Drill has officially gone global. From London to New York to France and now Ghana, the rap offshoot birthed on the streets of Chicago in the early 2010s has spread like wildfire.
Just last month, a clip of a Ghanaian drill music video went viral: “Sore”, a track by emerging rapper Yaw Tog, left Twitter users across Ghana, the UK and America eager for more. Featuring Life Living label-buddies Jay Bahd and O’Kenneth, Yaw Tog’s “Sore” is one of many Twi-infused drill cuts coming out of Kumasi, Ghana. This movement—which has been dubbed ‘Asakaa’—has garnered so much attention in and around the country that people have nicknamed the city “Kumerica” (a portmanteau of ‘Kumasi’ and ‘America’).
On lead with production and management, Rabby Jones is one of the core founders of Life Living Records. Along with Kwaku DMC and Sean Lifer, they came up with the name Asakaa and manage the rappers and source production. “Asakaa is just Twi expression on a drill beat,” Jones explains. It also comes from a secret language used by a lot of the young boys out in Kumasi—a pig Latin-like language that consists of shifting the initial consonant, or consonant clusters of each word to the end of the Twi word. For example, Kasa, which means ‘talk’ or ‘language’, becomes Saka, which is the name of this secret language.
Beyond the music, the assimilation of traditional Ashanti culture and American hip-hop culture depicted in their videos has been thrust into the light. The blending of local culture and Western influence has created what is called “Akata”. Akata is a fashion and lifestyle, where young people dress like Black Americans from the early 2000s. One can trace it back to the 1980s, when many Ashanti men travelled to America and Germany to look for work. They often came back home with baggy pants, Timberland boots and gold chains, and is now a part of everyday life.
Although their music videos and lifestyles depict a strong gang affiliation, the unit representing Asakaa music is all about unity. In August 2020, the Life Living crew organised a clean-up exercise in the traditional royal neighbourhood of Manhyia, where the King of the Asante Kingdom lives. They did this as a contribution to their community.
I took a trip from my base in Accra, Ghana, over to Kumasi to get to know the artists leading the drill music train in Africa right now. Here’s what went down.
Jay Bahd, the protector of the group, describes Asakaa as “soul music because it comes from the soul.” Raised in the ghetto, his life changed for the better last September when he met up with the Life Living team. Unlike the others in the team, Jay’s connection to the Bloods runs a little deeper. “My father was a Blood from DC, so I’m a Blood,” he says. “It’s a family thing. For us, it’s not about the violence, and that’s what makes Asakaa different.” He gets excited at the mention of his idol, Pop Smoke. “Long live The Woo!” he shouts. “He was gonna take over the world.” Armed with a low growl, just like his idol, Jay Bahd has what it takes to do the same.
Writer/Curator: Benewaah Boateng
Photographer: Fiifi Abban
Production Company: Ekpo
Creative Director: Ekow Barnes
Assistant Creative: Mikey Ashker