BEEF. This word provokes trepidation and excitement among music fans. The former, borne out of the infamous and violent ending of two talented American rap artistes-Tupac and Notorious BIG-at a young age, ending what many consider the beginning of a legendary career. The latter, a sporting competition to excite and establish who the best rapper is, lyrically.
Beef, which in music terms means a ‘lyrical battle’ roars its head once in a while across all music genres. In Ghana, beefs have been uncommon among rappers. The beefing history of hiplife goes back to the year 1999 following the release of Ex-Doe’s M’aba album. On the lead single M’aba, Ex-Doe went after a few rappers, foremost amongst them his one-time collaborator, Chicago. He also threw shade at Reggie Rockstone who called himself Oseikrom President.
We have had others such as Obrafour and Lord Kenya; Paedae and ASEM, Sarkodie and ASEM and in recent times between dancehall music acts Shatta Wale and Samini. What is interesting is that, not much of these beefs have degenerated into physical violence leading to serious damage or death. There, however, have been few scuffles famous amongst them the alleged slapping of Samini by the late Ronny Coaches (Buk Bak) and the backstage incident involving Kwaw Kesse and VVIP at the Joy FM Night With The Stars in 2014.
On Thursday, Ghana social media was thrown into a state of excitement after rapper, M.anifest released his new song god MC. The song is a response to another rapper, Sarkodie’s Bossy tune. Sarkodie, on that song called out M.anifest and as an unwritten rule in rap, a rapper called out by another must respond and even better.
Within hours-and days, various hastags inspired by the song were competing on the trend boards. Hastags like #godMC, #M.anifest, #Sarkodie and #godMCBossy trended at various times. Fans were split; each picking corners, debating one another and sharing biased views. Rap heads watched and threw in their opinions on the matter. Others took to interpreting and comparing the lyrics of both songs.
It is unclear what inspired Sarkodie, who by all indications is the most famous rapper in the country to throw shots at M.anifest on Bossy. A closer listen to Bossy does reveal what I would hint as the potential cause. Sarkodie rapped ‘when you meet me you’re cool. But you pretend on phone’. The ‘rivalry’ between the two artistes has been bubbling for a while-since 2013 when M.anifest beat Sarkodie to the Best Rapper and Best Hip Hop Artiste of the Year accolade at the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards. Sarkodie was the overwhelming favourite in the eyes of many and for M.anifest to win, was regarded by fans as a coup. Social media was at its worst behaviour, with memes and tweets mocking Sarkodie.
I have, for some time, expressed disappointment at the boring ‘kinsman-ship‘ among our rappers. Rappers these days find it very important to be respectful to one another and stay in their lane for whatever reason. Nobody seems to have the balls to go after the ‘guy at the top’. Those who have shown a bit of balls had thrown subliminal and tangential shots; they have failed to mention the names of those they are attacking. That’s why I was a bit annoyed when EL, decided to hold back his thoughts at this year’s VGMAs after Sarkodie (whom many thought did not deserve the award) pip Paedae to the Best rapper of the Year award.
Rap, like any artform or field, is driven by competition. The ‘guy at the top’ must not be made to feel too comfortable. He must be pushed, his heel snapped at all times. Rappers must go for his crown. Rappers must stir the hornets’ nest. Sometimes, being a ‘rogue’ rapper is good. Competition generates excitement. The excitement leads to attention and ho is the best rapper. Attention spills outside the borders of the country-case in point dancehall beef between Shatta Wale and Samini.
Back to the subject, many were surprised by M.anifest’s ‘no hold bars’ attack on Sarkodie. But, he has for years been throwing shots at other rappers subliminally. On songs such as Never Feel off the Apae EP, M.anifest dedicated the whole of the second verse to FOKN Bois, who went after him on ‘What You dey Fear’ (la la la la, life dey jom/like how them go know you if I no put you on?/Do.do.do be your name wey I vim your gentleman/Now you start dey speak pidgin? Speak your slangs!). On Coptic’s The Rising Stars Vol.II, M.anifest did not hold his tongue. He threw doses of shade at some rappers and the industry at large on the track ‘Keeping Shining’.
M.anifest and Sarkodie have waged a lyrical war and for many incidents like this is long overdue. Both rappers are brilliant, intelligent and creative. They have over the years grown their artform and their fanbase. This notwithstanding, both have their flaws and strengths. Sarkodie is often criticized for being too braggadocios in his lyrics lately. He doesn’t hesitate to tell you how much he spends when shopping or his wealth. M.anifest is criticized for his big grammar and over the head punchlines (some say its overrated). Whereas Sarkodie appeals to both the elites and ‘commoners’ through the twi language he mostly raps in, M.anifest raps for the semi-elites and elites and mostly in English dotted with pidgin, which by the tweets I’ve seen many ‘commoners’ can’t grasp. It is therefore the case that Sarkodie has more fans than M.anifest in Ghana.
For music or rap fans, this beef is nothing short of entertainment. Having two rappers go after each other lyrically is exciting. Fans are on the lookout for the next diss track and to compare whose verses are hard hitting and brilliantly constructed. And knowing that both rappers can hold their own means none would back down easily. As it stands, M.anifest has one over Sarkodie. Fans would expect Sarkodie to reply M.anifest in the coming weeks since a failure by him would mean a defeat.
And it didn’t take long for Sarkodie to come with a response. On Sunday night, Sarkodie came back, harder and unrestricted in a 6:58 minutes rap over Desiigner’s Panda beat, putting M.anifest ‘in his place’. As expected, social media erupted, with commentaries from fans. Some, including Y FMs, radio host, Ms. Naa has pleaded with M.anifest not to respond because he would have nothing to say about Sarkodie. One of the interesting fallout in this whole Sarkodie and M.anifest beef is how it has spilled over into mainstream radio discussions. This morning, on two of the biggest morning shows on radio in Ghana- The Super Morning Show on Joy FM and Citi Breakfast Show on Citi FM, the hosts were caught in the discussion.
As things stands, one wonders if M.anifest would response with another tune to counter Sarkodie’s or would choose to remain silent-which could mean losing the ‘war’. The consequence of staying quiet means a dent on his career but not one enough to sink him. A defeat which won’t be forgotten. Should he respond and it’s still not punchy enough, the trolls would be enormous.
Listening to god MC and Kanta, I gravitate and appreciate M.anifest’s ‘god MC’ more for its content, brilliance (in terms of writing) and style of delivery. If critics of M.anifest, who argue his rap is too hard to grasp because of too many English vocabulary, then I wonder. Yes, Sarkodie has the energy and the fierceness of a battle rapper and that gives him an edge everyday. In all this, Ghana hip hop is the winner at the end of the day.
For me, Sarkodie has nothing to proof. Judging by his catalogue, he has covered every grass on the rap turf-he has done hard (battle) raps, political and socially conscious music and of course brag his way through rhymes. For M.anifest, stepping outside his zone and going for Sarkodie’s ‘throne’ is worth applauding. I hope the ripples of this beef would ignite a sense of urgency among rappers to step it up. And for complacent rappers to wake it to the fact that keeping it basic and generic is not always the best.
I hope the battle continues. Beefs are entertainment to music fans. It gets us excited. And an economy where there abound many frustrating situations, a bit of distraction is indeed welcomed. Let the beef continue.
Scoop: Swaye Kidd