That was when I was limited to Ghana because they understand what I’m saying. So don’t need a style, I just have to say…when I have a beat, I’ll just say whatever I have to say. If it’s funny, then people will laugh. But then I started to attract people from outside of Ghana, so I had to change my style. That’s when you go with the skill. So when you have a beat going beatboxes — a mean 4/4 pattern — when you put that down and you put the words in it, you have a dope rap right there.