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Album Review: Sarkology by Sarkodie

After the launch of the third studio album from Sarkodie, ‘Sarkology’, I have recieved messages from many people across the world who wanted to know how to grab a copy of the album or my opinion about the album. Well, I don’t have a copy but UK-based Jacob Roberts-Mensah has listened to the album, and […]

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sarkodie sarkology album coverAfter the launch of the third studio album from Sarkodie, ‘Sarkology’, I have recieved messages from many people across the world who wanted to know how to grab a copy of the album or my opinion about the album. Well, I don’t have a copy but UK-based Jacob Roberts-Mensah has listened to the album, and he rates it 9/10 in this review he mailed to me. Check it out!

Sarkodie has asserted himself again. Much like Rapperholic, Sarkology was crafted by a number of name producers (Magnum, Hammer, Killbeatz and more), and this album also serves a showcase for Sarkodie’s signature rapid-fire rhymes and memorable lines. Sarkodie shows that he is very aware of his prominence in GH Rap and GH music history as a whole throughout the album in songs like “Preach” and “Y’all already Know”. His delivery has gotten better with each album and with his multiple pop culture references it is evident  that he is still a student of the game. He does very well on this album to further blur the lines between GH Rap/Hip-life and Hip-hop not necessarily being boxed in or defined by either genre and managing to dip in and out of each one whenever he wants to. Sarkodie also continues to show that his speed and ability to “twist” isn’t just a gimmick but just one of his many abilities as an MC. Great music bring together dope beats and good lyrics and often times many MCs struggle with this. Sometimes they either go too hard in one area and compromise in another but Sarkology succeeds in bringing both together.

SARKOLOGY should’ve been called Rapperholic II in my opinion. It follows pretty much the same formula as Rapperholic. With no overarching theme for the whole project, the same topics of overcoming haters, winning a Grammy, faith (Halleluyah, War) and being the best MC are all addressed throughout Sarkology, as much as they were on Rapperholic. We actually learn even more about his ego throughout the record, and it takes only 39 seconds for Sarkodie to mention material possessions in this album ahead of hip hop artists such as Kanye West and even Jay-z of Yeezus and MCHG respectively.(Hyperlink this article http://www.highsnobiety.com/2013/11/26/the-50-most-mentioned-material-possessions-on-hip-hops-biggest-records-of-2013/ ) Sarkodie’s use of foul language has also increased substantially on this album and although I do respect that he’s a grown man and can do/say whatever he wants I genuinely winced a bit at every F-word uttered. But this is hip-hop right?

 

Similar to Rapperholic this album is feature-heavy but he wasn’t out-shined by any of his featured artists and quite frankly on a few records I would much rather have heard him alone. One disappointment on Sarkology was “XXL.”  After creating two incredible tracks such as “Old School Love” and “Give It to Me” on Rapperholic I had really high expectations from the pair on this album. Also coming after tough record like “Original,” on the album, “XXL” ended up  sounding like a less impactful sequel to that song. I could have also done without  “Marry Me” (although Sian is an incredible singer) and “Gunshot.”

“Gunshot” sounded way too easy. Two big musicians, top producer, a good-enough beat, and a very simple catchy chorus, this collaboration sounded much better in theory. “Pon D Ting” (ft Banky W) was one of the better collaborations on Sarkology with both artists equally sounding like they were excited to be on the track. I grew to appreciate “Ordinary Love” with Tiwa Savage  once I decided to look past how bad the line “rolling like a rolling stone” was. Where “Down on One” with Fuse ODG goes without saying, “2 Paddies (ft Joey B)” was another great collaboration. Joey B brought his signature sense of humour and style and the duo provided a very entertaining and skilful record.

I appreciated Sarkodie’s ability to own every beat he’s on, and depending on how hard the beat is his flow and lyricism varies to match. This can be heard on stand out records such as “Dear Rap” “Original” “Rap Attack” and “Elijah”. Additionally, on “Sizeless (skit),” Sarkodie is at his absolute best when he enters into full, rappity-rap mode and showing off his skill and technical ability as an MC. However, while I hugely appreciate the rap bravado it is great to hear Sarkodie embrace his duty as a role model and give us songs like “Halleluyah (ft Vivian Chidid)” and “Small Small (ft. Lil Shaker).” Can I just say that both Magnum and Lil Shaker did some incredible work on the tracks they produced on Sarkology.

Sarkology has music for different moods, and tracks for the barbershop, club,(as Sarkodie mentions himself ) the car and even the gym. The diversity of Sarkodie’s flow, and his ability to rap over just about anything carries the listener through the album very easily. He even provides love songs from every angle; playing the role of guy begging for his girl to stay (Hold On), guy who gets cheated on (Lies),  guy in a long distance relationship (Whatever You Do) and even guy proposing to his girl (Marry me). In the future it would be good to see Sarkodie blur the lines between his real life and the music even more. If the title is anything to go by Sarkology literally should’ve been the Study of Sarkodie but we find out less about him as a person or where he is now in his personal life compared to how much we learn about his come up and struggle on previous projects.

With another album under his belt Sarkodie is one of the only Ghanaians MCs that people can actually go and see in concert without any supporting acts besides an opening act. Honestly, it is difficult for anyone to hate on him, he is now 3 albums in and he clearly has many more albums and so much more great music in him. One thing no one can deny is Sarkodie’s work ethic, this guy just gave us Thirty songs….THIRTY! And has already shot 7 music videos. Sarkodie continues to show us that he is at the top of the game and is the undisputed leader of the new school in this Golden Era of GH Music.

Words by

Jacob Roberts-Mensah

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Youssou N’Dour’s new album, ‘History’ pays homage to great African artists, without losing sight of the future ahead

Youssou N’Dour’s new album meditates on moments from a storied career and pays homage to late great African artists, without losing sight of the future ahead. History (Naïve Records release: May 17, 2019)gives new life to tracks from Babatunde Olatunji’s 1970s records, N’Dour’s own cassettes sold on the streets of Dakar in the 1980s, and a 2019 […]

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Youssou N’Dour’s new album meditates on moments from a storied career and pays homage to late great African artists, without losing sight of the future ahead. History (Naïve Records release: May 17, 2019)gives new life to tracks from Babatunde Olatunji’s 1970s records, N’Dour’s own cassettes sold on the streets of Dakar in the 1980s, and a 2019 hit by Swedish star Mohombi. N’Dour reinvigorates them all with that inimitable voice—and mature musicianship—that makes Youssou N’Dour the undisputed King of African Pop.

Youssou N’Dour’s new album, 'History' pays homage to great African artists, without losing sight of the future ahead
Youssou N’Dour’s new album, ‘History’ pays homage to great African artists, without losing sight of the future ahead

He’s achieved a globe-spanning career, 35 albums, and hits at the top of charts around the world, but N’Dour still sees each project as a chance to explore different directions. 2017’s Seeni Valeur took to new heights the spirited Senegalese mbalax that N’Dour popularized in Senegal and around the world, while Africa Rekk (2016) featured up-to-the-minute Pan-African collaborations with Akon, Fally Ipupa, and producer Spotless, who returns on History.

The new album opens with “Habib Faye,” a moving tribute to the bassist who, as musical director of N’Dour’s band Super Étoile de Dakar, shaped their sound starting in the 1980s. The two giants of mbalax worked on separate projects in recent years, but at Faye’s untimely death in April 2018, N’Dour cancelled shows to be at his funeral. “Habib Faye was my friend, bassist, and music director for almost twenty years.” N’Dour reminisces. “Together we created many songs and played many shows around the world. Naturally, this is the first song I wrote for this album.” It‘s serene, not a lament but a contemplative elegy, a prayer with a mbalax beat and smooth sax by Cameroonian Alain Rodrigue Oyono.

History honors another late legend: Babatunde Olatunji, the Nigerian-American drummer, singer, and social activist whose Drums of Passioninspired the likes of John Coltrane and Carlos Santana. “I wanted people to know about Babatunde, a great Nigerian who had an immense impact on his country,” N’Dour explains. N’Dour returns Olatunji to the spotlight with covers of “My Child” and “Takuta,” co-composed with Prince Ayo Manuel Ajisebutu, that feature Olatunji’s original vocal recordings at the center of new arrangements. N’Dour’s own unmistakable voice carries Olatunji’s songs into the present moment.

N’Dour also digs deep into his own history, with fresh takes on three tracks from across his remarkable career. The first recording of the love song “Salimata” dates to 1989’s Jamm, while “Ay Coono La” appeared on Set in 1990. These were electric times for N’Dour: after 10 years as a star in Senegal at the helm of Super Étoile de Dakar, his work with Peter Gabriel brought him international notice, and his 1989 album The Lion attained global fame. Reimagined for 2019, these tracks have a new energy and lush production that leaves space for the emotional colors of N’Dour’s voice to glow.

With “Birima Remix,” N’Dour places the past and future in harmony. From the album Joko in 2000, “Birima” tells the legend of a Senegalese king. Now N’Dour has recreated the song with a new richness in collaboration with Seinabo Sey, a young Swedish singer with Senegambian roots making waves on the Scandinavian electro-soul scene. Sey’s new lyrics pay tribute to her father’s heritage and the immigrant experience, creating a multilayered exploration of African values and ancestors. N’Dour’s remix of “Hello” by Swedish-Congolese singer Mohombi shows that History is not only about the past: “Hello” swept Mohombi to the final of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen competition in March 2019.

N’Dour’s new songs make vivid, current stories a part of History. “Confession,” a collaboration with Mike Bangerz (BGRZ), a French beatmaker of Beninese heritage, chronicles the romantic plight of a young emigrant working abroad. On “Macoumba,” N’Dour, BGRZ, and saxophonist Oyono riff on the characters and sounds of Dakar’s streets, where a macoumba is an unlucky gambler. “Tell Me” rounds out the album with a multilingual plea for connection and trust.

Throughout his extraordinary career, Youssou N’Dour has always been moving forward, creating new sounds even when he makes forays into tradition. Now, exploring his own past and the legacy of friends and heroes, N’Dour makes History his own.

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